Hawijah: the last bastion of Islamic State 

September 10, 2017 at 4:59 pm

The sitting camp in Hawijah (April 2014)

Hawijah is the biggest district in Iraq that has been under Islamic State (Isis) since June 2014 and forms 32% of the Kirkuk province.

Hawijah became a district in 1961 and majority of its residents are Arabs with a Kurdish minority. There are several tribes: Obaid, Jabur, Shamar, Naimi, Delemi and Hadidi in the Hawijah district which had a population of 320,000 people in 2014 census. Hawijah is an important centre of agriculture in Iraq and produces most of vegetables and fruits of Iraq as well as wheat and barley.

Small Zaab passes through the Hawijah area and agriculture is an important source of livelihood as well as keeping livestock.

Hawijah which is part of Kirkuk has been a hotspot for violence and is considered a part of the disputed territories contested between the Kurds and Arabs covered by Article 140 of Iraqi constitution. The Kurds claim the whole of Kirkuk be theirs while Iraqi central government disputes this.

Following 2003 Iraq war, Hawijah has become a hotspot of activities for the extremists groups such as the Naqshabandi, Al-Qaeda and other groups.  In 2013, the people pf district held a massive demonstration and set up protesting camps against the policies of the Prime Minister Nouri Maliki at the time. The protesters demanded end of discrimination against Sunni population and release of thousands of detainees locked up by PM Maliki’s government which believed to be growing increasing dictatorial and sectarian at the time. PM Maliki ordered the crushing of the protesters and on 23rd of April 2013, Iraqi troops attacked the sitting camp by the end of which more than 50 laid dead and over 110 wounded.

Since Isis took over the area in June 2014, over 35,000 civilians have been displaced to Kirkuk IDP camps. Isis policies in the area have caused acute suffering for the people of Hawijah.

Hawijah IDPs arrive at peshmerga positions in Kirkuk (23 March 2017)

The Iraqi forces are believed to be launching an attack on the area in the coming weeks to retake the city and the surrounding areas from Islamic State militants. There are believed to be close 100,000 people still in the areas under Isis control in Hawijah region.

 

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