iraqi families being displaced, evicted due to infrastructure projects
The village of Jissary in Iraq has a haunting past that continues to affect its residents to this day. Four decades ago, the community watched helplessly as their village was submerged under the waters of the Mosul dam, the country’s largest hydroelectric dam.
Since then, the people of Jissary have experienced forced displacement multiple times, including at the hands of the Islamic State. Now, they face eviction once again, this time by the Iraqi government.
The Dam & Its Consequences
The Mosul dam, built in 1985, serves as a vital source of electricity for 1.7 million people in the northern city. However, its construction on porous karst has raised concerns among experts.
The dam poses a significant risk of bursting, which could result in catastrophic flooding that might reach as far as the capital city of Baghdad, endangering countless lives and displacing millions.
Forced Displacement & Eviction
In 1985, the people of Jissary were forced to leave their homes to make way for the construction of the Mosul dam.
They were relocated to a nearby Kurdish-majority town called Bardiya, where they lived for several years.
However, when the United States invaded Iraq in 2003, the Kurdish owners reclaimed the land, leading to another wave of displacement for the Jissary community.
Life in the Makeshift Settlement
Having lost their homes once again, the displaced families of Jissary found refuge in an abandoned military compound in Domiz, located in Nineveh province.
The compound, divided into blocks surrounded by brick walls, provides each family with a small room for living, sleeping, and cooking.
While it pales in comparison to the lush fields and farmlands of Jissary, the villagers had no alternative but to make do with this makeshift settlement.
Emotional Toll and Desperation
The constant displacement and uncertainty have taken a severe toll on the mental and emotional well-being of the Jissary community.
Many individuals, like Mahmoud Talib and his wife Aishe Hussain, have experienced profound despair and thoughts of self-harm.
Aishe, a 64-year-old mother of 11, has admitted to contemplating drowning herself in the very waters that destroyed their village and heritage.
Past Attempts for Permanent Homes
Over the years, the displaced families of Jissary have made several appeals to the government for permanent housing solutions.
However, their pleas have largely fallen on deaf ears. The lack of assistance and support from the government has left the community without a place to call home for nearly four decades.
Return and Rebuilding
Despite the challenges they faced, the people of Jissary managed to rebuild their lives after the defeat of the Islamic State. They returned to Domiz and believed they had finally found a permanent home.
However, their hopes were short-lived as the army began pressuring the families to leave the military compound they had settled in.
Ongoing Threat of Eviction
The recent eviction campaign by the army has created a sense of urgency and desperation among the families of Jissary.
Dr. Haidar Al Moussavi, working with the Peace Paradigms Organisation, fears that the situation may escalate into violence as people become desperate and consider taking up arms against the government.
The possibility of returning to Bardiya, a disputed area between federal Iraq and the Kurdish-administered region, also poses risks of clashes with the Kurdish community.
Still Seeking Solutions
Organizations like Peace Paradigms are actively advocating for the rights of the displaced families of Jissary.
They are urging the Iraqi government to halt the eviction campaign in Domiz and instead focus on finding donors to help rebuild Jissary.
The responsibility for resolving this humanitarian crisis lies with the government, and immediate action is needed to prevent further suffering.
The Devastating Consequences
If the eviction proceeds as planned, the families of Jissary will once again find themselves homeless. The toll of 40 years of displacement and uncertainty cannot be understated.
The lack of stability and a permanent place to call home has deeply affected the lives and well-being of the Jissary community, leaving them in a state of perpetual hardship and vulnerability.