Over three million people have been displaced by the ongoing conflict in Iraq, the highest number and fastest rate of people displaced in the world in 2015 according to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
In five provinces most of the displaced cannot return to their homes as their towns and villages, taken over by the armed group calling itself “Islamic State” (IS) since mid-2014, remain under IS control or have been recaptured by Iraqi and Kurdish forces and militias but remain unsafe or have sustained extensive damage in the fighting.
Many of the displaced are being prevented from returning by the Kurdish Peshmerga and Iraqi government forces and paramilitary militias who recaptured the areas from IS in an attempt to consolidate their control over territories which have long been disputed.
This reports focusses on areas of northern Iraq where Peshmerga forces of the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) are preventing residents of Arab villages and Arab residents of mixed Arab-Kurdish towns from returning to their homes, and in some cases have destroyed or permitted the destruction of their homes and property – seemingly as a way to prevent their return in the future.
Some of the displaced families fled their homes when IS fighters captured their villages in the second half of 2014. Others only fled when fighting broke out between IS and Peshmerga forces, as the latter drove IS fighters out from the areas in late 2014 and in 2015. Some families were expelled from their homes by Peshmerga forces after these had taken control of the areas.
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