The families started returning to three secure villages in the town of Tuz Khormato, located in the northeast of Saladin province, a governorate located in the north of Iraq.
The villages are now secured by the Badr brigades, a Shiite Iraqi militia, who took control of the region after ISIL militants abandoned the town.
The villages are full of destroyed homes scarred by bullet holes and which lack electricity and water. Unexploded mortar projectiles litter the area.
“We were shocked when we saw our homes ruined. We are now working on repairing them. There were 325 families in our village and 60 families have returned in the last 10 days. Not having electricity is our biggest problem. Everyone is supposed to return if the problems are solved,” Ahmed Kamal, one of the returnees, said.
Huseyin Sami also returned to his village, which is located 7 kilometers south of Tuz Khormato. He said that ISIL militants had damaged all the houses in the area.
“We are sad that none of the government officials came to review the situation here. Our heating is a problem, especially with winter coming. We go to Tuz Khormato hospital but the hospital sends us to Kirkuk,” Sami added.
“Protection of the villages is our highest priority. Hizbullah, Saraya El-Selam, Horasani and Peshmerga brigades in the region do not have serious problems between them,” Atif Najjar, the Badr brigades’ commander responsible for the Tuz Khormato region, said.
Iraqis will be able to return to the other villages after a mine sweep, according to Nur Halaf, a high-ranking Badr brigade commander.
“There are 34,000 internally displaced persons in Baghdad,” Riyad Al-Addad, a government official, said.
Ten thousand internally displaced persons were recorded on Monday by the Iraqi Ministry of Immigration and Migrants, increasing the official recorded number to 470,000.
Iraq has been gripped by a security vacuum since June, when the ISIL, stormed the northern province of Mosul.