A number of IDPs at a Kirkuk check-point going through screening process. Photo: Rudaw
KIRKUK, Kurdistan Region — Many internally displaced people (IDP)s who fled to Kirkuk from the Sunni province of Salahaddin two years ago now say Shiite forces are preventing them from returning home, a claim denied by a major Shiite armed group.
Of the around 50,000 families who came to Kirkuk from across Salahaddin 20,000 have been able to return home and start a new life after the liberation of their areas by Iraqi troops. The rest accuse Shiite forces of the Hashd al-Shaabi of barring them from their homes.
“Hashd Shiite forces are not allowing us to return nor are they leaving our areas,” said one IDP who was scheduled to go home seven months ago according to a deal reached with Salahaddin officials, which is yet to be implemented.
Haji Jawdat of the powerful Badr organization dismissed the IDP claims as untrue.
Jawdat said that in reality the Shiite forces as well as government officials would like to see IDPs return home.
“We are also asking this, why don’t IDPs return when we see stability in their cities?” Jawdat stressed.
Jawdat added that IDPs returning to their cities would serve Kirkuk too as they might pose a threat to the city since ISIS militants have on occasion disguised as refugees and staged attacks inside Kirkuk.
“IDPs remaining in Krikuk is a threat to the city, don’t we remember when militants mixed with IDPs conducted major attacks in past months?” he said, referring to an attack that ISIS militants carried out last October.
Azad Jabari, an official in charge of IDP affairs told Rudaw that the city did not decide when IDPs should leave or stay in Kirkuk, knowing only that their presence put extra strain on public services.
“Shiites not allowing Sunnis to return to their homes has got nothing to do with us.” said Jabari, head of migration and IDPs committee in Kirkuk. “We have limited capacity to carry the burden (IDPs).” he added, especially the supply of electricity, water and sanitation.
In October Kirkuk authorities denied reports that they had forced IDPs to leave the city and return home.
“There's no decision to remove IDPs and Kirkuk continues to receive them,” said governor Najmaldin Karim in a statement posted on his office’s Facebook page.
“I reaffirm, IDPs who fled from Mosul are our guests,” he said the same month at a joint press conference with Iraqi Parliament Speaker Salim al-Jabouri in Kirkuk. “We have been receiving IDPs for the past two years.”