Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Only Sunnis Displaced Welcomed in Baghdad’s Dora District?

It was reported earlier that Dora in south Baghdad was one area that had received a number of Iraqi refugees coming back to their homes. In June 2008, 150 families moved back to that neighborhood. The local Sons of Iraq unit helped coordinate the return. IraqSlogger.com reported that yesterday, August 4, flyers were posted throughout the neighborhood warning Shiite families not to come back to Dora. The area was historically a middle to upper class Sunni one with many Baath party members, and army officers. During the sectarian war of 2006-2007, the locals felt threatened by neighboring Shiite Mahdi Army units, and called in Al Qaeda in Iraq and other insurgents to help defend Dora. Up to 50% of the families fled the area as a result of the intense fighting. The anti-Shiite flyers highlight one of the major problems Iraqi refugees face, many of their neighborhoods have been ethnically cleansed and are now controlled by one sects’ armed group. While security is much improved in Dora, the area is now more Sunni than previously. The flyers point to some in Dora that want to keep it that way.

Dora is an example of the dual problems of returning refugees while dealing with sectarian divisions that will be especially difficult in places such as Baghdad. The capitol has accounted for more than half the country’s displaced creating many new, largely homogenous neighborhoods in the process. The central government should be the natural arbitrator of such disputes, but they are largely absent from Dora, and are still biased. That will leave U.S. forces as the de facto sovereign in the area and many others. This is a major impediment to U.S. counterinsurgency policy, which is supposed to build up the authority and standing of the Iraqi government. It also points out holes in the Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s newly announced refugee policy. It only deals with providing money for people to go home and to remove squatters. The causes of the displacement, such as sectarianism, and the re-integration of the displaced are not addressed.

SOURCES

IraqSlogger.com, “Flyers Threaten Dora’s Displaced Shi’a,” 8/4/08

Pepper, Daniel, “Rebuilding a Baghdad Neighborhood,” Time, 1/14/08

Shishkin, Philip, “In Baghdad Neighborhood, A Tale of Shifting Fortunes,” Wall Street Journal, 10/31/07

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