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Displaced Iraqis Return To Village In Ruins

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Displaced Iraqis Return To Village In Ruins


Displaced Iraqis Return To Village In Ruins

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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One enduring legacy of the war in Iraq is the large number of people pushed out of their homes by the violence that followed the U.S. invasion. The majority of refugees who fled the country have not returned, and most of those displaced inside Iraq are still struggling to survive in tent communities and shantytowns. NPR's Deborah Amos profiles one group of Iraqis who did make it back home, but to a village almost completely destroyed.

DEBORAH AMOS: This farming village south of Baghdad is desolate. Houses are broken. The outer walls are gone. Ceilings are partially collapsed. But for the farmers of Al-Ghazali, this is home.

About 100 families moved back here a month ago after enduring three years of hardships 20 miles away in a displacement camp.

Sheikh ABU ABEL (Tribal leader, Al-Ghazali): (Foreign language spoken)

AMOS: What displaced you? What happened?

Sheikh ABEL: (Foreign language spoken)

AMOS: Al-Qaida, says Sheikh Abu Abel, the tribal leader here.

The villagers gather to welcome an Iraqi team funded by the United Nations to help them rebuild. Team leader Salah Mohammed al-Bayaa explains how al-Qaida did so much damage.

Mr. SALAH MOHAMMED AL-BAYAA: They put an IED inside the house and destroyed the house. After that, bulldozed and push the houses.

AMOS: Al-Qaida bulldozed their houses?

Mr. AL-BAYAA: Yeah. Yeah.

AMOS: Al-Qaida is gone. The farmers of al-Ghazali believe it's finally safe to live here again, but everything they need to survive is gone.

Mr. ALI ABED: (Foreign language spoken)

AMOS: There's no electricity, no water, no services, nothing up until now, says Ali Abed, one of the younger farmers. And he blames the Iraqi government for the dire conditions.

These villagers are registered with the Ministry of Displacement. They are eligible for assistance, but so far have gotten nothing — no money, no help. The government program is not working, says Bayaa, with the U.N. project. And that, he says, has stalled large-scale resettlement.

Mr. AL-BAYAA: We found many, many families. They didn't receive any money and support from the government.

(Soundbite of water pouring)

AMOS: These barrels contain the only water for the people and the animals here.

Mr. AL-BAYAA: This is unhealthy water, directly from the river — no filters, no sterilization tablets — and they use it for drinkable.

AMOS: There have already been cases of typhoid and cholera among the children, says Bayaa. The families live in sheds that once housed animals.

Mr. AL-BAYAA: Yeah, you can smell.

AMOS: Smell?

Mr. AL-BAYAA: Yeah, smell. And you can see the bad condition.

AMOS: This local U.N. team tries to close the gap between what the government has promised but not delivered. However, the number of internally displaced people in Iraq is overwhelming says Bayaa.

Mr. AL-BAYAA: It's about more than 1 million IDPs.

AMOS: And do you find that most internally displaced, whether they're in a camp or they've come back to their villages, live in these kind of conditions?

Mr. AL-BAYAA: Yeah, it's very bad.

AMOS: He promises the farmers of al-Ghazali that he will be back. Bayaa can't fix everything, but he has the funds to provide some basics: nonfood items such as soap and water filters, construction materials, a project to raise and sell livestock.

Mr. AL-BAYAA: After we supply them with service projects, I hope that all the families return back.

AMOS: But this is one village, and Iraq's displaced remains a major crisis. At this pace it will take years to resolve.

Deborah Amos, NPR News in al-Ghazali Iraq.

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