ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – In the Kurdistan Region's Garmiyan district, 35,000 civilians are still living in the Taza-De displacement camp, either unable or unwilling to go back to their homes despite the areas being liberated from the so-called Islamic State over two years ago.
Yasen Mahmood, one resident, told Kurdistan 24, "I have been living in this camp for five years now. They have either demolished our house or it has been taken by the Shia militias, with no one concerned about our status and our future."
These internally displaced persons (IDP) roundly refuse to go back to their areas of origin. The reasons they most commonly give are the tenuous security situation in those areas, the mistreatment of the populace by militias of the Popular Mobilization Forces, and ethnic discrimination.
"I want to return home. In the camp, though, at least there is security. At my home, there are no guarantees for my safety," said Abu-Jasim, another displaced individual at the camp. "As a Sunni Arab, I cannot ask for my rights when I see a Shia government that is even killing Shia citizens for asking for their rights.".
Omar Mohammed, another IDP, told Kurdistan 24, "Our living situation inside the camp is not good, but the instability [in our former homes] forces us to stay. Even if we decided to return, we have no houses to return to, and no compensation has been provided for us instead."
There are about 35,000 IDPs from the disputed territories now living at camps in Garmiyan who either escaped the brutal rule of the Islamic State or later, persecution by PMF militias. 10,000 of them are Kurds, while the rest are Sunni Arabs and smaller numbers of other minorities.
The Garmiyan Administration is an unofficial province in the Kurdistan Region that includes the three districts of Kalar, Kifri, and Chamchamal, in territory disputed between Baghdad and Erbil. Regional Kurdish Peshmerga and Asayish forces are in charge of security in Garmiyan, while national Iraqi forces control the region to its south and west.
Throughout many of these areas, Peshmerga held a frontline against the Islamic State. In other areas nearby, the extremist group controlled large amounts of territory. Defensive capabilities, however, significantly deteriorated after Iraqi forces and PMF militias pushed Peshmerga from disputed territories in response to the Kurdistan Region's independence referendum of September 2017.
Since the beginning of 2019, the federal government in Baghdad has facilitated the resettlement of large numbers of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) to areas where they once lived.
Iraqi officials have repeatedly been accused of blocking some populations from their homes while forcing others into areas to which they were afraid, or otherwise unwilling, to return, as documented by Human Rights Watch.
Amnesty International, too, alleged that Baghdad was forcefully returning IDPs and sternly called on authorities to end the practice.
Editing by John J. Catherine