Iraqi forces “illegally” deport 91 families in family dispute involving official: HRW


Some 91 families have been displaced by the army from the village of Al-Aetha to a camp for internally displaced people, Human Rights Watch said.

The alleged “family feud” would implicate the government minister [Getty – file photo]

The recent evictions from a village near Baghdad are said to be part of a “family feud” involving a minister in the country, Human Rights Watch said.

Since July, the Iraqi army has forcibly displaced 91 families from the village of Al-Aetha in Salah Al-Din governorate to a camp for internally displaced persons, HRW said Wednesday.

They were forced to leave without taking their belongings, residents told HRW. One of them said that an Iraqi troop had told them they were displaced “because of a problem between you villagers and the minister”.

Human Rights Watch said Iraqi troops first transformed the village on July 14 with a list of names and forced about 19 families into flatbed trucks. They were told they were being transferred to an internally displaced persons camp in Nineveh, about 15 kilometers away, for no reason.

The army returned between July 31 and August 4 and displaced 72 other families in Nineveh, according to two people who spoke to HRW.

Three residents told the NGO that the forced displacement was due to a family dispute.

In July, the brother of a government minister allegedly married a woman who had been married to an Islamic State operative. The minister, who is from the village, responded to his brothers’ decision by forcing residents to leave in an act of collective punishment, the three residents said.

“For years, Iraqi authorities have claimed that they are bringing communities in or out of camps for their own protection or best interests,” said Belkis Wille, senior crisis and conflict researcher at HRW:

“But the case of these villagers who are ping-ponged between their village and the IDP camps is once again proof that these expulsions are often the result of personal or political considerations of the authorities.”

Authorities released no formal justification for what happened on Wednesday.

Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi last Thursday sent the national security adviser to Al-Aetha to investigate the situation, residents said. Before the official spoke to some evicted families, an aide reportedly told two locals not to raise the marriage issue.

In its press release, HRW urged authorities to “immediately contact all affected families and provide them with the support they need to decide” on their next destination, including assistance with getting around, including support if they are. choose to stay in the IDP camp or return to Aetha.

HRW called on Prime Minister Al-Kadhimi to ensure that those in authority “do not unduly influence the investigation into the evictions and that all those responsible for the illegal evictions are held accountable.”

The New York-based NGO also urged the prime minister to launch similar investigations into the wrongful displacement that occurred more widely while he was in charge, starting in May 2020.


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