Defence ministry asks IDPs to evacuate former military base

The Iraqi Ministry of Defence has given about 300 internally displaced persons (IDPs) one week to evacuate a former military compound in Babil Province, about 100km south of the capital, Baghdad, officials said on 25 January.

"Representatives of about 45 displaced families last week appealed to the Iraqi parliament for help to persuade the defence ministry to postpone its decision," Abdul-Khaleq Zankana, head of parliament’s displacement committee, told IRIN, adding that the Iraqi army intended to reuse the compound as a military base.

Zankana said his committee had been in discussions with US-led forces, the Iraqi defence ministry and the Iraqi Red Crescent Society (IRCS) in an attempt to reverse the decision.

"Nothing yet has been achieved to solve this problem but we are against displacing these families again and increasing their daily suffering," Zankana said.

12,000 displaced families in Babil

According to Qais al-Zubaidi, the provincial director of IRCS in Babil, the affected families are among 12,000 displaced families scattered in and around the provincial capital, Hilla, who have been driven out of their homes in other provinces by sectarian violence.

The compound in question, al-Hashemite, is about 35km south of Hilla and was a military base during the rule of the late former president Saddam Hussein.

"Like other governmental compounds it was looted after the 2003 invasion and was still abandoned until late 2005 when displaced families started to use it for shelter," al-Zubaidi told IRIN in a telephone interview. "Since then, we helped these families with metal sheets, reeds and wooden blocks to make a makeshift camp for them in addition to giving them food and non-food materials."

Relocation alternatives

Al-Zubaidi added that a provincial committee had been formed to find a solution for these families; either by re-housing them in an abandoned government building or by erecting a new camp for them.


Photo: IRCS
About 300 internally displaced persons living in this former military compound have been given one week to leave


"But most probably we will get a piece of land in the suburbs [of Hilla] from the city's municipality to erect more than 100 tents for them and supply them with food and non-food items," al-Zubaidi said. "It is indeed a problem. It will be difficult for us to erect a camp in four or five days as we are in winter and it is raining nowadays. Because of that we need more time."

When contacted, the Iraqi defence ministry refused to comment on the issue.

Iraq's displacement problem is widely considered to be the biggest challenge facing the government, as it struggles to meet the needs of the more than two million people forced to flee their homes.

According to the IRCS’ latest figures (end of November 2007), there are 2,179,614 displaced persons in Iraq - a decrease of 0.5 percent on its October figure. Some 82 percent of the displaced were women and children and children under 12 made up 58.7 percent of the IDPs.

sm/ar/ed