This is the third installment of a series I write here on my blog about transitional justice in areas liberated from the Islamic State (Daesh). Iraq is facing the tough task of transitioning certain areas back to normal after Daesh was forced out, but it’s proving complicated. For one, the organization still exists and fights in other parts of the country (and the region more broadly). In many other cases, transitional justice is a postwar phenomenon, where once a treaty is reached or one side is defeated, the transition begins. Iraq is in the awkward position of having to begin this transition before the victory is complete, and indeed, without certainty of when (or if, scarily enough) it will come.
In these communities that are now under the control of the Iraqi state once again, residents know which families cooperated and aided Daesh, and which of these individuals remain. In the first installment, we looked at how informal tribunals held by Iraqi forces asked villagers to identify those who had collaborated with Daesh.
This method of relying on statements and not carrying out actual trials in court was likewise used in Dhuluiya and Hit, both small cities where several hundred residents related to Daesh fighers (or so they’ve been labeled by the state) were forced to leave. In the case of Dhuluiya, Daesh was actually forced out 2 years ago, but the follow-up action to force out these families only came recently.
This raises a different question, where does the state expect these families to go? The Reuters report says some moved to neighboring cities and villages with family members, and that others may have left for Kirkuk province. One wonders how residents in those places will receive them, or if there will be any governmental program to notify residents? Will different governorates communicate with each other about these moving families? Have they already? It seems as though the Iraqi state is not willing to take the step of exiling them completely, as the first question would be, to where exactly?
The Iraqi constitution guarantees residents the freedom of living and settlement, as a Iraqi government official told Reuters. This same official, from the Ministry of Migration and Displacement, condemned forced expulsions as oppressive but would not comment on whether he knew they were happening.
Sadly, families being forced to move by the state in this fashion is not new in Iraq. The Ba’th government began policies of this kind, to my knowledge, in the late 1970s targeting members of the Iraqi Communist Party as well as those the state labeled as تبعية إيرانية which loosely translates to “Iranian loyalty”. From what I have seen in archival research at Hoover, this included Kurds as well as Iraqi Shiites and these individuals and families were deported to Iran.
The tables have turned, with the “help” of the US invasion that overthrew Saddam, so that a Shiite-led government is now the one forcing some Sunni families to move because of their affiliation with Daesh. Sadly, the inexact nature of the process used by the state has almost certainly caught some in its web that shouldn’t be there. A representative of the UN Commisioner for Human Rights in Iraq, Francisco Motta, stated as much, worrying that “(P)eople who may have nothing to do with ISIL are effectively being punished for what a family member may or may not have done.” Depending on how widely it is applied, this could become a huge factor in trying to stabilize the state and get Iraq back to normal. Only time will tell.
I have taken all information and quotes from this Reuters article.