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Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties

The constitution provides for freedom of expression, including for members of the press and other media, with restrictions on expression that authorities assess violates public order and morality, or that expresses support for the banned Ba’ath Party.  Despite this provision, media and social activists faced various forms of pressure and intimidation from authorities, making the primary limitation on freedom of expression self-censorship due to a credible fear of reprisals by the government, political parties, ethnic and sectarian forces, militias, terrorist and violent extremist groups, or criminal gangs.  Advocates of freedom of speech and expression stated that because the law did not specifically define what acts violated public order and morality, authorities could use that exception to stifle protected speech or expression.  A media environment in which press outlets were closely affiliated with specific political parties and ethnic factions, combined with an opaque judiciary, resulted in considerable restrictions on freedom of expression, including the press.

Freedom of Expression:  Individuals were not able to criticize the government publicly or privately without fear of reprisal.  Paramilitary militias harassed activists and new reform-oriented political movements online and in person, including through online disinformation, bot attacks, and threats or use of physical violence to silence them and halt their activities.  On May 3, journalists reported to the Iraqi Observatory for Human Rights as part of World Press Freedom Day authorities, influential parties, and violent extremist groups restricted press freedom and expression of opinion.  They noted numerous efforts to silence and deter journalists from researching problems such as corruption, misuse or exploitation of state resources for personal gain, and some outlets’ selective refusal to cover political opponents, popular protests, and other problems.

Ongoing legal harassment using malicious lawsuits against activists, human rights defenders (HRDs), and journalists limited freedom of expression and civic engagement.  CSOs reported an unprecedented level of legal harassment via two main types of lawsuits:  1) false accusations of criminal activity; and 2) vague punishment for “dissent” or “slander” following public comments and criticism of government actors.  While these suits were often filed against Tishreen protesters, they were also used against activists, HRDs, and journalists.  Sometimes referred to as malicious, fraudulent, or nuisance lawsuits, these suits tend to cite rarely used articles from the penal code and rely on extremely broad legal interpretations.

Many cases of malicious lawsuits do not make it into the public domain due to the victims’ fear of retaliation or further harm.  Nonetheless, there were several high-profile cases during the year.  In February the Council of Ministers Secretariat filed a criminal defamation complaint and opened an investigation against Ali Akram al-Bayati, a former member of the Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights (IHCHR).  The suit stemmed from comments Bayati made during his tenure as a commissioner, discussing accusations of torture committed by the Anti-Corruption Committee (or Committee 29, see section 1.c.) and the IHCHR’s lack of access to those detained by the committee, during a 2020 television interview.  On February 6, Bayati appeared in court in response to a summons where he was arrested and informed he was under investigation.  Despite having legal immunity as an IHCHR commissioner, Bayati was detained in custody and interrogated for several hours before being released on bail the following day.  The legal case against Bayati, who told a media outlet in June he decided to leave the country, remains open.

In April the Ministry of Defense filed a lawsuit against UTV news presenter Ahmed Mulla Talal and actor Iyad al-Taei for criticizing “corruption” in the military during a television program.  Mulla Talal and al-Taei were called to appear before a judge in the third Karkh investigative court.  The Media and Communications Commission suspended the program but reversed its decision a few days later.  Mulla Talal nonetheless “voluntarily” stopped broadcasting the program for the remainder of the month of Ramadan.  The court cleared Mulla Talal of wrongdoing.  In May an Iran-aligned member of parliament filed a suit against one of the country’s leading women’s rights activists, Hanaa Edwar, two days after she spoke out against malicious lawsuits in a speech to the UN Security Council.  She warned in her speech that the legal system was being politicized to silence activism and dissent.  In June a media outlet reported the office of then Prime Minister Mohammed Khadimi had filed more than 60 defamation lawsuits against public critics of the government under defamation laws established under the former Ba’athist regime.

On December 5, a court convicted activist Haider al-Zaidi and sentenced him to three years in prison under article 226 of the penal code for “insulting the government.”  The PMF filed the case against Zaidi in response to a social media post in which he allegedly criticized the deceased former PMF head Abu Mehdi al-Muhandis.  After Zaidi’s family met PMF chairman Faleh al-Fayyad and on December 19, apologized, the PMF dropped its lawsuit against Zaidi and set the stage for his release from prison within approximately three months; however, the criminal conviction remained on Zaidi’s record.

