Rejecting proposals

Railway employees protest land allocation policies in Baghdad

BAGHDAD — Railway employees staged a protest in front of the International Station today, voicing opposition to the Railways Department’s land grant policies in the Kuwairech area. The employees argue that the department prefers investors by allocating lands for vertical residential projects, which are subsequently sold to employees at steep prices.

The demonstrators demanded housing solutions for employees, leading to the issuance of a directive by the Railways Department to allocate lands in the Latifiya and Abu Ghraib areas. However, this proposal was met with rejection by the protesters.

Safi Jameel, a railway employee with three decades of service, expressed his grievances to 964media, stating, “Despite 30 years of service in the railways, I’ve not received any land, a benefit I believed was assured to us by Iraqi departments.” He further criticized the Railways Department for not distributing available lands in the Kuwairech area to employees, alleging that some officials are prioritizing personal profit by allowing investors to develop and sell residential units.

The demonstrators are rejecting the department’s alternative proposal to allocate land in Latifiya and Abu Ghraib, steadfast in their demand for land in Kuwairech. They argue that Kuwairech’s proximity to their work sites makes it a more suitable option for their housing needs.

Mustafa Juma, a train inspector with 27 years under his belt, remarked, “We applied for land in Kuwairech a decade ago, expecting to have it by this time.” He pointed out that the delay by certain officials is driven by the escalating real estate prices in Baghdad and lucrative propositions from investors.

Amidst a housing shortage, the prime minister’s office has urged ministries and departments to allocate land to their employees, prompting the Railways Department to suggest lands in Latifiya and Abu Ghraib instead of Kuwairech as a solution.

This protest signals the start of multiple demonstrations planned at the Ministry of Transportation and the Council of Ministers, with the next rally scheduled for Saturday outside the ministry.

In 2018, Kazem Finjan Al-Hamami, the then-transport minister, approved a request from the General Company for Iraqi Railways for the purchase of the western Abu Dsheer district  for railway employees. Al-Hamami confirmed the ministry would approach the Ministry of Finance to buy the land, spanning 375 dunams. This acquisition is intended to distribute land to employees and their families who do not own property, in line with State Property Lease Law No. 21 of 2013.

The Kuwairech area, encompassing the Al-Salam and Al-Rabea neighborhoods, is among Baghdad’s poorest. On Jan. 4, a government team visited with officials from ministries and NGOs to help families and upgrade neighborhoods through the “Among Our People” campaign, targeting citywide improvements.

On Feb. 22, 2024, the Ministry of Transportation disclosed that Minister Razaq Muhibis Al-Sadaawi had greenlit the sale of a 13-acre plot in Kuwairech, transferring from the General Company for the Implementation of Transportation Projects to the General Company for Aviation Navigation Services, soon to be rebranded as the General Company for Airport and Aviation Navigation Management. This move, part of broader efforts to solve housing shortages for workers, includes significant steps for Iraqi Airways and the Directorate of Special Transportation employees, moving closer to fulfilling their land needs.