Owners appeal to prime minister over demolitions

Baghdad’s Al-Yarmouk faces upheaval as historic shops face destruction

BAGHDAD — Shopkeepers in the Al-Dakhiliyah neighborhood of Al-Yarmouk, western Baghdad, are appealing to Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani for intervention to halt the demolition of their stores, following an eviction directive from the Sunni Endowment Board, which asserts ownership over the properties.

Despite possessing rental agreements, the merchants were notified about the land being awarded to a new investor, leading to the destruction of the community’s oldest bakery, dating back to the 1960s, among other local businesses.

The shop owners, who say they have diligently paid their annual rents, voiced their astonishment and distress regarding the abrupt decision to transfer investment rights. The Sunni Endowment Board’s Administration and Investment Authority has refrained from commenting on the issue to 964media.

Haider Mohsen, the proprietor of Al-Kokh Bakery, recounted to 964media, “Our bakery has been a fixture on this street since the 1960s, conducting business as usual throughout the years. The demolition order issued today by the enforcement authority came as a shock, particularly since we received a warning to vacate a year ago, despite being up-to-date with our lease payments. When we reached out to the Sunni Endowment Board’s Projects Department, it was a surprise to discover that the land had been leased to another party under a new investment contract, even though we have a valid lease supported by payments and receipts.”

Alaa Ibrahim, who runs a food ration distribution agency in the area, expressed to 964media, “I supply rations to nearly 400 families. To disrupt livelihoods is more severe than severing necks. We contribute 22 million Iraqi dinars annually, and the investor has decimated our means of living by tearing down our stores. What will become of these families if their source of income is eradicated? With more than 30 families relying on these businesses for their daily bread, we’re in the dark about the identity of the new investor or the manner in which they secured the investment. We seek justice and the reinstatement of our rights from the Prime Minister.”