Security Forces, mostly those under the Ministry of Interior, within the NSS, or from the PMF, in addition to KRG forces (primarily Asayish), arrested and detained protesters and activists critical of the central government and of the KRG, respectively, according to statements by government officials, NGO representatives, and press reports.

During protests in the IKR in August called for by the New Generation Movement opposition party, security forces detained dozens of activists and journalists and prevented journalists from covering the protests.  Asayish security forces detained Sulaymaniyah-based Voice of America broadcast correspondent Snur Karim for approximately 20 hours and searched her cell phone without a warrant.

In October media reported PUK Counter-Terrorism Unit forces arrested two journalists, Sartip Waisi and Ibrahim Ali, from Erbil-based Bwar online news media on their way to Erbil from Sulaymaniyah.  Press freedom NGOs reported the journalists were not informed of the charges against them, and an Iraqi Kurdistan Parliament member of parliament stated the journalists should only be tried under the framework of the IKR’s press law, which prohibits the arrest and detention of journalists for journalistic work and activities.

The KDP and PUK prioritized access to the outlets they owned.  In KDP strongholds, Kurdistan Television, Rudaw, and K24 had access to all public places and information, while in PUK-dominated Sulaymaniyah Province, Kurdsat News, and GK Television enjoyed the same privilege.  Conversely, outlets belonging to opposition parties or lacking party affiliation had limited access to public information in the IKR.

Violence and Harassment:  Journalists continued to face threats, intimidation, and attacks by militia or security forces.  The Press Freedom Advocacy Association (PFAA) recorded 280 cases of abuses of journalists nationwide between May 2021 and May, with the majority of cases in Baghdad and Erbil.  During the same period, the Iraqi Women Journalists Forum recorded 100 cases of journalists and media institutions being targeted for violence or intimidation, including 26 instances of threats, electronic blackmailing, harassment, and bullying of female journalists.

Government forces occasionally prevented journalists from reporting, citing security reasons.  Some media organizations reported arrests and harassment of journalists, as well as government efforts to prevent them from covering politically sensitive topics, including security matters, corruption, and government failure to provide adequate services.  On August 30, the PFAA reported ISF officers arrested, insulted, and beat several journalists and camera operators and confiscated their equipment during protests that turned violent on August 29 and 30.  Al-Jazeera correspondent Samer Youssef and his camera operator Muhammad Mulla were detained inside the Presidential Palace for an hour to prevent them from filming protesters who stormed the complex.  Al-Rasheed television reporter Ammar Ghassan and his camera operator Mohammed al-Shammari were arrested, severely beaten by the ISF, and had their equipment confiscated.  Falluja television camera operator Saif Ali was hospitalized after being beaten by ISF officers with clubs and batons while filming protests in Baghdad’s the International Zone, and ISF officers seized technical equipment from Ali’s colleague to prevent him from reporting.  Other outlets including the Associated Press, al-Arabiya, and reported similar violent encounters with the ISF, several while they were broadcasting.  On August 31, press reported the ISF returned some confiscated equipment to outlets and journalists.  The government did not formally investigate the ISF actions.

On August 30, in Diwaniyah Province, unidentified gunmen fired upon and threw a grenade at the home of Zakros TV correspondent Nabil al-Jubouri, although no one was reported injured in the attack.  Late in the evening on August 29, mortars hit and damaged the Baghdad headquarters of the Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq-owned al-Ahad Radio and the Baghdad office of Dijla News; no casualties were reported.  Dijla’s Baghdad office was attacked and set on fire in 2020, and an arrest warrant was issued for its Sunni owner (al-Hal Party) for “insulting the rituals of a religious (Shia) community.”

Throughout the country there were reports of beatings, detentions, and death threats against media workers, particularly toward journalists working for opposition-affiliated and nonpartisan outlets.  On November 26, Iraqi riot forces physically assaulted Iraq Fox Channel camera operator Ali Kadhim al-Karimawi in the Kadhimiya District of Baghdad where he was covering a protest.  The PFAA reported riot forces assaulted several other television news correspondents during the same protests.  On August 29, Associated Press correspondent Hadi Mazban was beaten by the ISF while covering protests in Baghdad’s International Zone.  During the same timeframe, unidentified assailants attacked the home of Zakros TV correspondent Nabil al-Jubouri, spraying the house with bullets and tossing grenades into its courtyard.

