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Property Commission Appeals for More Time

Extension sought for compensation applications by those who lost property under Saddam.
By Sahire Rasheed

The Iraqi Property Claims Commission, IPCC, is hoping to extend a deadline for citizens to apply for compensation for homes and businesses unjustly lost under the former Baath regime.

Thousands of Iraqis had their property seized during the reign of Saddam Hussein and many lost their homes and businesses after being sent into exile.

Such assets were often subsequently purchased by buyers who were unaware of the situation, leading to complex disputes when the original owners later returned to reclaim their property.

The final date for wronged ex-property owners to file claims for compensation was originally set for June 30. But commission members say residents need more time.

As the Iraqi government has been preoccupied in recent weeks with the country’s new draft constitution, the IPCC is still awaiting a response to its extension request from the council of ministers.

More than 68,000 claims have been filed with the commission since it was established in March 2004, according to its spokesman Muhammed Jameel.

The commission aims to resolve at least 350 cases per week and to date more than 5,200 have been closed.

The process is complicated by the face that in many instances ownership forms and other relevant documents have either been lost or destroyed.

“The commission has had to balance the necessity of presenting correct documents and the difficulties citizens face in this regard,” said one lawyer, who asked remain anonymous.

Ahmed Shahbab Kawa recently returned to Iraq from Iran, having been deported during the Saddam years. On his arrival home, he found that his house and shops had been transferred to new owners and had then been bought and sold several times since.

“The homes, which we longed for and where we left our memories, evaporated,” said Kawa, who is still awaiting a decision on his case from the commission. “Where should we go now to get back our rights and reverse this injustice?”

Sabriyyah Ibraheem Namdareh was also forced out of her home and deported to Iran under the old Baath regime. With someone else now occupying her former home, she is forced to live with one of her daughters.

“When I came back, I tried to talk to the new owner of my house,” she said, “but he dismissed me and said, ‘Go to the government to find a solution’.”

When Mustafa Abdul-Rahman purchased his home in Baghdad, he had no idea that the previous owner had been deported to Iran.

But he says he followed legal procedures in buying the property and will not now give it up without compensation for his loss.

“I made some repairs to the house, so the commission has to pay me back for the money I spent on it,” he said. “Otherwise I won’t abandon the house, even if it takes a lifetime to fight this.”

Sahire Rasheed Jabir is an IWPR trainee in Baghdad.

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