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

Iraqi Refugees in Syria Refuse to Return Home

Sirwan Kajjo and Zana Omar write for Voice of America:

Despite their cities and towns being freed from Islamic State (IS) militants, many Iraqi refugees who have settled in Syria say that do not wish to return to their homes.

Iraqi refugees interviewed by VOA at al-Hol camp in northeastern Syria voiced doubts about a possible return to their home country in the near future.

Click here for the entire story

Artists emerge from ruins of Mosul to reclaim Iraqi city’s cultural life

Raya Jalabi writes for Reuters:

The first thing musician Fadhel al-Badri did when Mosul was liberated from Islamic State last year was breathe a sigh of relief.

The militants who seized the city in 2014 had targeted artists like himself so when neighbours said they were hunting for him, he left home, called his wife to say he was likely to die and took to sleeping in a different place each night.

On Saturday, Badri and other musicians and activists attended the first orchestral concert in the northern Iraqi city since the militants were defeated more than a year ago by Iraqi and Kurdish forces and a coalition led by the United States.

Click here for the entire story

Iraq looks to snuff out ISIL remnants in remote Anbar province

Osama Bin Javaid writes for Al Jazeera:

The vast Anbar desert stretches across almost a third of Iraq, 138,000 square-kilometres of no man's land to the country's west.

Here, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant group (ISIL, also known as ISIS) sleeper cells use the remote area's mountain ranges, valleys and caves to plan and launch their attacks from.

The Iraqi military and US-led coalition are hesitant to give exact numbers but estimate that a few hundred fighters clustered in groups as small as two are all that remains of the group.

Click here for the entire story

Ancient Assyrian sculpture up for sale at Christie’s – but should it ever have left Iraq?

Rob Crilly and Mina Aldroubi write for The National:

A 3000-year-old Iraqi artefact goes on sale at Christie’s auction house in New York this week, where it is expected to fetch more than $10m for its American owners. However, the Iraqi government has demanded a halt to the sale of the two-metre frieze taken from an ancient Assyrian palace.

The case is the latest controversy to hit the American antiquities market. Dealers, auctioneers and museums have all had items confiscated.

Click here for the entire story

Why do Kurds continue to flee Iraq’s Kurdish region?

Mariya Petkova writes for Al Jazeera:

Zakho is a relatively prosperous town, with many families working in trade and transportation linked to the nearby Ibrahim Khalil border crossing between Turkey and the Kurdish region, the main gateway for the billions-worth of Turkish goods that Iraq imports. Like most Kurdish cities, it remained relatively safe and stable during the advance of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) and the subsequent war effort to dismantle it.

For the decade and a half since the 2003 US invasion of Iraq, the Kurdish region prospered, its residents enjoying a much higher standard of living than the rest of the country. Yet over the past four years, large numbers of Iraqi Kurds have attempted the dangerous journey to Europe.

Click here for the entire story

U.S. Citizen, Detained Without Charge by Trump Administration for a Year, Is Finally Free

Jonathan Hafetz writes for the ACLU:

An American illegally detained in Iraq by the U.S. military for more than a year has finally won his freedom.

On Sunday, after a long court battle, the Trump administration let our client go. Under a settlement agreement, he was released in a third country, where he will once again be a free man. Parts of the agreement are confidential, and he is officially remaining unidentified for his safety and privacy.

From the moment the American was imprisoned, his own government tried to deny him his constitutional rights. It kept his detention secret, denied his requests for a lawyer, and attempted to forcibly transfer him to a dangerous war zone.

Click here for the entire story

Yazidi mothers of children by IS face heartbreaking choices

Hamza Hendawi, Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Salar Salim write for AP:

The 26-year-old Yazidi mother faces a heartbreaking choice.

Her family is preparing to emigrate from Iraq to Australia and start a new life after the suffering the Islamic State group wreaked on their small religious minority. She is desperate to go with them, but there is also someone she can't bear to leave behind: Her 2-year-old daughter, Maria, fathered by the IS fighter who enslaved her.

She knows her family will never allow her to bring Maria. They don't even know the girl exists. The only relative who knows is an uncle who took the girl from her mother and put her in an orphanage in Baghdad after they were freed from captivity last year.

Click here for the entire story

Kurdistan’s mountains face deforestation because of kerosene shortages

Bextiyar Qadir reports for Rudaw:

People living in the Kurdistan Region's mountains rely on heating oil as temperatures drop and snow begins to fall. In 2018, residents have resorted to chopping down trees to make up for the shortages.

"If we don’t cut down the trees, we won’t be able to provide heat for our family. I feel like a criminal..." said Jasim Bradosty, a local from Bradost in northern Erbil province.

"If the government would distribute heating oil to citizens, people wouldn’t cut down trees. And another point, there is no control over fuel prices in the market. Seriously, fuel prices are too expensive," he added.

Click here for the entire story

‘Walk to heaven’: Shiite pilgrims trek to Iraq’s Karbala

Philip Issa and Hadi Mizban report for AP:

Millions of Shiite Muslims from around the world are making their way this week to their sect's holy shrines in the Iraqi city of Karbala, a pilgrimage that is as much about community as it is about religion.

The shrines are of two revered Shiite imams: Hussein, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, and his half-brother Abbas. The annual commemoration, called Arbaeen, draws more pilgrims each year — according to Iraqi figures — than the hajj in Saudi Arabia, a pilgrimage required once in a lifetime of every Muslim who can afford it and is physically able to make it.

Pilgrims stream toward Karbala on foot from the cities of Najaf, 70 kilometers (45 miles) away, Baghdad, 90 kilometers (55 miles) to the north, and other places farther afield, resting along the way in tents lined with foam mattresses and fleece blankets.

Click here for the entire story

Mosul residents: ‘We were the masters of the world’

Mariya Petkova writes for Al Jazeera:

Amid the rubble and devastation of the old city in west Mosul, it was difficult to imagine that Bulgaria would be the one thing local people would want to talk about the most.

Communist Bulgaria seemed to be remembered fondly by the few people (all middle-aged Muslim men) I could find to talk to in the empty streets of al-Sa'aa neighbourhood.

"I went to Bulgaria in the 1980s. It was very beautiful and cheap," Faris Ibrahim told me. He had just re-opened his small shop, spending his own money to repair the damage that the fighting had caused last year.

Click here for the entire story