The impact of escalating terrorism operations on the return of Daesh families

Hisham Al-Hashimi

31 / 5 / 2020

In the last few weeks of late April and May, there has been an increase in the terrorists operations carried out by the remnants of Daesh in the areas of southern Kirkuk, south and west of Nineveh, south of Salah Al-Din, north-east of Diyala, north of Baghdad and west of Anbar.

The official media of Daesh had announced carrying 168 revenge/terrorism operations between May 1st and May 22nd of 2020. The government security records have confirmed 40 of the above operations;16 of which, included burning farms in north-east Diyala, south-west of Nineveh and west of Salah Al-Din.

It has been three weeks or less since the beginning of these vengeance operations, a period that was apparently enough for the security and intelligence departments accompanied by tribal forces and local and PMU leaders to start connecting the dots and refer to the possibility of cooperation between the new returned families (who used to have links with Daesh) and Daesh remnants. This is a serious problem that faces the families who have returned, putting them under the scope could lead to force displacement like what happened in the east side of Shirqat and Muqdadya and Abara in Diyala. It is a problem that could devastate all the international efforts exerted to resettle these families and integrate them with the original community.

Officials in the liberated cities have expressed their concerns about the difficulty of dealing with this problem because of the complicated Iraqi tribal system, this problem could lead to tribal conflicts because the local governments don’t have the capacity or the potential to deal with this doubtful issue.

According to Iraqi security sources, the number of individuals of Daesh families was about 280 thousand, 162 thousand of which have returned to their original cities, some of them took shelter in areas out of their previous houses while others came back to theirs (this includes 100 thousands individuals that returned to Anbar, Salah Al-Din and southern Kirkuk). The fate of the remaining 118 thousand is yet unsettled, those who live inside the IDP camps, 32 thousand of which are living in camps north and east of Syria.

“families that have family connections and relativity with Daesh” it’s a term that appeared to the surface after launching the liberation operations of ISIS strongholds, this definition includes the members and families that:

  1. Either a member of the family, the father or the entire family who pledged allegiance and participated in logistic or military actions
  2. a member of the family, the father or the entire family who pledged allegiance and didn’t participate in any action
  3. a member of the family, the father or the entire family who pledged allegiance and coexisted economically or spatially with Daesh and didn’t participate in any action.
  4. a member of the family, the father or the entire family who were forced to pledge allegiance and didn’t take part in any action
  5. families that have displaced their cities and have a member who is listed in the above categories

The Head of Security Committee of Salah Al-Din Provincial Council Jasim Jebara stated that working in this file (return of Daesh families) is not central but merely diligent, the tribes and families of the victims of Daesh can’t bare to talk about the return of these families and integrating them with the community. Even those who got security and judiciary clearance are not welcome to start a new page, with the recent increase in attacks, those families are now in great danger.

A lot of tribes in Hadhr (south west of Nineveh) don’t believe in masspunishment, but Daesh have left behind deep wounds and a huge crack between the families, some of them had their houses blown, or lost a brother or a son. According to former MP, Abdul-Rahman Al-Lwezy, said  that the member of Daesh used to go out, carry out the operation and then go back to his house and family, while the latter should have interfered when they knew about their son’s terrorism activities, that’s why families refuses their returns and consider them accomplice.

In Diyala Province, the Command of Operations and PMU have submitted a proposal which advised to refuse the return of Daesh families until vengeance operations of Daesh stop.

In Tila’fer, west of Nineveh, the PMU are waiting to see what services the government can offer to the families of the victims, so they consider the return of some of the Daesh families, yet, the families of the victims feel impatient and angry. We are in a serious situation that requires international and governmental efforts to rehabilitate the families of the victims before rehabbing the families of Daesh!

In Haweejah, south west of Kirkuk, the tribes of Jubour and Shimmar have decided in coordination with the PMU to force any family that had a Daesh member and didn’t surrender (or got killed) to leave, these families could be still cooperative with Daesh members in the recent attacks. Evacuating Deash families in Haweejah will be massive.

