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Baiji, a city of destruction to which its people never return


The Iraqi Observatory for Human Rights said that thousands of families are still unable to return to Baiji district in Saladin district, which has been displaced since 2014, even after more than three years of the liberation from ISIS control"

"Factors that prevent people of going back are the lack of confidence in the Iraqi government, and the absence of guarantees of a safe and stable life for them amid fears of terrorist operations in liberated areas." The Observatory added.

The monitoring network in the Iraqi Observatory for Human Rights said that "there are other reasons prevent the return of residents to the city, most notably preventing them by some armed forces which oversee the safety of areas because of the lack of trust between the two parties and the absence of government vision for the period of pre-return and post-return."

The observatory also said that "the geographical location of the city made it close to the movements carried out by ISIS organization which settled in some areas of the city outskirts, which also prevented the return of the displaced."

According to the Observatory, "the damage caused by the struggle to liberate the city from the control of ISIS after 2014, especially in the citizens home in addition to the lack of implementation of infrastructure projects in the city center and some areas contributed to the delay of the return of displaced persons."

The Iraqi Observatory for Human Rights said that "the federal government in Baghdad has not allocated so far any amount for the reconstruction of the destroyed Baiji district, although the Iraqi Council of Representatives considered in July 2017 the district as disaster zone.

"A large percentage of displaced people returned to the city despite the tragic situation in the district center and the surrounding areas," said Mohammed Mahmoud al-Jubouri, a district commissioner of Baiji. "In terms of security and services, they have prevented the return of many displaced families whom suffering from many difficulties in living in the cities of displacement and camps".

He also said that "the damage caused by the conflict in the city center, which led to the inclusion of the district in the affected areas of the country, delayed the return of the displaced, and there are 12 thousand homes demolished in all district areas, in addition to another 10,000 affected by varying proportions."

The commissioner complained about the delay in the payment of compensation for citizens because of what he described as "bureaucratic procedures" taken by the former government committees. He said that "the central government did not make any effort, despite considering the city as disaster zone while there are limited efforts to restore life to infrastructure by international organizations in the field of reconstruction as it collides with some obstacles, notably the security situation."

Khazal Hammad, a member of the Saladin governmental Council for Baiji district, said that "many obstacles to the return of displaced people of Baiji city, most notably not to initiate the implementation of programs related to community reconciliation as a result of the heavy legacy left by ISIS among the clans living in the district."

He also said that "another reason is the lack of services and economic movement contribute to non-employing labor, which is now working in many of the cities that have been displaced to, thus the victims' families need to be paid compensation to be able to arrange their economic situation."

"All the cities in the conflict in Saladin suffer from chaos at all levels, the absence of a real imposition of the rule of law and order has negatively affected the return of displaced people, including the city of Baiji, which is suffering from real neglect "Hamad also said.

A displaced living in Erbil said that "He is not thinking of returning to the village of Zouia, north of the Baiji district because it suffers from a severe shortage in the service portfolio, in addition to the belief that there is radiation left by the battles of liberalization, causing a lot of cases of cancer, which made Many of the village's families heading to other areas.”

"Staying in a rented apartment in Erbil is much better than returning to my ruined city, where there can be no decent living," he said, "it's difficult for us and no one is helping us."

"The general situation in the district is not helping him stay long because of the lack of services," said another displaced person who returned from Erbil to Baiji in September 2018. I am thinking of returning to Erbil again, and I lost hope of a natural life in the stricken city.

The Iraqi Observatory for Human Rights said that "the Iraqi government must give real guarantees to the residents of the district to be able to return to their homes, and before that, they need to restore services and provide assistance to the affected people and create a positive relationship between the population and the security forces that hold the land."