Sep 29 2013
By Saadoun al-Jaberi
Azzaman, September 29, 2013
Shiite families in Sunni-dominated north are fleeing to southern Iraq and Sunni families in the Shiite-dominated south are heading north.
Latest figures from the Iraqi Refugee Commission show that 1942 Shiite families in northern Iraq have fled to the Shiite religious city of Najaf.
Government officials have also recently been alarmed by press reports that hundreds of Sunni families have fled their home towns in the predominantly Shiite province of Basra.
Sunnis are reported to be fleeing in droves from the town of Zubair near Basra.
Most of the Shiite families were displaced from their villages and towns in the northern provinces of Kirkuk and Nineveh.
The commission, in a statement said, the families are Shebeks and Turkmen, two small mainly Shiite minorities who traditionally have taken northern Iraq as residence.
The commission says conditions are still not as alarming as in the years when sectarian strife terrorized the country for nearly three years, staring 2005.
In those years, the commission says, more than 11,000 Shiite families had fled to Najaf alone.
“But most of them have returned to their original homes as relative quiet was restored to most of central parts of the country,” the statement said.
However, the past three months have seen an upsurge in sectarian violence and many families living in areas predominantly inhabited by members of the opposite sect are on the move once again.
Not all persons who are displaced can return as some have lost homes and income and have already established a new life in the areas to which they have fled.
In Najaf, for instance, the commission wants the provincial authorities to provide permanent housing for those who have not been able to return to their original areas.