(formerly IRIN News) Journalism from the heart of crises

IDPs returning to Diyala Province in increasing numbers

An Iraqi family returns to their village in Burah, Diyala Province, after being displaced for months by insurgents

The security situation in Iraq's northeastern province of Diyala is slowly improving and thousands of displaced families have returned to their homes, according to officials.

"Despite the fact that the security situation in some parts of the province is not good, some areas where the security situation has improved are witnessing good return levels," said Thari Mohammed, a senior official in the Ministry of Displacement and Migration in Diyala.

Mohammed said about 12,900 displaced families (roughly 77,000 individuals) had returned to their homes between late 2008 and 31 December 2009. A further 39,000 families were still displaced - 13,000 within the province and 26,000 in other provinces, Mohammed said.

Some 12,500 families who had returned in the above time period had received the government's one-off grant of one million Iraqi dinars (US$850) and other aid to help them resume their lives. The remaining 400 families were expected to receive this aid soon. His office had also helped people return to their former jobs.

[Iraq] A map of Iraq highlighting Diyala province and Baqubah city. [Date picture taken: 01/16/2007]

[Iraq] A map of Iraq highlighting Diyala province and Baqubah city. [Date picture taken: 01/16/2007]
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
Les déplacés craignent de rentrer dans la province de Diyala
[Iraq] A map of Iraq highlighting Diyala province and Baqubah city. [Date picture taken: 01/16/2007]

Photo: IRIN
A map of Iraq highlighting Diyala province

Diyala, sandwiched between Baghdad and the Iranian border, has been a major insurgent stronghold since the US-led invasion in 2003. In late 2008 Iraqi and US forces launched a crackdown, and the religiously mixed province witnessed fierce clashes.

According to a 23 February statement from the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI), Diyala has the second highest number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) after Baghdad. Some 300,000 Diyala residents fled their homes after 2006.

To return or not to return?

Hasiba Jabir, a 54-year-old mother of six who fled the province in late 2007 with her family, is among those who have returned. She said financial difficulties had forced her to return.

"At the beginning [of our displacement] we stayed at a relative’s house in Baghdad, but we couldn't continue like that as the house was too small for two families, so we rented a small house for about $500 a month," said Jabir, who is a retired English teacher.

"As of last July, my husband also retired and we lost a big chunk of our income and resources and therefore we decided to go back," she said. "Although there are sporadic attacks, the situation is better than in 2007 when we left."

But Khalid Jalil Mohammed, another IDP from Diyala, is not convinced.

"The security situation in the province is still not good enough for me and my family [to return]," said Mohammed, a barber who left his home in Diyala in early 2007. "I'm happy with my work here [in Baghdad] and my sisters and brothers are also happy with their schools and universities, and we do not need to put ourselves at risk," he said.

Meanwhile, attacks in Diyala are still taking place: On 3 March three suicide bombers killed 32 and injured dozens of others, Diyala police spokesman Capt Ghalib al-Karkhi said.

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