'Help them return': As winter hits, Iraqis rally to get internally displaced home

'Help them return': As winter hits, Iraqis rally to get internally displaced home
An online campaign in Iraq is demanding authorities help hundreds of thousands of Iraqis return to their hometowns after they were forced to leave following the Islamic State group's onslaught.
3 min read
29 November, 2022
Hundreds of thousands are believed to still be living in these camps [Getty/archive]

Iraqis have launched a Twitter campaign calling on the government to help internally displaced refugees return home with many still living in tents years after the liberation of their towns from the Islamic State group.

Under the hashtag "Help the displaced and return them," activists, journalists and others have called on the government - now headed by Prime Minister Muhammad Shia al-Sudani - to help displaced Iraqis return to their hometowns due to the greatly improved security situation.

Journalist Bahaa Khaleel said the situation was a "disgrace for all Iraqi governments that overlooked their [displaced persons] right to return, and a greater shame for their representatives in parliament, a stark reminder that militias are in control."

London-based Iraqi journalist Saif Salah Al-Hety said “their return home is no less important than the retrieval of stolen funds,” in reference to news over the weekend that Iraq recovered "part" of $2.5 billion in public funds fraudulently withdrawn from a government account.

Many of these displaced families and individuals live in tents that could be destroyed or severely damaged in this winter's torrential rains. A sharp drop in temperatures and a lack of electricity, water, sanitation, healthcare and education will further their suffering.

Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis fled IS which once controlled large swathes of territory in northern and western Iraq between 2014 and 2017, where it committed genocide and other atrocities.

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The Afada Observatory - concerned with human rights issues in Iraq – said in a statement: "[We are] following the continued suffering of tens of thousands of forcibly displaced people from the Jurf al-Sakhar and Owaisat areas of Babel Governorate, eight years ago and more, in a precedent that contemporary history in Iraq has never seen before, under the watchful eyes of successive Iraqi governments accused of failing to come to their aid."

"There are hundreds of thousands of people from Anbar, Nineveh, Salah al-Din, Diyala, and Kirkuk provinces, displaced in camps afflicted by destitution, hunger, and moral extortion.

"They lack their minimum needs, which the Iraqi governments signed a commitment to provide, including the payment of social support salaries and the opening of health and educational centres."

Most of the camps were inhabited by widows and orphans with men either killed, disappeared or in detention.

On its Twitter page, its published the accounts of several people.

A spokesperson for Iraq’s immigration ministry had previously announced a new ministerial plan for the camps throughout the country, including providing more fuel, clothes and blankets, particularly for those closer to the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region where the weather can dip below zero.