In the areas of southern Nineveh and Nineveh plane, Daesh families that have returned to their cities and villages during the increase of the vengeance operations can be the following:

  1. Families who fled their cities and got their houses looted, even if one of the family members was with Daesh, are welcome to return to their communities, like what happened in Mihlbiya, Shora and Hammam Al-A’leel.
  2. Families of Daesh who have informed the security forces of their members who joined Daesh after the liberation of the city, those are out of the suspicion area, this happened in Shora and Hammam Al-A’leel.
  3. Families who had members pledging allegiance to Daesh and still alive, those will be harassed and displaced again.

In light of the current events, the Deash families that are returning to their cities will need several precautionary measures to contain the displacement crisis and decrease the levels of danger that these families could face.

The international community is needed to provide financial aid and technical expertise to local governments and tribes, this will help managing the crisis and contain the situation to achieve integration and coexistence. The returned families must be trained and encouraged to provide reliable intel on their members who are still with Deash.

The Federal Government and International Community must contribute to the well-being of the victims’ families as a part of resettlement program (with the help of the tribal leaders) to ease the suffer of the families and allow them to accept the idea of the return of Daesh families.

Local governments’ stances on the return of Daesh families during the escalation of terrorism actions

Governor of Nineveh is with the return of families, staying for another year is not a concern, the return depends on providing proper accommodation and services to speed up integration with the local community, if all’s checked, they can return except for villages out of Mosul in southern and western Nineveh. Also, no legal or security obstacles that hinder the return, but mainly economic, social and tribal factors can play a role here. The security clearances are highly needed to exonerate them from legal prosecution. The security forces in Baghdad must issue a unified application to be available upon request within 3 days only.


Governor of Kirkuk supports immediate return, Arabic Sunni Tribes, Sunni Turkmen and Kurds also endorse that. The main problem is with the Shiites Turkmen and PMU of Shiites. All the attempts of returning families have failed in the villages of Amerli, SulaimanBek, Daqouq, Bisheer, Al-Dibis and Toz-Khormato.  There are no legal, tribal and economic obstacles, but mainly security ones implied by PMU, specially Shiites Turkmen, even though those families have received security clearances from NSA and military intelligence. This is not a major issue, integrating with the community is through the return of women and children to their uncles’ houses, they are mostly farmers and women belong to their relative’s houses.

Governor of Anbar is with the return of the families and shutting down all IDP camps by the fall of 2020, there are no legal and security obstacles, only social and tribal ones. These can be overcome by enforcing law and getting pledges from the tribal leaders to stop harassing the families. The security clearances in Anbar are now useless since all files have been audited by the intelligence and NSA for all of the families inside the camps, those who had suspicious status have been referred to the legal authorities.

Governor of Salah Al-Din is with the return, we have succeeded in achieving this in cooperation with the Command of Operations and tribal leaders in all of the province except (Shirqat, North of Beiji and Senniyah and a small part of Yathrib and Auoja. There aren’t any legal obstacles but mainly, economic, security, tribal and social obstacles. No need for security clearance as the tribal council, intelligence and NSA have distributed a form to all of the families inside the IDP camps, all were audited and cleared. The real struggle will be providing economic aid for these families as their cities have been completely destroyed.

Governor of Diyala is with halting the operation of return for two more years, there are legal, economic, tribal, social and security obstacles. Security clearances are highly needed to exonerate the families and Baghdad should provide a form to be filled by the families. It is not safe for the families to return specially with the recent increase in Daesh attacks.

The Ministry of Trade has accused Daesh of setting fire to the wheat farms, it considered it as terrorist attack against the food security of the country. The Minister of Trade, Mohammed Al-A’ni has requested the Minister of Interior and the Command of Joint Operations to hunt down the terrorists remnants and secure the farms, he emphasized the need to stop blackmailing farmers by the terrorists groups and help them with securing the agricultural fields and prevent the attacks on Iraq’s food security.

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