The villages of Busheon, Gara Sur & Chakhmakha were chosen based on their proximity to the peshmerga front line. Each no more than a twenty minute drive from the fighting.
All three communities were hit by ISIS during the initial fighting in 2014 and remain in danger to this day. In the case of Busheon and Gara Sur, most, if not all, major industrial agricultural farming ceased when fires from ISIS artillery and rocket attacks burned crops.Cornfields in Chakhmakha remain. However, in some cases land there is shared between Kurds and Arabs—a result of the war—creating a delicate situation between two opposing cultures. Adding to the complexities, Improvised Explosive Devices left behind by ISIS forces are hidden in fields, waiting for unsuspecting victims.
The village of Busheon, near the oil city of Kalak, has stopped all large-scale industrial farming due to recurring ISIS artillery and rocket attacks. Abdul Kadr Muhammed, a stout man with an infectious smile, is a local leader and former peshmerga soldier. The history of his family goes back some two hundred years in that village.
Deciding to stay so close to the war with ISIS has jeopardized not just his safety but his personal connection to the specific spot of land he calls home. For Muhammed, creating stability is not just about uprooting the danger that lies just over the horizon. It is also about ensuring that generations of his family may continue the legacy of farming on the exact spot of land he, and others like him in his village, is fighting to save.
Samed Ismael Ali and his family are one of four families, out of the village’s original twenty, who came back to their home in Gara Sur after peshmerga forces took back the main city of Makhmur from ISIS in 2014. The family, who once relied on large-scale agriculture, now depends on livestock for food and for money. Getting to Ali’s house requires driving past the second to last peshmerga checkpoint. One more, and you are within less than a kilometer of the Kurdish frontline. Due to burned crops from regular rocket and mortar attacks, most industrial farming, a major source of income for farmers in the area, is on hold until the war ends.
Chakhmakha is one of about seventy-five small villages almost an hour northwest of the hotly contested city of Kirkuk. Most of these smaller satellite villages have been abandoned due to the war. For most of 2014 the area was considered no-man’s-land. Improvised Explosive Devices, planted by ISIS, continue to claim victims. ISIS sleeper cells remain causing regular security problems.
Hamid Nuree is a peshmerga fighter and farmer. Nuree, and other Kurds in his village, brokered an agreement with local Arab businessmen as means of securing an outlet to their sell crops as the Kurdish government still owes them money for the previous two years.