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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

IRAQ: Displaced Arabs from Kirkuk in need of supplies

DIWANIA, 7 March 2005 (IRIN) - Nearly 600 families camped in Diwania, 77 km south of the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, are living in poor conditions and in need of supplies, according to local aid agencies.

The internally displaced people (IDPs) were living in the oil-rich city of Kirkuk and say they were forced out by returning Kurds.

Iraqi Red Crescent Society (IRCS) officials told IRIN that the situation was critical and the government should take urgent action.

"They should open their eyes to those people, many Arabs are displaced in the south and they have the right to have at least a house to live in," Firdous al-Abadi, a spokeswoman for the IRCS, told IRIN in Baghdad. "They were forced out from Kirkuk but they don't have anywhere to go and no one to help," she added.

Arabs, who were brought to Kirkuk by Saddam under his Arabisation programme, which started in the 1970s, have been displaced for months. The Kurds were initially kicked out of the city when Saddam decided to place Arabs in wealthier areas as part of the programme.

The IRCS recently sent a convoy to the area, carrying blankets, tents, medical supplies and food items. But according to the organisation much more is required and homes should be provided urgently before the coming summer.

Many other families are living in abandoned schools and government buildings in the area. The places can be seen surrounded by rubbish and to get potable water they have to walk nearly 2 km.

According to the IRCS, although they have no report on the medical situation, local doctors complain that in time diseases will spread due to the open living spaces and rubbish nearby.

The IRCS is still using supplies sent by the French Embassy last month, which gave them 20,000 blankets and other items. But they say more is needed.

Displaced families in the area say they are very worried about their future and claim that they haven't received any help from the Iraqi government.

"We are homeless and until now the government hasn't helped us. We went to Kirkuk forced by the Saddam regime and we shouldn’t have to be punished for following a law, which if we did not follow we would be killed. We just want our rights as humans," Hassan Abdul, 42, and a father of five, camped in the area, told IRIN.

A Ministry of Migration and Displacement (MoMD) official told IRIN they were aware that the IDPs still had great needs.

"Huge amounts of investment are required for displaced people in the country, especially for the Arabs and Kurds. We hope that the new government will increase its investment in this sector, so that very soon they can have their houses and live with dignity," MoMD adviser, Rabawi Muhammad told IRIN.

Most of the Arabs in Kirkuk are from the southern governorates of Kerbala, Najaf and Basra. When they were first told to move to the northern city most had sold their personal belongings, including homes.

Now they have returned to their original towns, but are homeless and in a very bad financial situation as the area’s agriculture-based economy has been destroyed.

"I just want somewhere to stay in the night, to see my children sleeping with security. I couldn't vote in the recent elections, but hope the government can do something to help us," Rana Kadher, 32, primary school teacher and mother of three, camped in Diwania, told IRIN.

Themes: (IRIN) Other



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