Iraqi Christians and ethnic minorities who suffered under IS militants in Iraq are fearful amid reports that the families of jihadists are set to be resettled in their homeland.
Rports suggest that the families of IS members from the al-Hol refugee camp where British Jihadi Bride Shamima Begum was infamously held are to be resettled in Nineveh province in Iraq.
The jihadist group Islamic State (IS) burst onto the international scene in 2014 when it seized large swathes of territory in Syria and Iraq. It has become notorious for its brutality, including mass killings, abductions and beheadings.
Christian woman Shahad Bakoos, who lives in the Nineveh Plains in northern Iraq which was previously occupied by IS told local media returning the families to Iraq would be “disastrous”.
She said she was scared a return for the families would see a new wave of IS terror attacks in Iraq.
United Nations reports suggest that talks between the Iraqi government had been discussing repatriating the families, along with other Iraqi citizens in the camp, with reports suggesting they would be returned to the Nineveh province in northern Iraq.
There are 30,000 Iraqis there, according to a December UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) report.
Osman Salah, who belongs to the Yazidi ethno-religious group from the Sinjar area of Iraq, warned that the “families are still missing” because of IS, adding there is “no reconciliation with those extremists who want to return”.
Salah was forced to flee Sinjar in 2014 when IS massacred the Yazidi community, sleeping on the streets in the Kurdistan Region before settling in the Chamishko refugee camp. He has now returned to Sinjar.
Karim Khan of the UN Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Dae’esh (UNITAD) said in March: “The returnees are a political matter. I’m guessing it’s being discussed at the government level.”
Women and children make up the majority of the inhabitants of the al-Hol camp and Christian Bakoos said children should not share the fate of their parents but instead need “rehabilitation”.
Assyrian Christian journalist Elia Badari who fought against IS said he was against the return of IS families to Iraq “because of the existence of sleeper cells among the families”.
There has also been opposition to the families’ return within Iraq’s Muslim community, with a letter from politicians in the Nineveh province rejecting al-Hol residents being resettled near Mosul, the terror group’s former largest city. And the outgoing Prime Minister of Iraq, Adil Abdul-Mahdi, has previously said that the families pose a security threat.
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