It has been a month since the city of Hawija has been liberated by the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) after three years of ISIS occupation. The liberation of Hawija signalled the end of the group’s territories in northern Iraq, confining the group to an ever-shrinking piece of land to the west of the country. With the reduced ISIS threat and improved security, however, means that the issue of reconstruction and the return of services has now taken on an even greater urgency. So far in Hawija, however, the return of such services has been lacking.
Indeed, Hawija continues to suffer from a slew of issues a month into liberation. The absence of municipal and health services remains the primary concern of the locals here. Nearly none of the official departments have been reopened over the course of the past month. Similarly, the availability of food and other vital commodities remains a pressing concern. Furthermore, many of the roads and bridges in the local area have either been destroyed over the past three years, or rendered unfit-for-use.
Another pressing concern has been the issue of civilian return. Many of the local residents have fled Hawija during the three years of ISIS rule and the subsequent battles to liberate the city. Many of the displaced, however, have not yet returned home on account of security forces blocking entry to the town, citing sweeps for remaining militants, mines and weapons caches. Although they may be on valid ground, the inability to return has nevertheless caused frustration among the local residents.
In order to voice their complaints, the locals here have staged numerous protests, demanding the government accelerate reconstruction. For its part, the government of the Kirkuk Province have announced that electricity services in Hawija have been restored and that other services should follow soon. The local government also announced that the return of displaced residents will commence on Sunday, taking place in batches.