The displaced people of Anbar did not respond to Baghdadi’s call, just like hundreds of thousands of displaced people from Salahuddin, Diyala and Mosul before them. These people refused to return to their cities, preferring to live as refugees in difficult conditions under Baghdad’s government or the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) rather than living under the rule of IS.
Amid the crises of receiving an influx of displaced people, two approaches emerged:
The first has been adopted by the KRG, which since 2006 has imposed the sponsorship system on Arabs when the security situation in the Kurdistan region was threatened by security breaches. But when faced with the exodus of refugees from Mosul in June 2014, the KRG lifted the condition and hosted the displaced, providing them with needed assistance. This had a profound social impact and eased relations that were strained between Sunnis and Kurds for years.
The second approach has been adopted by Baghdad toward the displaced, particularly the displaced people of Anbar. This is an approach of strained relations, doubts and fears, and has led to the loss of an opportunity to achieve decisive social progress with respect to Sunni-Shiite differences by winning over the displaced.
This can be seen in the official position of the government, which eventually opened the gates of Baghdad in front of the displaced. It is related to and confirmed by the positions of the social elites, political parties, the media and security forces.
Instead of turning the displacement of Anbar’s residents to their capital into an opportunity to consecrate unified action to fight IS, these powers kept stirring sectarian strife, which constituted a free service for IS.