Certain KRG courts applied the more stringent criminal code and laws in lawsuits involving journalists, rather than the KRG’s local press law, which provides greater protection for freedom of expression and forbids the detention of journalists.  On March 21, security forces in civilian uniforms assaulted a crew from Gav News and confiscated their equipment in Barmarny, near Duhok, during coverage of the Kurdish New Year (Newroz) celebrations.

Censorship or Content Restrictions for Members of the Press and Other Media, Including Online Media:  The law prohibits producing, importing, publishing, or possessing written material, drawings, photographs, or films that violate public integrity or decency.  The penalties for conviction include fines and imprisonment.  Fear of violent retaliation for publishing facts or opinions critical of political factions inhibited free expression.  The Ministry of Culture must approve all books published in or imported into the country, thereby subjecting authors to censorship.

Federal government and KRG oversight and censorship sometimes interfered with media operations, at times resulting in the closure of media outlets, restrictions on reporting, denial of access to public information, and interference with internet service.

Local media were active and expressed a variety of views, largely reflecting owners’ political viewpoints.  Media also self-censored to comply with government restrictions against “violating public order” and because of a fear of reprisal by political figures and parties, militias, terrorist groups, criminal organizations, government officials, and private individuals.  Political parties strongly influenced or controlled outright most of the several hundred daily and weekly print publications, as well as dozens of radio and television stations, including social media platforms and social media influencers.

On August 5, Asayish security forces raided the offices of the newly launched Rast Media outlet in Duhok and ordered it to cease operations despite its legal registration with the Kurdistan Journalist Syndicate.

On April 9, the semiofficial Iraqi Media Network announced the termination of journalist Saleh al-Hamdani from the network, citing a 10-year-old Facebook post by the journalist that mocked a gathering in memory of the late cleric Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr.  Hamdani’s termination letter from the network stated he had violated the country’s constitution, which encourages democracy, acceptance of others’ rights to their own opinion, and a culture of tolerance.

Libel/Slander Laws:  The law criminalizes slander, blasphemy, and defamation, including the insulting of government leaders.  The judiciary, militias, and government officials used arrest warrants in defamation cases to intimidate, silence, and in some instances apparently to “flush out” activists and journalists from hiding.  Human rights organizations recommended the government revise the law, which they stated was used to silence dissent and calls for reform.  In October local media outlets reported former prime ministerial candidate Mohammed Shiaa al-Sudani filed a lawsuit against journalist and political expert Mohammed Na’naa for defamation for stating during a televised interview that Sudani was under the control of certain political leaders.

Courts in the IKR detained journalists in response to defamation lawsuits filed by the subjects of their reporting, which the journalists viewed as retaliation.

On July 18, an Erbil court detained KNN reporter Ayub Ali Warty for one day after a physician filed a defamation lawsuit against him under the federal Iraqi (rather than KRG) criminal code.  On September 30, a Sulaymaniyah court ordered Diplomatic Magazine reporter Bashdar Baziany detained for 10 days following a defamation lawsuit filed under the same code by the Kurdistan Investment Board’s spokesperson.

National Security:  Paramilitary militias in the PMF frequently threatened members of Sunni and minority communities with terrorism charges to silence their dissent, especially in areas where the militias have taken over local land and economic activities and blocked the return of Sunni IDPs.

Nongovernmental Impact:  Nongovernmental and quasi-governmental actors, including militias outside of state control, terrorist groups, and criminal organizations, threatened journalists with violence for reporting on sensitive subjects.

The government occasionally limited freedoms of peaceful assembly and association.

See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at .

The constitution and law mostly provide for the freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, but the government did not consistently respect these rights. Law and custom generally do not respect freedom of movement for women. For example, the law prevents a woman from applying for a passport without the consent of her male guardian or a legal representative. Women could not obtain a Civil Status Identification Document, required for access to public services, food assistance, health care, employment, education, and housing, without the consent of a male relative.

In some circumstances authorities restricted movements of displaced persons, and authorities did not allow some IDP camp residents to depart without specific permission, thereby limiting access to livelihoods, education, and services. Many parts of the country liberated from ISIS control suffered from movement restrictions due to the checkpoints of PMF units and other government forces. In other cases local authorities did not always recognize security permits of returnees or comply with the central government’s orders to facilitate but not force, returns.

