Monday, September 4, 2017

Rebuilding Fallujah, Unfinished Business

In June 2016, Fallujah was freed from the Islamic State. Most of the city’s residents are back, the economy is recovering, but there is still lots to do. Part of that is due to local politics, which has banned several thousand people from returning due to suspicions about their connections to the insurgents. Another issue is the government’s financial crisis, which has held up rebuilding. At the same time, IS has a presence there once again. Fallujah stands as an example for the cities that were liberated after it. While life appears back to normal, its rebuilding has been marked by revenge, the return of insurgents, and there is still much unfinished business.

Fallujah was one of the first cities to ban Islamic State families from returning. Starting in September 2016, the first people began heading back to the city. By February 2017, 250,000 out of 320,000 people were in their homes once again. The roughly 70,000 people still displaced, however, were being kept in that status on purpose. Local officials and tribal leaders barred them from Fallujah due to their ties to the insurgency. Many reside in camps in Amiriyah Fallujah. This has happened in other liberated areas of Iraq. Salahddin and towns around Mosul have made similar decisions for example. This has kept thousands of people away. It is also an example of group punishment as these civilians are being persecuted for the actions of their relatives.

The rebuilding of the city has been slow and is still in progress. One year after being taken there were still sections with bodies and rubble. Parts of the city were still off limits. The mayor, a city councilman, and a provincial councilman all complained that not enough money had been allocated for reconstruction, and that had a negative impact on bringing the city back. That left international organizations and donors to take care of restoring most services. They accounted for most of the success stories. By December 2016, schools re-opened, and 80% of students were attending in June 2017. That same month, the U.N. and U.S. helped re-start the main water treatment plant, which provided clean water for 60% of the residents. Public employees were also back to work. That was important because the government is the main employer in the country. Many civilians have also taken matters into their own hands and cleared streets and neighborhoods, and put their homes and businesses back together. The majority of Fallujah therefore was back. The economy was reviving, people were finding work and showing their resiliency, while services were being restored. At the same time, fifteen months after the city was freed there were still parts that were to be rebuilt. This has been dragged out and left to groups like the United Nations and locals because Baghdad is suffering from a budget crisis due to low oil prices. This will be even worse for those areas that were mostly destroyed in the fighting like Ramadi and now Mosul. Again, like Fallujah, aid, grants and loans will have to fund most of that work because the central government has little to spend.

Local security forces in Anbar and the rest of western and northern Iraq collapsed in 2014, and have not been fully rebuilt since. That has left much of Fallujah to local security forces that don’t cooperate, and some compete with each other. That has left plenty of gaps, which the Islamic State has exploited. By the summer of 2017 there were several mass casualty bombing operations in the city, which were blamed on IS sleeper cells. A similar situation exists in many liberated areas such as Mosul. The police have not been put back together leaving many tribes to step in. These groups want political and economic power, which leads to rivalries and lax security. The lack of an overall command also makes them a stop gap measure. The government has no plans nor money for the return of the police, so this will remain the status quo for the foreseeable future.


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Al-Ayash, Kamal, “Former Bomb Factories: Fallujah’s Devastated Industrial Zone To Re-Open – With Conditions,” Niqash, 6/1/17
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- “Social Lepers: In Anbar, Husbands Who Chose Extremism, Doom Their Families,” Niqash, 1/25/17

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- “Fallujah needs three months for the return of its inhabitants,” 8/1/16
- “Fallujah resident prevented Daesh families from returning to their homes and refused mediation,” 10/29/16
- “Fallujah’s displaced return to Shuhada neighborhood after 6 months of clearing,” 1/18/17
- “Return of 60% of the displaced people of Ramadi..and security postpones the return of people to Garma,” 7/13/16

Al Masalah, “Rehabilitation and opening of new Fallujah water project,” 6/12/17
- “Rehabilitation of main water treatment plant in Fallujah,” 7/31/17

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

Mostafa, Mohamed, “Monitor: returning Islamic State-linked families blocked from Fallujah,” Iraqi News, 8/3/17

Neurink, Judit, “Islamic State families fear persecution in Iraq,” Al Monitor, 6/7/17

Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, “Humanitarian Bulletin Iraq, December 2016,” 1/15/17

Al Rafidain, “Falluja Mayor: Government Is Slow To Pay Financial Compensation For The Reconstruction Of The City,” 7/23/17

Rudaw, “Fallujah liberated but unsafe for return of IDPs, tribal leader says,” 9/18/16

Sotaliraq, “Fallujah refuses to return 40% of the displaced due to their relationship with Daesh militants,” 7/16/17
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UN Children’s Fund, “Iraq: After years of conflict, schools reopen and hope returns to Fallujah,” 12/27/16

UN Development Programme, “A stabilization milestone is reached in Fallujah,” 6/3/17

Zucchino, David, “Going Home to Falluja, a City Slipping Back Into Turmoil,” New York Times, 2/10/17

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