Returning Displaced Still Face Violence in “Safer” Iraq

With violence in Iraq on the decline, many in the administration have been quick to take credit for the “success” in Iraq, claiming that the military surge was responsible for making Iraq a safer place to live. But amid all the self-congratulatory pats on the back, studies have continued to suggest that the drop in violence was caused by the violent sectarian cleansing of neighborhoods throughout the country, which displaced millions of civilians. That position seems all the stronger as Iraqis begin to trickle back home and find it not so different from when they left.

McClatchy has reported today that while only a small percentage of the millions displaced both internally and as refugees in neighboring countries have attempted to return, those that have are finding themselves the targets of the same sectarian violence that forced them from their homes to begin with. Some have been killed, some have been threatened, others have had their homes destroyed. Not exactly the warm welcome many were hoping for when Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki urged them to return home.

Yet even between the escalating violence against Iraq’s Christian community and the tensions between various ethnic and religious factions throughout the country still simmering just beneath the surface, the US is treating Iraq as a war all-but won. A popular sentiment, perhaps, but little comfort to displaced Iraqis caught between pressure to return to their homes to underscore the ‘victory’ and the grim reality that the primary reason for the “safer” Iraq is because they were violently forced from their homes, homes which they are still by and large not welcome to return to.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.