Work to build Umla camp for “ISIS families” resumed

Syria – a number of women and children at the al-Hol camp – photo: KirkukNow

Ammar Aziz - Nineveh

Work on building the Umla camp has been resumed after it was suspended due to pressure from residents of the Zumar subdistrict who object to settling “ISIS families and relatives” in their region.

Zumar is located northwest of Nineveh province. Work on building the camp started late 2019 and was suspended halfway through in February this year.

Ahmad Ja’far, the commissioner of the Zumar subdistrict, told KirkukNow: “Unfortunately work on building Umla camp has been resumed for several weeks now and 95% of it has been completed.”

Ja’far added that more than 3000 tents have been pitched in the camp which will host people soon.

“If the families of ISIS are settled in the camp, we will have a strong stance and big conflicts will occur,” Ja’far said.

We have given the Iraqi government and local officials two days to completely suspend the work on building the camp

Hawar Faris, an activist from Zumar, told KirkukNow: “We have given the Iraqi government and local officials two days to completely suspend the work on building the camp, otherwise we will organize a big protest and a sit-in in front of the camp.”

According to Hawar, the people are angry because “their views are not respected, and despite their protests, the government continues making preparations to settle people in that camp.”

Thousands of Iraqi citizens reside at the al-Hol camp in Syria, among them are families of ISIS militants. The Iraqi government attempts to let them return and settle them in the Zumar subdistrict.

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Nineveh, February 2020 – security personnel at the entrance of Umla camp – photo: Nineveh administration

Shirwan Jamal, a member of the Iraqi Parliament from Nineveh, told KirkukNow: “Syria and the United Nations have been pressing for the return of families who originate from Nineveh and reside at the al-Hol camp. But we will not allow them to be settled at Umla camp.”

The UN has been making efforts for reconciliation and the return of those families of ISIS militants or those considered as supporters of the group through setting up numerous committees in cooperation with security and administrative officials and tribal leaders.

Within that framework, on 14 October officials and residents at the Muhalabiya subdistrict in Nineveh have signed a “oath of honour” for reconciliation and the return of displaced people and refugees.

“We have spoken with the deputy of the immigration minister. He says that the camp's building process has been handed over to a company and the project must be completed, meaning that it is not dependent on whether it will be populated or not, or whether it will be closed later on,” said Shirwan Jamal.

Jamal suggests that the people who are to be returned from the al-Hol camp should be settled in the seven camps in the south of Nineveh which are currently empty under the supervision of the UN and Nineveh province administration.

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