Iraq Oil Report's Daily Brief compiles the most important news and analysis about Iraq from around the web.

Cultivating refuge: The role of urban agriculture amongst refugees and forced migrants in the Kurdistan region of Iraq

UNESCO reports:

Refugee camps are born out of chaos and crisis, characterised as short-term responses with little in the way of planning for long-term living. However, it is becoming increasingly apparent that within protracted refugee situations, all too often these camps morph into ‘accidental cities’, where an accelerated everyday urbanism transforms tents into streets lined with self-built homes. Within the camps of northern Iraq, displaced Syrian refugees are finding innovative ways to incorporate urban agriculture and agroforestry into these unintended but now permanent settlements. Largely unsupported and often in conflict with the initial disaster response planning for camps, Urban Agriculture (UA) flourishes at a household level, providing access to fresh food, healing spaces from trauma, and creative place-making practices. Using lessons learnt from three years of practical fieldwork developing and supporting UA in camps located in northern Iraq, this paper demonstrates that with or without institutional support home gardens emerge at every stage of camp development as a vital yet little-discussed and even less planned practice. The paper argues that refugee settlements, home to millions worldwide, need to be seen as both urban and permanent, with home gardening and agriculture as a core response at the point of crisis, or risk developing, by default, into unsustainable – slum-like – cities of the future.

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Iraq: Caught between militias and ‘Islamic State’

Judit Neurink writes for Deutsche Welle:

"Yes, there have been murder incidents," admits Hussein Zainal, a member of Bashiqa's local council, when asked about the behavior of the 30th Brigade of the Iraqi Shiite militias in this mixed town on the Nineveh Plains in northern Iraq. "They are not a trained army. The boys have no ethics or knowledge of human rights."

The 30th brigade is part of the Hashd al-Shaabi, or Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), which consists of some 150,000 volunteers divided between some 40 Shiite militias. The PMU was formed to fight the Islamic terror group "Islamic State" (IS) after a fatwa issued by the religious leader of the Iraqi Shiites, Grand Ayatollah al-Sistani.

Eighteen months after IS was defeated in Iraq, the militias still guard checkpoints in cities that were liberated from the group, but reports about their misbehavior are everywhere. Militias in Nineveh have been accused of violence and murder, abuse of power, illegal enrichment, and corruption. There is even talk of a mass grave containing the bodies of 80 people killed by militia members. Recently, the 30th Brigade blocked the motor way to Mosul and clashed with the Iraqi army to prevent it from taking over its checkpoints.

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In Iraqi holy city, row over female violinist at soccer match shows social rift

John Davison writes for Reuters:

The match should have been cause for young Iraqis to celebrate. Their national team beat Lebanon 1-0 in the first competitive international hosted by Iraq for years in the holy city of Kerbala, complete with an opening ceremony of music and dance.

Instead, the event drew high-level criticism which many of the city’s youth say shows the gulf between them and the political and religious establishment.

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Iraq Authorities Acknowledge Horrific Prison Overcrowding

Human Rights Watch reports:

Several members of Iraq’s parliament and the province’s deputy governor visited prisons near Mosul, Iraq, calling what they found a “humanitarian catastrophe.” This happened two days after Human Rights Watch released research detailing the horrible conditions of the prisons, which hold terrorism suspects.

Immediately after our report release, local authorities claimed Human Rights Watch’s research was “fallacious.” But the government’s tone has since changed. One parliamentarian admitted that “what Human Rights Watch reported was small relative to the actual catastrophe inside the prisons of Nineveh.”

The public acknowledgement of the prisons’ horrendous conditions is a positive first step. Human Rights Watch is advocating with Iraq authorities to ensure everyone in pretrial detention a speedy and fair trial or release. Detention before trial should be the exception, not the rule. We are also pushing for detainees to be transferred to official prisons that are accessible to visitors, including government inspectors, independent monitors, relatives, and lawyers.

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Iraqis choose refugee camps over ruined homes

Reuters reports:

Despairing of the corpses and debris littering the streets, many Iraqis have left their homes in areas liberated from Islamic State two years ago and voluntarily returned to the displacement camps that housed them during and after the fighting.

Islamic State militants ravaged and looted the areas they occupied, leaving behind houses, mosques, and churches in ruin. Some have gone underground and are still active in these areas.

Bodies and destroyed buildings are still a regular sight two years on. In contrast, the camps provide residents with security and comparatively comfortable lives.

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Iran-Backed Militias Are In Iraq to Stay

John Hannah writes for Foreign Policy:

On July 1, Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi issued a decree directing that militias known as the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) take a series of steps to subjugate themselves to the Iraqi state. According to the order, those groups failing to comply by July 31 will be treated as outlaws.

Don’t hold your breath. The odds are high that the deadline will come and go with no meaningful curtailment in the power of the PMF—at least not those Shiite elements allied with Iran, its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), and Qassem Suleimani, the commander of the Quds Force, the IRGC’s deadly expeditionary arm. Iran’s proxies in Iraq may pretend to comply with the decree. The Iraqi government may pretend to enforce it. But U.S. officials should be under no illusions. Rather than enhancing the government’s control over the PMF, the order is more likely to have the opposite effect, further entrenching Iran’s chokehold on the Iraqi state.

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Fugitive Ex-Governor Embezzled $10 MN in Aid for Displaced

AFP reports:

Around $10 million in aid for the displaced in northern Iraq's Nineveh province, where the ISIS group was based, has been embezzled by its fugitive ex-governor, the country's anti-corruption commission said Tuesday.

A spokesperson for the Integrity Commission told AFP that its investigators had uncovered "invoices from developers in Iraqi Kurdistan".

But, he added, "no receipt was found" for these debited sums, which were meant for the rehabilitation of two hospitals in the northern metropolis of Mosul, capital of Nineveh.

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Yazidi women raped as ISIS slaves face brutal homecoming choice: Give up their child or stay away

Louisa Loveluck and Mustafa Salim write for The Washington Post:

The Islamic State had tried to wipe out the Yazidis, whose faith mixes elements of Islam with pre-Islamic beliefs. Four years on, the genocidal campaign against the already isolated religious minority casts a long shadow, challenging the faith’s long-standing tenets and piling pressure on the religious establishment to navigate the needs of survivors.

In April, the faith’s highest religious body issued an edict that appeared to suggest that children born to an Islamic State father — usually as the result of rape — would be welcomed back. The backlash was immediate, and the door swiftly closed.

But long before that, hundreds of mothers had already faced the agonizing choice: Keep the son or daughter but stay away forever, or abandon the child to come home.

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Iraqi forces clear farmland near Baghdad of IS militants

AP reports:

Iraqi security forces were sweeping villages and farmland north of Baghdad on Tuesday as part of an operation aimed at clearing remnants of the Islamic State group from around the capital.

A military helicopter soared overhead as troops searched for weapon caches and bombs in Tarmiyah and Iraqi river police combed the Tigris River. The area is about 50 kilometers (30 miles) north of Baghdad.

The dragnet is part of the operation dubbed “Will to Victory,” which started two weeks ago along the border with Syria and was extended last week to areas north of Baghdad and in the Diyala, Salahuddin and Anbar provinces.

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Spotlight on suicide pushes taboos in conservative Iraq

Salam Faraj reports for AFP:

Nada never spoke about her suicide attempts and Ahmad hesitated before sharing his story, but as cases rise in Iraq the taboo issue is being pushed out of the shadows.

Kept from school and sexually abused by her brothers, 24-year-old Nada, who first tried to take her own life at the age of 12, only agreed to speak about her experiences under a pseudonym.

"I didn't see a light at the end of the tunnel," she told AFP.

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