IRAQ: Mayor of Mosul announces return of 200 displaced Christian Chaldean–Syriac–Assyrian families to their homes in Nineveh Plains but hardship remains for the displaced

NINEVEH PLAINS and MOSUL, Iraq — The mayor of Mosul, Zuhair al-Araji, announced the return of 200 displaced Christian families to their homes in Nineveh Plains and Mosul after more than four years of displacement.

In a statement made to Al-Sabah Newspaper, Al-Araji declared that, “Christian families returning from the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) have returned to their houses in the old city of Mosul and the city’s eastern districts after security has been established and services have been rehabilitated following the liberation of the region from [the Islamic State].”

Al-Araji also stated that dozens of Christian families will soon return to their home in Nineveh Plains in the coming days, after years of displacement.

However, despite displaced Christian Chaldeans–Syriacs–Assyrians and Yezidis moving back to their homes after years of displacement, questions remain about the safety of the regions and the slow pace of demining and reconstruction and the specter of an Islamic State (ISIS) resurgence.

A source from the Nineveh Province Police Command reported on Wednesday evening that two young Yezidis were killed by ISIS terrorists in the Shengal (Sinjar) region, west of Mosul.

The Police official, Amer al-Hajjar, stated that ISIS terrorists shot two Yezidi youth from a car after the two left their farm in the village of Al-Qahtaniyah in Shengal. Both were killed and the perpetrators fled to an unknown location.

According to the U.N., available data indicates that there are more than 10,000 ISIS terrorists still active in both Iraq and Syria, mostly organized into small cells.

ISIS members are still routinely arrested in Nineveh Plains and families affiliated with ISIS hiding out in Syria still try and smuggle themselves across the border into Iraq.

In August, Iraqi forces managed to stop an attempt by over 100 ISIS fighters to cross the Syrian–Iraqi border with explosive materials.

Despite the challenges and security risks, some Chaldeans–Syriacs–Assyrians and Yezidis are returning to their homes in Nineveh Plains. Thousands of Chaldeans–Syriacs–Assyrians and Yezidis farther north in Nohadra (Duhok) have been forced from their homes by Turkish drone and air strikes.

Since the summer, Turkey has engaged in a cross-border military operation ostensibly targeting the Kurdistan Workers’ Party which has been in armed conflict with the Turkish state since the 1980s. However, Turkish drone and air strikes have repeatedly targeted areas without a PKK presence, according to locals.

Human Rights Watch has criticized Turkey for the carelessness of its military operation which has killed over a dozen civilians and displaced thousands more.

Over 500 villages have been evacuated.