Baghdad/Adhamiya, Iraq – It became common in Baghdad that if a Sunni family lived in a Shia neighborhood they may be forced to leave and vice versa. Many families were forced by militias to leave their homes if they lived in a neighborhood that was predominantly made up of the other sect. Some of them lost a family member by the hands of militias which pushed them to leave their neighborhood or fled to a nearby country such as Syria or Jordan.
The Iraqi government has been working on assisting some of these displaced families to return to their houses either by providing them an amount of money, or utilizing the growing Iraqi military and police to provide security in the neighborhoods they used to live in. So far the efforts of the Iraqi government have yielded only small results. It remains to be seen whether the current security situation will remain stable. Due to ongoing worries about their security, thousands of families are still living far from their neighborhood and many continue to reside outside of Iraq.
One of the many areas hit hard by internal displacement is Adhamiya. More than 1000 families have been displaced from this neighborhood under the threat of death. Most of them were Shia but some of them were Sunni. The Shia families there were given the choice to become Sunni or die. For some Sunni families the reasons were different. Perhaps one of their family members worked with the Iraqi government or the United States, in some cases simply working with any foreign NGO may cause displacement. Organizations such as the Muslim Scholar’s Association and the Sahwa or “Awakening” Councils are endeavoring to find their own solutions to the problem in Adhamiya. The Sahwa Councils are attempting to provide security and eliminate the control of other militias or insurgents within Adhamiya, in order to provide a safe place for displaced or threatened families and encourage them to return home.
The current situation in Baghdad appears to be better than it has been between 2006 and 2007, but continues to be haunted by the worries of its residents. After years of violence and uncertainty, it seems that many people simply don’t have much faith that their government or other groups, whether the United States, Sahwa Forces, or others will be able to keep the peace.