Baghdad, 22 December 2015, - On the occasion of the World Human Rights Month , UN-Habitat published its latest report focusing on Housing, Land and Property issues in the Yazidi community’s area in Iraq.
The findings of the report were presented earlier this month in Beirut in a joint collaboration with the regional Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights(OHCHR) on the occasion of World Human Rights Day. The launching session was conducted in Baghdad in the presence of a number of Iraqi Members of Parliaments, government officials, donors and the national press.
The publication, which aims to provide a better understanding of how past discrimination policies have affected and continue to affect Housing Land and Property(HLP) rights of Iraqi minorities, builds upon the findings of a survey conducted by UN-Habitat in early 2015.
The survey focusedon some 500 Yazidi households displaced in four camps in the Kurdistan region of Iraq and an extensive field research in the recaptured parts of north Sinjar, Ninewa Governorate. The findings were complemented by further analysis of the legal and administrative bottlenecks represented by the politically-sensitive and yet to be solved partition of the so-called ‘Disputed Areas’ between the Iraqi central government and the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.
The displacement crisis made the news headlines in mid-2014 when, following ISIL’s violent offensive on the Iraqi city of Mosul, over 275,000 people from the nearby Sinjar area – the vast majority from the Yazidi minority group for whom this region is their homeland – had to hastily flee their houses to escape persecution, kidnapping or probable death. Abandoned settlements were then either systematically demolished or seized by ISIL fighters. Some 6,000 homes are thought to have been destroyed or burned down in the district of Sinjar alone.
With government forces presently engaged in the liberation of these areas, many Yazidis are presently residing in temporary accommodation and IDP camps in the Kurdistan Region are likely to return to their homes. Aside from insecurity and sectarian tension, it is mainly the loss of personal documentation, specifically the lack of records and legal evidence related to ownership of HLP, that may prevent many Internally Displaced People from settling back in their former properties and resuming their lives.
On top of being deprived of their rural properties and pastoral livelihoods, Yazidis were denied the right to register the assigned land parcels in their names. Any recent attempt to solve the situation has been hampered by the political impasse of the ‘Disputed Areas’.
“The findings have highlighted how the convergence of several circumstances related to discriminatory policies enforced over the last four decades, combined with forced relocation, recent displacement, a legacy of lack of tenure security and the stall of due political processes may seriously affect the prospects of return of the Yazidi IDP community to their places of origin” – observed UN-Habitat’s Head of Iraq Programme Dr. Erfan Ali in his presentation. The report’s attempts to offer to the involved parties a set of durable and pragmatic solutions including policy, advocacy, institutional, legal and administrative aspects, addressing also pressing urban recovery and livelihood concerns.
The launch of the report was followed by the announcement of a joint IOM and UN-Habitat’s proposal for an Urban Recovery Programme for Sinjar District whose approach pivots on solving housing, land and property challenges and recovery of urban infrastructure in Sinjar. “The involvement of the communities in planning and implementing the Urban Recovery Programme is essential as much as a practical and pragmatic approach on the part of both agencies combining our knowhow and capitalizing on our complementarities” stated Dr. Thomas Weiss, Director and Chief of IOM Mission in Iraq This multi-year programme aims to create the conditions for a sustainable return to the Sinjar district through individual and community-based measures responding to the need for overall improved resilience.