Exiles in Their Own Country: Dealing with Displacement in Post-ISIS Iraq, Crisis Group Middle East Briefing N°79

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Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis remain uprooted and unable to go home after the war to defeat ISIS. The worst off are those, mainly women and children, perceived to have jihadist ties. Iraq and its partners should find ways to end their displacement.

What’s new? Three years after Iraq’s victory over ISIS, more than a million Iraqis are still displaced. Hundreds of thousands are in camps. Those in the most difficult predicament are families with perceived ISIS affiliations, who face not only formal barriers to return but also rejection by people at home.

Why does it matter? Absent a solution for Iraq’s displacement crisis, the people stranded in camps risk being tarred as “ISIS families” and turning into a permanent underclass. With no legitimate prospects, they could be susceptible to recruitment into organised violence, including criminal and insurgent groups.

What should be done? The Kadhimi government should address the displacement crisis by removing informal barriers to return in consultation with community leaders and doing more to mitigate rejection of families with perceived ISIS affiliations in their areas of origin. It should approach the problem as one that especially affects women and female-headed families.