Post-Islamic State Problems: Diyala Province Undergoing Violent Ethnic and Sectarian Cleansing
Locals in Diyala province say the area is undergoing ethnic and sectarian “cleansing”. Sunnis are not being allowed back into the multi-ethnic province, post the Islamic State (IS, ISIS, ISIL, Daesh).
Thanks to the security crisis caused by the extremist group known as the Islamic State, the demographics of the province of Diyala are changing. The extremist group has been driven out of certain parts of the province and some of these are now controlled by Iraq’s sometimes-controversial Shiite Muslim volunteer militias while others are run by the Iraqi Kurdish military.
“Demographic changes have become a reality here,” says Raad al-Dahlaki, a Sunni Muslim MP and head of the Iraqi Parliament's Committee on Immigration and Displacement. “There are many areas where security is extremely lax and there are violations of the law that should not be tolerated. For example certain areas have been shelled deliberately and it’s causing the mass displacement of [mostly Sunni] families.”
Al-Dahlaki believes the perpetrators of these acts are “militant gangs that pretend to be part of the volunteer militias but who are actually carrying out agendas set by foreigners”. And by this he means neighbouring Iran – many of the Shiite militias are funded or otherwise supported by the Iranian military.
“These gangs want to sow discord and change the demography of the province,” al-Dakhali argues.
Al-Dakhali believes the federal government should be doing more to stop the targeting of civilians by military groups, including the Shiite Muslim volunteers and Iraqi Kurdish troops.
“The government hasn’t done anything to stop the abuse by the Iraqi Kurdish military here, or by the militias, both of which are trying to discourage people from returning to their homes,” al-Dakhali notes. “Almost all of the kidnapping happening here now is targeting one specific population group and those who are doing these criminal acts are all working toward one goal: demographic change.”