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Families of IS members evicted from liberated areas in Iraq

Families of Islamic State members have been evicted from the liberated areas in Iraq by the local authorities or security forces, to avoid revenge and conflict in the local communities.
AL QAYYARAH, IRAQ - NOVEMBER 10:  A family returning home waits to pick up supplies from a store under smoke filled skies from burning oil wells set on fire by fleeing ISIS members on November 10, 2016 in Al Qayyarah, Iraq. Many families have begun returning to their homes in recently liberated towns south of Mosul. Oil wells in the area that were set on fire by ISIS continue to burn blanketing the area in think clouds of smoke and oil.  (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

BAGHDAD, Iraq — Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said Feb. 22 that his government is ready to start the implementation of national reconciliation in the very near future. The plan includes returning the displaced families to their hometowns and building an inclusive political and social setting in the liberated areas.

During a Feb. 14 speech on Al-Iraqiya TV, he gave more details about his plan for national reconciliation. Abadi said the families of Islamic State (IS) members should not be punished for the acts committed by IS members if the family members had no involvement. He said that no matter the severity of the criminal act, the family should not be held responsible for the acts of one of its members.

However, no official policy has yet been adopted when it comes to dealing with the families of IS members, and they are being evicted from the liberated areas, particularly in Qayyarah, Sharqat and some neighborhoods in the eastern part of Mosul, amid disagreements over the implications and repercussions of this “eviction.”

The “families of IS members” has become a common term in the liberated areas to identify families who supported and helped IS, or those who have a member affiliated with the extremist group.

The provincial council of Salahuddin was the first to decide to evict the families of IS members in August 2016. The decision included all families “involved with or supporting or promoting this group.” A special committee was in charge of implementing evictions, which would “last for no less than 10 years, during which the decision can be reconsidered every six months.”

Local authorities in the cities of Hit and Sharqat have taken similar steps to eliminate IS-supporting environments.

On Jan. 26, NRT aired a video showing a woman who goes by the name of Umm Hanadi leading a group of gunmen along with members of the 60th Brigade from Squad 17 and evicting a number of families whose sons were accused of supporting and joining IS, in Sharqat in northern Salahuddin province. The local and central authorities did not specify the party Umm Hanadi is affiliated with. 

Today, a similar scene is reproduced on Mosul’s liberated eastern part. However, the decision to evict families was not made by the local authorities there.

In this context, Hussam Abbar, a member of Ninevah’s provincial council, told Al-Monitor that the decision was taken by the joint security forces, saying, “Only in Hit and Sharqat families of IS members were evicted and to unknown destinations. We, as a provincial council, have a different vision on how to handle these families.”

He explained, “If a family member joined IS, the rest of the family should not be held responsible for his actions, especially when the family is part of a clan and has many relatives, which could later result in revenge crimes and affect the social fabric.”

Abbar also called on “dealing with individuals accused of joining IS according to the law and without holding their families responsible for one member’s actions.”

Although no official party has disclosed the destination to which families of IS members are being evicted, member of parliament Ahmad al-Jarba told Al-Monitor, “Salahuddin authorities have allocated camps outside the cities for families of IS members and individuals who have supported or promoted this group.”

However, Jarba, who is a deputy for Ninevah province, said that some of the deputies for the Sunni provinces intend to “discuss the issue of eviction with the parliament because [they believe] it could lead to creating a new generation of IS from among the children who will be raised in these isolated camps.”

He added, “We will handle this issue from all legal and judicial aspects to avoid serious repercussions that may be caused by resorting once again to telltales and ‘confidential informants.’”

Confidential informants who would report on the whereabouts of IS members anonymously over the phone, brought about numerous conflicts between Sunni and Shiite parliamentary blocs. Malicious rumors led to the wrongful imprisonment of thousands of people before the judiciary stopped relying on confidential informants on March 26, 2013, by virtue of a decision issued by the Iraqi Council of Ministers.

But on the other hand, leaving these families in the liberated areas is a big risk, and their lives could be in danger, as those who were harmed by IS could take revenge. This is why guaranteeing their safety is essential but no easy task.

Khaled al-Saray, the head of the Media Monitoring Center, told Al-Muraqeb Al-Iraqi that evicting families of IS members was “a necessity to save the liberated provinces from tribal revenge crimes," and that “some villages and areas refuse to allow the families involved in supporting criminals to come back and vow to kill them if they do.” He said, “Families of guilty individuals are shunned as part of tribal customs, to avoid revenge crimes and establish peace and calm.”

Meanwhile, eyewitnesses in the eastern part of Mosul told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity that they believe there is an IS-affiliated network working on destabilizing security in the liberated areas. This network is reported to be spreading malicious rumors to stir hatred and conflicts between the residents and the security forces.

According to these witnesses, many known IS members are roaming freely in eastern Mosul without being arrested because “their names are not included in the arrest lists or for lack of evidence.”

This controversy over the families of IS members could obstruct the work of the security forces or result in punishing innocent people. The right thing to do would be to keep tabs on them and work on their rehabilitation, instead of turning them into enemies of the Iraqi society, ready to jump on the first opportunity to take revenge.

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