"I Vote to Return Home"

Posters of a number of candidates near a camp for the displaced, Duhok, 2023. Laith Hussein

By Ammar Aziz

The Internally displaced people IDPs of Shingal (Sinjar) district, home for the Ezidi (Yazidi) community are participating in the upcoming Nineveh provincial council elections to implement three demands, the main of which is to return to their homeland. However, they have not placed much hope in the promises of the candidates and lists participating in the elections.

Normalization, reconstruction and compensation are the three main demands that the displaced want to be met after the elections through the Nineveh local government.

The provincial council elections are scheduled to be held on December 18 in all Iraqi provinces except the Iraqi Kurdistan Region IKR, during which 48,260 displaced voters are eligible to participate.

“I want to vote and elect my representative to change my life,” Aziz Jalil, a native of Siba Sheikhdra community in Shingal, told KirkukNow that he has been living in Cham Misko IDP camp in Duhok Northern Province, adjacent to Nineveh, for nine years since the war against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria ISIS in mid-2014.

"I want to vote to normalize the situation in Shingal, a new administration to take office and return to my homeland," Jalil hopes.

The displaced will vote in the upcoming elections according to biometric cards, the commission is committed to opening polling centers in the camps and voting will be held on special voting day, which will be held 48 hours before the general election.

However, IDPs outside the camp must return to their hometowns to vote, and the government is committed to facilitating their transportation to polling stations.

We will try this election again, just for the sake of our living conditions

"Earlier representatives have disappointed us, but we will try this election again, just for the sake of our living conditions," Jalil said.

dangdan. awara

Posters of a number of candidates near an IDP camp, Duhok, November 2023. Laith Hussein


There are more than 600,000 IDPs in the IKR; 54% of them are from Nineveh, mostly Sunni Arabs and Ezidis, about 100,000 of them live in 26 camps, while the rest, almost 500,000, are outside the camps, according to the Kurdistan Regional Government KRG's Joint Crisis Coordination Center.

Seve Hamo Slo, 26, who lives in the same camp of Jalil, said, "Some of the previous representatives have kept some of their promises and did not meet the demands of the IDPs. We want to return to our homeland.”

Many parties are looking to the votes of the IDPs to secure more seats in the Nineveh provincial council.

“If the displaced elect me and I become a member of the council, I will work on a number of important issues, especially for the Yazidis, including the reconstruction of Shingal and compensation to the citizens, as well as the normalization of the political and administrative situation in Shingal” Khidr Dero Khansuri, an Ezidi candidate of the Civil Values Alliance for eight parties and a number of personalities.

"I understand the plight of the displaced because I have been living with them for nine years. I am working to save them from this misery and return them to their homeland," said Khansuri, who lives in a camp for the displaced.

Shingal is considered the historical homeland of the Ezidis whom constitute 30% of the IDPs in the IKR.

This religious community has 29 candidates within various lists and coalitions and are looking for the votes of the displaced. Four of the 29 candidates are running for the only quota seat allocated to them by law.

The Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) has 11 Yazidi candidates out of 52 for the entire province of Nineveh.

"We want to solve the political and administrative problems in the next government of Nineveh, form a new administration and rebuild Shingal, remove the illegitimate forces," said Erivan Mahdi, an Ezidi candidate of the (KDP).

We want to solve the political and administrative problems of Shingal in the next government of Nineveh

One of the problems of Shingal is security and political instability. The district still suffers from two administrations, which has affected the reconstruction and eventual return of the IDPs.

In May 2023, US Assistant Secretary of State for Middle East Affairs Barbara Leaf told a news conference in Erbil, “I have worked in many other countries on the return of internally displaced persons, but the only thing very important is security and stability for the displaced to return to their homes. This will give them the feeling that they can return to their places."

Shingal up to the present houses different armed forces, with at least eight different armed groups.

"We have listened to the demands of the displaced and we know what they need. We are working with enthusiasm to implement their demands," Mahdi said.

Hassan Khrmish, 33, a father of two who lives in the Sharia IDP camp, believes that “promises are not important, implementation is the matter.”

“Every day, we hear on TV millions and billions allocated for reconstruction of Shingal, but in reality nothing is clear.”

One of the problems of local governments is the lack of oversight of the work of the provincial councils which were terminated at the end of 2019 by a decision of the Iraqi parliament.

"It is my right to vote. I am voting to return to my homeland," Khrmish said.

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