Internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Iraq’s northeastern Diyala Province are still facing threats and danger when returning to their homes, a senior local official and a non-governmental organisation (NGO) have said.
“Gunmen are still active in some areas, especially in the suburbs where Sunni extremists are preventing Shia families from returning to their homes and farms,” Ibrahim Bajilan, head of Diyala provincial council, told IRIN on 12 July.
According to Bajilan, about 25,000 families (some 150,000 individuals) have been displaced in Diyala since the US-led invasion in 2003, but only about 600 families have returned - all of them to the parts of Baqouba, Diyala’s provincial capital, which have been secured by Iraqi forces.
Some of these IDPs were displaced as a result of ethnic tensions between Kurds and Arabs in disputed areas. However, most of the displacements were due to Shia-Sunni fighting sparked in 2006 when a famous Shia shrine was bombed north of Baghdad.
“Each side can’t trust the other and the fighting is still going on between these groups. We need a large-scale military operation to bring stability and security to the city,” Bajlan said.
He said his council would pay 10 million Iraqi dinars (about US$8,500) in compensation for each damaged house in central Diyala, and seven million Iraqi dinars (about $6,000) for each damaged house in the villages.
|A map of Iraq highlighting Diyala province|
Omar Maan, head of Hara’a NGO, which is based in and operates out of Diyala and assists IDPs, said some families that had returned had been threatened again by gunmen and been asked to leave.
“In some areas, pamphlets were distributed with death threats to families who had returned to their homes or were intending to,” Maan told IRIN.
Recently, Maan added, seven members of a family were beheaded in Khalis area when they returned. Since then two other families have fled again.
“These families fear going back to their homes because they could be killed,” he said.
It its 35th update on IDPs in Iraq issued on 30 June, the Iraqi Red Crescent Society (IRCS) said the number of IDPs in the country had increased by 3,234 people by the end of May, bringing the total number to 2,169,920. Over 82 percent of them were women and children.
“Many IDP families are not considering returning to their original areas of residence because their homes were destroyed or because they do not think security is really enforced [there],” IRCS said.
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions