Yazidi Farmers in Kurdistan Work the Land Despite ISIS Threat


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August 28, 2014
Fishkhabour, Iraqi Kurdistan

Ghanem Hamwi, a Yazidi farmer known locally as "Abu Ammar", cultivates his rented land in the Fishkhabour area, west of Dahuk, despite the threat from the fighting between ISIS and Peshmerga forces, just a few kilometers away.
Ghanem was forced to flee his hometown of Baashika, near Mosul, after ISIS seized control over large areas of the Nineveh province in June, 2014. Since then he moved to the safety of Fishkhabour in Kurdistan and resumed his work as a farmer. However, after the rapid expansion of ISIS and the invasion of Sinjar, and the neighboring towns, the Peshmerga controlled area of Fishkhabour is no longer safe.
Ghanem is trying to help his fellow Yazidis by hiring the refugees who fled Mount Sinjar to farm the land, in spite of the extremely low revenues.


SOUNDBITE 1 - Ghanem Hamwi, farmer (man, Arabic, 8 sec): "We are refugees from Baashika, and we came to Fishkhabour to work on these farms. Most of the people here are refugees from Sinjar."

SOUNDBITE 2 - Ghanem Hamwi, (33 sec) "We are threatened with death, and we witnessed lots of murders. At least ten to fifteen of my people were killed this year. People are scared here, they ask themselves "Is it worth it to come and earn a small amount of money and risk death?" Successful farmers prefer to stop working in agriculture and try to find another, more safe, profession. So this fear has put the agricultural industry in danger.

SOUNDBITE 3 - Ghanem Hamwi, (18 sec) The fear is affecting all of the Iraqi citizens on all levels from Baghdad to Kurdistan, the whole region is gripped by terror.

SOUNDBITE 4 - Ghanem Hamwi, (37 sec) Because of the ISIS terrorists and the violence they are causing and road blocks and checkpoints, I am selling my produce at half price. They are no more factories processing pickles, especially in Mosul and Baashika, where they used to buy my cucumbers. Now I am limited to Dahuk and Zakho, plus the transportation is very expensive, so I am not able to sell my produce.

SOUNDBITE 5 - Adnan Sabri, Worker (man, Kurdish, 1m 42 sec): “We are Yazidi people who fled Mount Sinjar following ISIS's control over the region. I used to own farmland in Sinjar but I had to leave it behind along with all the machinery that I had, which was worth more than 30,000 USD. I now work as a farmer on another person's farmland and I get paid 8 to 10 USD per day. I am lucky and happy with what I'm doing, since thousands of other Yazidis have nothing here, including my friends who keep asking me to find them jobs. Despite moving with my family to a safer region that Sinjar, I still have daily fears, following the crimes that ISIS committed to the Yazidis. I find it really hard to go back to our motherland in Sinjar, since we're a religious minority and the attacks will continue as they have in years past. ISIS attacked all the farmers in Rabia and Sinjar, killing dozens of us, while the others left their farms behind after they threatened us with death. We ask the Western Countries to grant us humanitarian asylum because we don't want to live in Iraq anymore.”