The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) is preventing about 1,200 Arab families from returning home to 5 villages more than 6 years after the area was retaken from the Islamic State (also known as ISIS), Human Rights Watch said today. KRG authorities have allowed Kurdish residents in neighboring villages, in the Rabia subdistrict, west of Dohuk, to return.
“Kurdish authorities are preventing thousands of Arab villagers from returning home without any lawful reason,” said Belkis Wille, senior crisis and conflict researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The fact that the KRG has permitted neighboring Kurdish villagers to go back suggests that the Arabs are being blocked as punishment.”
From November 2019 to June 2020, Human Rights Watch interviewed a resident for each of five villages – Jidria, Mahmoudia, Qahira, Suadia, and Sufiya – where ISIS briefly took control on August 3, 2014. The Peshmerga, the KRG security forces, re-took control within days. All five residents said that the Peshmerga continue to control the area and have prevented their return. They estimated that 1,200 families have been prevented from returning to the 5 villages.
The Mahmoudia resident said that the village’s roughly 300 families, all Arab, fled the fighting between ISIS and Peshmerga forces. He said they fled first to the town of Rabia and on to Mosul, also then under ISIS control. Most returned to the area in 2016 and most to Rabia, which was under KRG control at the time. He said that at that point, the Peshmerga allowed them to farm their lands unhindered but did not allow them to move back to Mahmoudia or even visit.