Sinjar, Iraq, 3 August 2019 - More than 200 occupancy certificates were issued to Yazidi returnees to Sinjar, by UN-Habitat. At a ceremony at the village of Solagh, the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Iraq, Ms. Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, delivered occupancy certificates to a number of beneficiaries and a Yazidi community representative (Mukhtar). This aims to facilitate the return of the displaced community.
“The handover of occupancy certificates is a very concrete way to contribute to a better and dignified return of many people,” Ms. Hennis-Plasschaert said at the ceremony.
“We all know how important housing, land and property rights are, in particular for minorities, and it’s about time to document that what is yours is yours; that you own it,” she said, adding that the United Nations family will continue to support the Yazidis and other communities.
The Yazidi population in Sinjar have suffered decades-long discrimination. This has limited their access to land and homes, making them vulnerable to forced evictions, relocations and land disputes. It has been challenging for returnees to access official documents to prove their ownership and occupancy rights when reintegrating in their communities or when applying for compensation for damaged properties.
Mr. Muslim Qazimi, UN-Habitat Programme Manager, highlighted that more than 2,800 certificates have been issued and distributed to Yazidi beneficiaries since 2016, and an additional 5,000 certificates will be delivered by September 2020. The project covers different communities, but it is the Yazidi community whose property rights are most often challenged. UN-Habitat is working with the Prime Minister’s Office, Ministry of Justice and concerned local authorities to issue a legal decree to formalize the occupancy certificates issued by UN-Habitat as full land ownership titles approved by the Federal Government of Iraq.
Combined with rehabilitation of war-damaged houses and basic infrastructure, issuance and delivery of occupancy certificates is a major step forward for reconstruction and reconciliation in Iraq.