The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) is preventing about 4,200 Sunni Arabs from returning home to 12 villages east of Mosul, Human Rights Watch said today. More than three years after the Hamdaniya district was retaken from the Islamic State (also known as ISIS), in one area KRG authorities have only allowed Kurdish residents and Arabs with KRG ties to return, in violation of international humanitarian law.
The Arab families seeking to return home had fled primarily to ISIS-controlled Mosul during fighting in 2014. Approximately 3,400 Sunni Arabs have been residing in camps for the displaced with dwindling services, according to aid workers. Affected families said they have been blocked from their homes and farmland and unable to earn a living. A KRG official wrote in an email to Human Rights Watch that residents were free to return to their homes, but provided Human Rights Watch with a list of Nineveh villages that were difficult to return to, identifying six from Hamdaniya as “blocked” for return.
“The Kurdistan Regional Government is preventing thousands of Arab villagers from returning home without a lawful reason,” said Lama Fakih, acting Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “The fact that the KRG is permitting Kurdish and well-connected Arab residents back suggests that these villagers are being improperly punished.”