The return of Internally Displaced Persons is generally good – but the security situation is not
Around six million people were displaced in Iraq during the time of ISIS between 2014 and 2017. A million of them have still not returned to their home regions. Iraqi Minister for Immigration and Refugees, Ivan Jabru (a Christian), has started implementing the government’s planned closure of all internally displaced persons camps in October. The religious minorities are affected differently – depending on the region.
The return to the (predominantly Christian) Nineveh plain, in contrast to the (predominantly Yazidi) region of Sinjar, is facilitated by the following factors:
• The degree of destruction is lower.
• The personal and collective security situation is not optimal, but it is better.
• There is a more or less functioning public administration.
In the Sinjar region, Iraqi army, Hashd Al-Shaabi (Iranian-backed Shiite militia), Kurdish Peshmerga, Kurdish PKK, Yazidi militias and IS cells compete for dominance. This makes the security situation very unstable.
The presence of the Hashd Al-Shaabi in many places in the Nineveh Plains also has great potential for danger. Although they guarantee security, they follow a Shiite agenda in many places. Their influence in administration and the economy, for example in Bartella in northern Iraq, means that the economic power in the Christian part is and remains weak, while Shiites receive financial support from Iranian parties. Christian and Yezidi leaders are also being replaced by Shiite leaders. These activities foster a sense of insecurity among religious minorities, which is one of the main causes of flight.
For many years, tens of thousands of Yazidis have been forced to live in camps and are unable to visit their holy sites. Christians are mostly housed in Christian villages, but still live in a diaspora situation far from their homeland. Therefore, despite everything, the return activities are considered good because they strengthen collective identity and bring people “home.”
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