Iraqi Kurdish MPs accuse tycoons of diverting Erbil flood pathways for commercial, housing projects

Iraqi Kurdish MPs accuse tycoons of diverting Erbil flood pathways for commercial, housing projects
3 min read
23 December, 2021
The Iraqi Kurdish parliament discussed on Wednesday the findings of a committee tasked with investigating the reasons behind the floods that hit Erbil on 17 December.
Businessmen connected with ruling parties are accused of putting profits before people [Getty]

Sulaimania (Kurdistan Region of Iraq) - Lawmakers in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) have accused "corrupt" tycoons linked to the ruling elites of having diverted flooding pathways and exacerbating last week’s devastating floods in the region's capital, Erbil.  

The Kurdish legislative assembly discussed on Wednesday the findings of a special parliamentary committee tasked with investigating the reasons behind the environmental catastrophe. 

Heavy floods hit the southeastern neighbourhoods of Erbil (also known as Hawler) on Friday, killing 12 civilians and causing damages estimated to be in excess of $14 million. The bodies of a ten-month-old baby and a shepherd are still missing.   

Abubakr Haladini, a deputy from the Kurdistan Islamic Union (KUI) opposition party and a key member of the special committee, told The New Arab that “the reasons behind the floods are not natural heavy rainfalls, but they are related to rampant corruption in housing projects owned by tycoons connected to the ruling parties. These people have altered the flooding pathways illegally.”

He added that “all investments and housing projects in the KRI are directly or indirectly linked with Kurdish senior officials [...]. In our [committee's] report, we called for legal measures to be taken against all those company owners who are responsible for diverting and blocking the flooding and sewage pathways.”   

Haladni said that parliament had sent its recommendations and the committee’s findings to the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).  He added that 35 lawmakers had previously called for both KRG Minister of Municipalities and Tourism Sasan Awni and Mohammad Shukri, the head of the region’s investment board to be summoned for questioning. Haladni said that they had not attended the session.   

Ali Hama Salih, a Kurdish lawmaker from the Change (Gorran) Movement ruling party, filed a related complaint to the parliament's presidency.

“The main reason behind Erbil’s floods is the filling of flooding pathways [with construction material] by the owner of Zaytoun City, who is affiliated with KRI senior officials, for commercial and residential projects,” reads a copy of Salih's complaint seen by The New Arab

The two Kurdish lawmakers refused to name the owner of Zaytoun City, but social media users alleged that the owner would be Abdul-Muhaimin Barzani, a cousin of Masoud Barzani, the president of the ruling Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP). 

“The flood literally caused because of Zaitwn City [sic], owned by @masoud_barzani’s cousin,” Shnyar Anwar, a US-based Kurdish woman activist wrote in response to a tweet by KRG Representative to the USA Bayan Sami Rahman. The Iraqi Kurdish diplomat had ascribed the floods to climate change.  

Iraq and the KRI are severely affected by global heating. Last summer a severe drought hit Iraq, including its northern Kurdish region.  

Click on the file attached to see the report on the flooding submitted to the KRI parliament.