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Iraqi Army blocks return of IDPs to Anbar: HRW

Families from Anbar have been prevented from returning home by Iraqi soldiers at two checkpoints in the province, a rights monitor documented.

“It is unacceptable for soldiers to arbitrarily block residents from going home, in direct contradiction to the central government’s orders to facilitate safe and voluntary returns,” said Lama Fakih, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.

HRW released a report on Sunday that called the blocking of returnees “arbitrary” and what appears to be “collective punishment.”

Anbar is a mostly Sunni province. Iraqi Security Forces are predominately Shiite, especially within the army and federal police.

HRW reported their staff interviewed three people residing at al-Khalidiya Central Camp on May 2. They are originally from al-Baghdadi in Anbar.

The two women and on man interviewed by HRW said they received security clearance to return home earlier this year. Camp managers confirmed to HRW both Anbar Operations Command and Jazeera Operations Command had given them clearance.

After departing in late February on government busses, they were stopped at al-Akouba checkpoint, where soldiers from the Army’s 7th Division checked their identities.

“After holding us there for an hour and a half, they said that we were not allowed to return to our homes and had to go back to the camp,” one of the women told HRW. “They didn’t give us any reason why.”

A sheikh, a commander, and a mayor met, and the mayor told the commander that the families could not return “because they were ISIS supporters,” according to HRW.

“If the government stops me from returning home, that means I am not an Iraqi anymore,” said a second woman. “Otherwise I would have a right to my home.”

Through the ISIS conflict 5.8 million Iraqis have been displaced. More than 2.1 million people still haven’t returned home.

HRW raised it concerns in a letter to Haidar Ukaili, a representative of the Prime Minister’s Advisory Council, on June 12. Ukaili replied saying some families have been stopped “due to not having security permits.”

“There is caution with the return of the rest of the families due to fears of retaliation as some of the family members belong to ISIS. Therefore, they were told to wait for the time being until the issue is resolved tribally,” added Ukaili. Source