The Kakai minority, predominately located in Kirkuk Province and parts of northern Iraq, are growing concerned at the presence of remnant ISIS cells near their villages.
The minority Kakai community living in Iraq’s Kirkuk Province have called for greater military support for their villages amidst sporadic targeting by remnant ISIS militants and sleeper cells.
During ISIS’ invasion, the Kakai community, a minority group that follows a religion that draws up beliefs from several faiths, was regularly targeted by the militant group, labelling them as disbelievers and persecuting them for their religious beliefs. This prompted many in the Kakai community to establish the Kakai Battalions, under the command of the Kurdish Peshmerga, to defend their villages and towns.
Following the defeat of ISIS in Iraq in December 2017, many Kakais took this as a sign of safety and returned to their homes and villages.
Recently, however, the residents of several Kakai villages, such as Shallar and Sayed Naamat, say that while the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) control their cities in the morning, the situation is more dangerous at night, with remnant militants and sleeper cells threatening their lives.
“The security situation is unstable and insecure. In the daytime, citizens return to their farms, livestock, and businesses but at night, they return to this village and stay here,” said al-Shaker Kaki, a resident of a secured village.
As a result, hundreds of Kakais have been forced to leave their homes and villages, which has resulted in a new wave of displacement in Kirkuk.
“We cannot return to our villages because the security situation is unstable, especially in the village of Arab Koi,” said Luqman Asa’ad, a displaced Kakai farmer from the village of Arab Koi. “We’ve left our villages and come here because the security situation is not good and we cannot go back to our village and continue our lives.”
While the ISF has launched several operations in the past to eliminate ISIS’ threat in these villages, further operations are needed to completely remove the group from the region. Over the past weeks, operations have taken place in other parts of Iraq’s central Kirkuk and Salahuddin provinces to remove ISIS sleeper cells, especially around the Hamrin Mountains.
“In the past year, they kidnapped and killed two people from Kakai areas,” said a Kakai activist. “So far, we have not been reassured, and there is no reason to be optimistic about the elimination of ISIS in our regions.”
While the launching of operations to adequately secure their areas is critical, the faith community also stressed the need for them to have representatives in the local and central governments so that they can bring light to the injustices that they are facing.
As Iraq is attempting to heal the wounds created by ISIS to fracture Iraqi society, the security forces must continue their battles against the militant group’s sleeper cells so that residents can return to their homes and not feel threatened by ISIS.