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Iraqi villagers banished over government minister’s ISIS-linked family feud

Government buses waiting to move families from one camp in Anbar governate to another during a previous wave of camp closures in December 2018. © 2018 Belkis Wille/Human Rights Watch

NINETY-ONE Iraqi families have been illegally expelled from al-Aetha village north of Baghdad over an alleged ‘familial feud’ involving Defence Minister Juma Inad.

Minister Inad has reportedly punished his brother, Abdulrazaq Inad, for marrying the widow of a member allegedly linked to the Islamic State, by confiscating government issued vehicles and forcibly removing families from al-Aetha.

Iraqi armed forces transported villagers to one of the camps assembled to house internally displaced persons (IDP) in Nineveh Governate, close to the final battleground of ISIS’s failed push to form a regional caliphate.

Human rights groups criticised the Kadhimi administration’s closure of IDP camps across Iraq which were home to a high contingent of ISIS militant’ families.

An IDP camp for Ezidis from the Sinjar (Shingal) region, after being displaced by the Islamic State.

Human Rights Watch senior crisis and conflict researcher Belkis Wille said Iraqi authorities have a long history of forcibly rotating communities in and out of camps claiming it to be “for their protection or in their best interests”.

“But the case of these villagers being ping-ponged between their village and displacement camps is yet again proof that these evictions are often about the authorities’ personal or political considerations rather than the well-being of those affected,” Ms Wille said.

One villager told Human Rights Watch that when he asked one of the soldiers why they were being evicted, the soldier said, “it’s because of some problem between you villagers and the [defence] minister.”

“We are being blamed for something we had no part in. We are powerless victims.,” the villager said.

It is unclear from reports as to why Inad would undertake such extreme measures.

On August 10, Human Rights Watch spoke to a representative from the Ministry of Displacement and Migration who did not provide any justification for the evictions.

Ms Willie said the notion that a government minister can without justification kick hundreds of people from their homes is shocking.

“These families have been suffering for years at the hands of a government that has endorsed and sometimes participated in a range of collective punishment measures against them,” she said.

In a November 2020 report published by Amnesty International it was revealed that Iraqis with perceived ties to the Islamic State continue to be subjected to “arbitrary detention, enforced disappearances and unfair trials”.

Within that report Abed, a young local man released from Asayish detention said that being held in indefinite detention without charge is commonplace in Iraq.

“In Iraq, nothing is bigger and more dangerous than someone calling you Daeshi [IS member]. One word and you’re gone. People are scared… I used to have hope for a normal life. But now there are red sniper dots on all of us.”

The New Arab, an English-language news website, reported that a local, who asked not to be identified for his own security, said the illegal expulsion of villagers was because the defence minister was afraid of being accused of being an IS “sympathiser”.

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Elliot Goodyer

Elliot is a freelance print and radio journalist with a passion for experimental radio fiction, podcasting and international affairs

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