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Ali Awa


24th March, 2018

We visited Ali Awa when we saw a car maneuvering around in the village on the main road into it, dispelling worries that road would be mined. We were greeted by a bedouin family with all their belongings in a shipping truck. They were squatting in a house which, like many or all the others, had been completely looted. No windows, no doors, no services. There was a wind storm that shrieked through the house, hurling dust around outside. The only comfort was a thrashing, flapping plastic cover placed on the knocked-out windows in the divan. We sat down. There were about three women, but the patriarch and the women were all so sunburnt over the years that it was hard to tell who exactly was a mother, wife, second, wife, sister, and so forth. There were about six to eight children altogether, and most seemed to be girls. The oldest among them were probably no more than 13 years old.

When we seated, we were soon greeted by three men, one of whom named RETRACTED spoke English. He said that he was from this village and that after ISIS took over the area they were ordered by ISIS to evacuate. (The details were unclear but it sounded like they were ordered to evacuate four months into the ISIS occupation.) Some families went to Kurdistan, but most of the families went to Mosul.

I am curious about that line of migration. I want to understand if the Arab families chose Mosul instead of Kurdistan because, a) they loathed facing life in an IDP camp in Kurdistan, b) ISIS would execute them for fleeing into Kurdistan, or c) the border of the KR was closed by Peshmerga.

After the defeat of ISIS, the government has refused to allow the Arab families to return. Most of them either live in nearby IDP camps or are still in Mosul, but a handful live in Erbil or other places.

Which government prohibited them, e.g. if they went to live at home then who would come evict them and who had issued the order in the first place? He was ambiguous, saying it was the Nineveh government but he quickly segued into an aside about how another villager had visited two or three months ago and sent photos of his house all intact. However, now his house had been stripped to the walls. Even the ceiling tiles have been taken. This suggested to me that he thought that KR authority over the villages was a major obstacle for returnees and that looting was being tacitly permitted.

It is said by neighbouring villages that Ali Awa and the other three Arab villages between Hassan Sham and the river had all joined ISIS. The exact pressures, obstacles, and activities from this period remain unclear and RETRACTED only divulged his own personal narrative, which he did his best to portray innocence. He is employed by the Iraqi government currently.