Iraqi Families Return to Ravaged Homes in Fallujah

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from The Wall Street Journal,

City is left with destroyed buildings and deep social scars after being under Islamic State control.

The first Iraqi families returned over the weekend to broken homes and businesses in Fallujah nearly three months after the country’s military drove out Islamic State fighters, in a resettling process mired in tensions.

Those who returned came home to an empty city with destroyed buildings and no electricity or running water. While some families who have returned expressed hope and vowed to rebuild their homes and businesses, others said the militants had cut deep into their social fabric, sowing suspicion between neighbors that is unlikely to go away.

“Life will not go back the way it was,” said Abu Ahmed as he awaited clearance to re-enter the city. “It is impossible…without real tribal and national reconciliation.”

Fallujah was the first major city to fall to Islamic State ahead of a 2014 offensive by the extremist group that saw it take over about a third of the country. Iraq’s military in June wrested control of the city, which lies 40 miles west of Baghdad.

Giving Fallujah back to its residents has been a priority for Iraq’s government but a July order by the city’s tribal leaders that was adopted by the local government prevents families of people suspected of Islamic State ties from returning—complicating the resettlement efforts. Only 21 families have returned in two days.

Fallujah remained largely populated during the occupation by Islamic State, which led to perceptions that the city’s mostly Sunni residents had welcomed the militancy. A campaign to free the city that ended in June saw almost 100,000 people flee.

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