Enduring life under worn-out tents
550 displaced families in Kirkuk’s Yahyawa camp unable to return home

February 4, 2019 at 11:08 am

Kirkuk- A displaced little girl inside Yahyawa camp, January 5, 2019 Photo: Ahmed Qasim

Ahmed Qasim- Kirkuk

A total of 550 displaced families sheltered in Yahyawa IDP camp in eastern Kirkuk are still unable to return to their homes in Ninewa province despite that their areas have been retaken from Islamic State (IS) militants since August 2017.

The families fled Tala’far, Ninewa’s largest district, as IS swept into the province in 2014.

Abdul-Razaq Hazim, who has sought refuge with his family in Yahyawa camp since 2014 describes their condition as “tragic”.

“Every year, our suffering starts with the start of winter, when heavy rains flood the camp ruining our tents”, he said.

Hazim complains that their 4-year-old tents are “worn-out and do not endure the severe weather conditions.”

Kirkuk- Yahyawa camp in Laylan east of the province, January 5, 2019 Photo: Ahmed Qasim

Yahyawa camp was set up in August 1st, 2014 in Kirkuk’s eastern sub-district of Laylan with funds provided by humanitarian agencies.

Since its establishment, the camp housed as many as 1000 families, mostly from the ethnic-Turkmen population.

Shu’aib Qasab, manager of the camp, himself a displaced person from Tala’afar, said, “Since August 2014 the camp has received 1000 families from Tala’far”, indicating that 450 displaced families returned home after the town was retaken from IS.

“The remaining families are unable to return because of the majority of the houses were damaged and not safe for living”, said Qasab.

A recent study issued by the International Organization for Migration says more than 1.8 million Iraqi displaced persons have not returned to their homes yet and plan to stay where they are over the next 12 months.

The IOM report indicated that “as a result of the conflict with ISIS, over 500,000 are in camps and 140,000 live in critical shelter arrangements, schools or religious or abandoned buildings.”

“As people return home, many have found their personal belongings stolen and their houses damaged”, according to the study.

Kirkuk- Yahyawa camp is home to 550 displaced families from Tala’far, January 5, 2019 Photo: Ahmed Qasim

The Yahyawa camp manager calls upon the Iraqi government to rebuild their areas, stressing that the only help they have been receiving is from humanitarian agencies and by locals.

Suleiman Isma’il, a high school teacher displaced from Tala’far said, “Our return is very difficult now because more than 600 homes there are completely destroyed.”

“Most of the families have limited financial capacity. Some were able to return and rebuild their homes, but families with limited income have to wait the government’s support to rebuild the town.”

Iraqi security forces recaptured Tala’far in August 2017. On September 7th, 2017 the Ninewa provincial council declared the war-ravaged town a disaster area.

Abdul-razaq Hazim concluded by saying, “We have no intention to return, and we refuse to be transferred to another camp, even if it was in Ninewa.”

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