ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Some 1,500 Sunni families complain that the Iraqi government and its Shiite militias are preventing them from returning to their homes in Salahadin province that have been liberated from the Islamic State (ISIS).
“Our areas (in Salahadin province) have been liberated from ISIS for almost a year and seven months, but there is not even a glimmer of hope of returning to our homes because the Iraqi government is fighting a sectarian war with us,” an elderly Sunni man based at the Lailan refugee camp in Kirkuk, claimed to Rudaw.
At least 7,500 displaced people live in miserable conditions at the Lailan refugee camp, complaining that they do not have money even to by the most basic foods.
“If anyone has the money to buy even a kilo of tomatoes, they can survive. But those who can’t are left to begging,” said another displaced person at the camp, complaining that there are no facilities at the camp, which is “drowning in filth.”
Salahadin province has been cleared of ISIS for more than 18 months. During the militants’ sway over the province, hundreds of thousands of residents fled to other Iraqi cities, many to Kirkuk.
Refugees who fled are now living in refugee camps, where they complain there are no schools, work, healthcare or clean water. The refugees call on the Shiite militia, known as Hashd al-Shaabi, to allow them return to their lands.
“The Iraqi government has not aided us, now we only want to return to our areas. We do not want anything else,” said one refugee.
Provincial authorities in Kirkuk have thrice urged Baghdad to help return the displaced people to their homes, but the central government has not made any move.
An estimated 500,000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in central and southern Iraq have taken shelter in the north, most in the autonomous Kurdistan Region.