Although 18 months have passed since the Iraqi government officially declared victory over the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), the city of Mosul – and particularly west Mosul, which was the group’s final stronghold in Iraq – is still facing significant challenges that hinder the return and reintegration of internally displaced persons (IDPs), many of whom are now living in or at-risk of protracted displacement.
Entire neighborhoods have not yet been rebuilt, basic services are insufficient in some areas, and poor sanitation is contributing to serious public health problems and the spread of diseases. Furthermore, reports of harassment and violence against civilians by state as well as non-state actors are undermining efforts to build trust in state institutions and authorities. Revenge killings and other acts of retaliation against residents of Mosul and IDPs who are suspected of joining or collaborating with IS have continued since the battle, threatening to trigger new cycles of inter-communal violence. This report, based on interviews and focus groups with a total of 110 Iraqi men and women in west Mosul and the IDP camps Hasan Sham, Haj Ali and Qayyara, provides a rapid assessment of current barriers to return and the challenges and risks that IDPs face if and when they decide to return to west Mosul. We focus in particular on social dynamics between three key populations: (1) “stayers”, west Moslawis who remained in Mosul for the duration of ISIL's three-year rule, (2) “IDPs,” west Moslawis who left the city at a relatively early stage in ISIL rule and are still displaced in IDP camps, and (3) “returnees”, those who were previously displaced from west Mosul and have since returned to the city. Although the voluntary return of IDPs has been identified as “a critical factor in sustaining a peace process and in revitalizing economic activity” as well as an indicator of successful post-conflict recovery and reintegration efforts, it is important to recognize and respond to the risk that premature or involuntary return to areas that are unsafe or inhospitable (whether as a result of hostile social dynamics, crime and violence, or inadequate infrastructure and services) may trigger new grievances and conflicts.