Iraq has experienced several waves of internal displacement due to conflict and sectarian violence, often involving the main ethno-religious groups across the country. The most recent displacement crisis in Iraq occurred during and after the 2014-2017 conflict with ISIS, which resulted in the displacement of around 6 million people. As of April 2021, roughly 1.2 million people remain internally displaced, and nearly 5 million have returned to the country with limited resources to re-establish their lives.
Before and after the conflict, authorities enacted a series of measures to tackle the challenges created by internal displacement. The current humanitarian context in Iraq is set within a fragile, post-conflict environment, characterized by multiple competing crises, including the pandemic, corruption, economic hardships, and security threats. In this context, in October 2020, PM Mustafa Al-Kadhimi’s Government resumed the closure of IDP camps, raising concerns about the safety and wellbeing of displaced communities from slowed reconstruction plans and security threats.
Multiple reports by NGOs highlighted several issues concerning human rights of both IDPs who left the camps and those who remain within them. In 2021, 4.1 million IDPs and returnees continue to have humanitarian needs related to their physical and mental well-being, living standards and coping capacities. According to OCHA, the proportion of out-of-camp IDPs in acute need increased from 36% to 45% year-on-year, while the proportion of returnees with acute needs increased from 28% to 38%. The main issues reported by involved organizations include gender-based violence, child labor, lack of education, poverty, and barriers to civil documentation among in-camp and out-of-camp IDPs in the country.
What are the challenges facing IDP communities? How did post-ISIS Iraqi politics affect the IDPs case? How does the IDP issue implicate a long-standing reconciliation in Iraq? How is it possible to impact the political reform in the country? Why has the Iraqi state failed to end this crisis? What are the proposed solutions before and after December elections?
Featured Speakers: Dr. Rochelle Davis, Rasha Al Aqeedi, Salma Al-Shami and moderated by Anas Alqaed.
Dr. Rochelle A Davis
Sultanate of Oman Chair; Director, Georgetown University’s Center for Contemporary Arab Studies (CCAS)
Dr. Davis’ research is on refugees, war, and conflict, particularly Syrian and Iraqi refugees and internally displaced persons. Since 2010, her research projects have included training refugees and local community members to develop questions and conduct interviews. To date, these projects have amassed over 300 in-depth interviews with refugees and migrants in the region.
Dr. Davis is also a Senior Researcher on Georgetown’s Institute for the Study of International Migration (ISIM) and the International Organization for Migration grant conducting a multi-year survey of 4000s Iraqi households displaced since 2014 by ISIS/ISIL/Da’esh.
Her first book, Palestinian Village Histories: Geographies of the Displaced, (Stanford University Press, 2012) was co-winner of the Middle East Studies Association’s Albert Hourani Book Award recognizing outstanding publications in Middle East studies. Professor Davis is currently writing a book on the role of culture in the U.S. military wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, based on research she has conducted since 2006. Professor Davis’ teaching interests include Arab society and culture; refugees, migrants and immigrants in and out of the Arab World; and war and conflict.
Rasha Al Aqeedi
Senior Analyst and Program Head, Human Security Unit
Rasha is a Senior Analyst and the Head of the Nonstate Actors program in the Human Security Unit at the Newlines Institute. Prior to joining the Newlines Institute, Rasha was the editor in charge of “Irfaa Sawtak,” a U.S.-based platform that offers insights into post-conflict communities in Iraq and Syria through personal digital storytelling, essays, and photo collections.
Rasha has served as a fellow researcher at Foreign Policy Research Institute and George Washington University’s Program on Extremism. Before relocating to the United States, Rasha was on the editorial board at Al Mesbar Research and Studies Center in Dubai where she served as a researcher and security consultant.
Her commentary and publications focus on armed groups, radicalization, Middle Eastern geopolitics, and contemporary Iraqi politics and society. Her work has been featured in The Atlantic, The Independent, The National, The New York Times, and The American Interest. She is an alum of the University of Mosul and holds a Masters of Arts in Translation and Linguistics.
Non-Resident Visiting Fellow, Georgetown University’s Center for Contemporary Arab Studies (CCAS); Adjunct Lecturer, Georgetown University’s Global Human Development Program.
At Georgetown, Salma works as the chief data analyst on Access to Durable Solutions Among IDPs in Iraq, a collaborative project between CCAS and the International Organization for Migration. Salma is also a Senior Research Specialist at Arab Barometer, a research network housed at Princeton University. There, she directs the research team and is responsible for methodological design, survey questionnaire development, and analysis and dissemination of data. She works closely with Arab Barometer’s regional implementing partners to run capacity-building training sessions, solicit feedback on questionnaire design, and coordinate field research. Salma has more than a decade of experience designing and conducting mixed-method research projects throughout the region including in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Libya, and Turkey.
Anas Alqaed (moderator)
Public Relations Specialist, Gulf International Forum
Anas is a Public Relations Specialist at the Gulf International Forum. In addition to his role, he has conducted extensive research on political and social changes in Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq, and the power and influence of paramilitary groups throughout the Middle East. Before joining the Gulf International Forum, Anas worked for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) for 10 years in Syria IDP Operation, Iraq Refugee Operation, and Libya Refugee Operation. At UNHCR, he specialized in refugee community resilience, capacity-building for governmental and non-governmental organizations, and community mobilization. Anas is a Master’s candidate in International Public Policy at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. He holds a dual BA in Political Science and Social Studies from Bemidji State University in Minnesota.