Mahdi Saleh Abd, 32, is scarred by the images of his dead brothers. Gunmen shot two in their home. The Shiite family fled the city of Habbaniyah in mostly Sunni Anbar province. But before they could get away, thugs ambushed them and slit a third brother's throat in front of Abd and his mother.
That was two years ago, but as he told his story inside a trailer at a displaced persons camp in southern Iraq, his face was rife with worry.
The Ministry of Displacement and Migration has ordered closure of the tent and trailer camp in the desert where Abd's family lives along with 230 other Shiite families just outside the southern city of Najaf — almost all displaced from Anbar province or Sunni neighborhoods of Baghdad. Officials said the government plans to close all other camps for the displaced in Iraq. One official described them as “fake camps,” filled with people who are criminals taking advantage of the aid provided by nongovernmental organizations.
“I've looked for work for two years. We have nowhere to go,” Abd said, his eyes filled with tears at the thought of returning to the place where his brothers were killed. “Habbaniyah only has Sunni people. When you need them they will not defend you. They killed three of my family.”
But the pressure is on, and private charities have also begun to close down their operations.
Shiites are not the only ones affected. In Fallujah, in western Anbar province, Sunni families displaced from Shiite neighborhoods inhabit a windowless building that an Islamic charity opened to them two years ago.
According to the International Organization of Migration, a nonprofit organization affiliated with the U.N., more than 2.8 million Iraqis have been displaced internally, and another 2 million have fled to other countries.
The Ministry of Displacement and Migration makes no apologies for trying to close down the camps for the displaced, of which Najaf is by far the largest.
“We don't want the people to stay there and (for it to) become a place for criminals and dirty practices,” said Ali Shalan Mohan, a department director in the Ministry of Displacement and Migration. “We don't want camps. This is not Darfur. … We want to help them to restore their lives.”