The city of Ramadi was freed in February, but its fate is yet to be determined. Besides members of the security forces that are attempting to disarm the hundreds of bombs left behind by the Islamic State, the city is pretty much empty. The majority of its population is living in camps in western Anbar, and they are unlikely to return any time soon.
Ramadi’s population is going to remain displaced for the foreseeable future. Currently most of the residents live in camps in Habaniya and Amiriya Fallujah. Anbar Governor Sohaib al-Rawi told the press that around 13,500 families have been displaced from Ramadi and the surrounding region. The problem is that the district is not safe to go back to. The Islamic State no longer remains, but its after effects are alive and well. That mostly consists of thousands of improvised explosive devices left behind. The head of the security committee on the Anbar council was quoted as saying that it might take two months or more to clear the city of IEDs. The Khalidiya Council claimed it would be longer at six months. Either way it will be an arduous process to make the area safe. Until then, Ramadi will remain empty of people.
Even when those people are allowed to go back there might be little for them to return to. The United Nations did an analysis using satellite photos and estimated that 5,700 buildings were damaged, which was roughly 60% of Ramadi. In March, the U.N. did its first ground survey and found that the city was the most war stricken in Iraq. The main hospital and train station were destroyed, 64 bridges in the area had been blown up, and the electrical grid was down. A member of the provincial council said in March that there was no money to help with the return of Ramadi’s displaced or for rebuilding, and called on the international community to donate funds. Given that amount of destruction and the financial crisis that Iraq is currently facing it will likely take years for Ramadi to be rebuilt. There’s also the high likelihood that the Islamic State will try to re-infiltrate into the area, and fighting will return to the area. That could lead to future displacement, and delay any rebuilding plans that eventually find financing.
Arraf, Jane, “How Iraqi Forces Drove ISIS From Ramadi,” Newsweek, 2/25/16
Al Bawaba, “Iraq: UN report says 5,700 buildings damaged in Ramadi,” 2/15/16
George, Susannah, “Iraqi city of Ramadi, once home to 500,000, lies in ruins,” Associated Press, 1/17/16
Al Mada, “Clearing mines in Ramadi needs two months .. And politics hinder freeing Garma,” 3/17/16
Reuters, “U.N. team calls destruction in Iraq’s Ramadi ‘staggering,’” 3/4/16
Sotaliraq, “Ramadi needs six months to remove improvised explosives devices and war waste in city,” 3/20/16
Sputnik International, “Over 1,400 Families Return to Areas Near Iraq’s Ramadi Libearted From Daesh,” 3/14/16