Dirt barriers and charred no-man’s lands still divide the Sunni and Shia families in Yathrib even after a three-year reconciliation process meant to heal a community torn apart by the war with Isis. Officials plan to segregate roads and irrigation canals, even lobbying to split administration of the remote agriculture district in two.
Though the bitter struggle to drive Isis out of Iraqi territory is largely won, Yathrib’s story shows how daunting the process of reconciliation can be. Yathrib is not a large city, like Mosul or Ramadi, where vast urban districts were razed in months-long battles. It is not even one of the most demographically complex areas that must be reconciled. And still, millions of dollars were spent to win the peace here.
Dozens of Iraqi officials, mediators, UN affiliates, and even local militias shuttled for years between Yathrib’s divided tribes. But farmers like Qassim al-Saadi still waver between a peace they were told they must accept, and a nagging desire for revenge against neighbours they believe embraced Isis when the Sunni jihadi group stormed their land.