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Five Years after Displacement, Saddam Tribe Hopes to Return Home

Five Years after Displacement, Saddam Tribe Hopes to Return Home

Wednesday, 17 July, 2019 - 07:00
A picture taken from the village of Awja on the outskirts of the city of Tikrit on March 5, 2015. (AFP)
Baghdad – Fadhel al-Nashmi

Residents of the Iraqi village of al-Awja, the hometown of late President Saddam Hussein, are yearning to return to their homes five years after being forcefully displaced by the ISIS occupation of the Salaheddine province in June 2014.

An agreement was reportedly reached between local authorities in Salaheddine and Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) deployed there for the return of its residents after the reconstruction of its infrastructure.

Al-Awja lies on the western banks of the Tigris river and is located some 13 kilometers south of Tikrit city.

Salaheddine provincial council chief Ahmed al-Karim said Monday that the conditions are ripe for the return of the displaced residents of the province in cooperation with the PMF.

All arrangements for the return of the al-Awja displaced will be complete in the coming days, he revealed.

In 2003, no one believed that a day would come when the residents of the small village of al-Awja, one of the most powerful in Iraq, would be forced to flee their homes. For years they lived in fear of being harmed by the rising powers in the post-Saddam era until they were forced by ISIS to leave their homes and seek refuge in the Iraqi Kurdistan region.

After the execution of Saddam and his relatives who had occupied high positions in office, al-Awja residents started to live in fear of reprisals. They are viewed by Shiites, whether in the PMF or government or even the people themselves, with suspicion. They are sometimes seen as responsible for the tragedies that took place in Iraq during Saddam’s rule given that they are related to him.

One of the displaced, who currently resides in Kurdistan with his family, confirmed the arrangements with the PMF for the return of the al-Awja residents.

He told Asharq Al-Awsat that he used to believe that the village was immune to violence, but after 2003, he returned to reality and realized it was a “village like any other” and its homes were destroyed in the battle against ISIS.

A spokesman for the Salaheddine tribes, Marwan al-Jabara told Asharq Al-Awsat that the call for the al-Awja residents to return home was one of the signs of the return of national unity and reconciliation in Iraq.

“We are defending the rights of regular people who are not involved in crimes. We demand their return home. We are not defending those whose hands have been covered in the blood of the innocent,” he stressed.

He revealed that Salaheddine police are expected to take over security of al-Awja after the withdrawal of the PMF.

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