Roughly three months after Fallujah was freed the first families have begun returning. In a carefully orchestrated event by Anbar politicians, 14 families were welcomed back on September 14. There were three other families, but at the last minute they were declared Islamic State sympathizers and rejected. People are supposed to go through five different agencies to get authorization to enter Fallujah, but that process appeared to be still a work in progress. Two days later Anbar Governor Suhaib al-Rawi said that 40 families were back. The mayor of Fallujah claimed 500 had returned, but that was a bit of an exaggeration as that included the surrounding towns.
These families are facing a similar situation as in Ramadi. Like that city there are still unexploded bombs in large sections. There are also no services like running water or electricity. The government did provide water tanks and dried food. Despite that families interviewed by the media were ecstatic about being in their homes. Some were damaged, some had been occupied while they were gone, but being back was a joyous occasion.
The authorities need to balance the desire of people to return, their security, and their living conditions. Some families fled Fallujah in January 2014, so they have been waiting a very long time, and must be putting immense pressure on politicians to go back. Only parts of the northern section of the city have been cleared of bombs, and that was where all the families were settled. A similar situation occurred in Ramadi when people were allowed in before it was fully cleared and around 100 people ended up dead and wounded as a result. There is also the issue of reconciliation as the Islamic State left behind a lot of resentment and mistrust against those that worked with the militants. Those people are not supposed to be allowed back, but three of those alleged families almost got in on the first day. Hopefully the government has learned from that fiasco, but you never know. Finally, there is nothing in Fallujah but the people’s domiciles. There are no services, jobs, businesses, etc., and it will stay that way for the foreseeable future. That’s because the government has no money to rebuild Fallujah because of its budget deficit. These are the dilemmas facing all the every areas of Iraq, and there are no easy resolutions to them.
Associated Press, “After IS, a painful return for residents of Iraq’s Fallujah,” 9/23/16
El-Ghobashy and Nabhan, Ali, “Iraqi Families Return to Ravaged Homes in Fallujah,” Wall St Journal, 9/18/16
Iraqi News, “40 displaced Iraqi families return to Fallujah,” 9/19/16
Al Maalomah, “Fallujah Mayor calls for sending more explosive ordnance displosal teams to clear the liberated areas,” 9/18/16
Mojon, Jean Marc, “First families return to homes in Iraq’s Fallujah,” Agence France Presse, 9/17/16
Morris, Loveday, “Iraq allows families back to Fallujah for the first time, but just a handful make it,” Washington Post, 9/17/16
Rudaw, “Fallujah liberated but unsafe for return of IDPs, tribal leader says,” 9/18/16