In-country Movement: The law permits security forces to restrict internal movement and take other necessary security and military measures in response to security threats and attacks. There were numerous reports government forces, including the ISF and PMF, selectively enforced regulations, including for ethnosectarian reasons, as well as criminal extortion, requiring residency permits to limit entry of persons into areas under their control.

Multiple international NGOs reported PMF units prevented civilians, including Sunni Arabs and members of ethnic and religious minority groups, from returning to their homes after government forces ousted ISIS (see section 6).

In September Basrah Governor Asaad al-Eidani announced the Ministry of Interior had agreed, at the governor’s behest, to stop approving requests by individuals from other provinces to move to Basrah. The decision, issued by the Directorate of General Nationality, without reference to coordination with the province, came after an abnormal increase in such requests from other provinces for individuals to move to Basrah. Eidani justified the prohibition on moving to Basrah as necessary for the security and economic health of the province. In August Imtidad Movement member of parliament Dheaa al-Hindi of Karbala sent a letter to the Ministry of Interior demanding it not allow citizens to move from other regions to Karbala. Activists criticized the prohibition of internal movement as a violation of the constitution, which provides for freedom of movement. Activists stated internal movement limitations were driven by corruption and a lack of opportunities.

KRG authorities restricted movements in certain areas for nonresidents. Both residents and nonresidents were required to register with the local Asayish office. Citizens of all ethnosectarian backgrounds, including Kurds, crossing into the IKR from central or southern regions were obligated to cross through checkpoints and undergo personal and vehicle inspection. The government imposed similar restrictions on IDPs from Ninewa Province and the disputed areas.

Foreign Travel: The government required exit permits for minors younger than 18 leaving the country, but the requirement was not routinely enforced.

The government generally cooperated with UNHCR, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to refugees, returning refugees or asylum seekers, as well as other persons of concern. The government did not have effective systems to assist all these individuals, largely due to a lack of capacity. The law only recognizes refugees based on political or military grounds.

Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status. The federal government has established a system for providing protection to refugees, and the IKR provides residency permits to asylum seekers and refugees in its region, outside the framework of the federal law. Syrians made up most of the refugee population. Almost all refugees resided in the IKR, with 64 percent in urban settings and 36 percent in the IKR’s 10 refugee camps. The system lacked procedural safeguards, including no effective right of appeal, and access was largely nationality-based with gaps for highly vulnerable groups including lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) and certain minorities and nationalities. The IKR did not allow Afghan nationals seeking asylum to register for refugee status, citing concerns such a move would result in a large influx of Afghan asylum seekers. The law does not provide for specific provisions for groups with special needs, including children and persons with disabilities, but neither does it preclude their access to protection.

Abuse of Migrants and Refugees: Humanitarian protection experts assessed that residents of displaced persons camps were highly susceptible to sexual exploitation and abuse. Refugees and IDPs reported frequent sexual harassment, both in camps and cities in the IKR. Local NGOs reported cases in which camp management and detention employees subjected IDPs and refugees to various forms of abuse and intimidation. UNHCR condemned Iran’s attack on the Iranian refugee settlements in the city of Koya in the IKR on September 28, in which Iranian refugees were among the injured.

Freedom of Movement: Syrian refugees continued to face restrictions on residence and movement outside the IKR. KRG authorities stated IDPs and refugees had freedom of internal movement in the IKR. There is an established practice that enables short-term visits to Syria to take place for a limited number of reasons, upon approval of the KRG.

Employment: Refugees and asylum seekers were entitled to work in the private sector, but the lack of a comprehensive legal framework on the status of refugees remained an obstacle to refugees’ access to employment. Based on specific decrees and practice, Palestinian refugees generally enjoyed rights similar to citizens but were unable to naturalize or vote. In the IKR Palestinians were allowed to work in the private sector but were required to renew their refugee status annually. Syrian refugees were able to obtain and renew residency and work permits both in refugee camps and in the IKR, although not in the rest of the country. Central government authorities did not permit refugees with IKR residence permits to work outside the IKR. According to UNHCR, both refugees and asylum seekers without visas were allowed to work formally in the IKR if they obtained a KRG residency permit and were aged 15 or older.

The constitution and national policy on displacement address IDP rights, but few laws specifically do so. The central government, the KRG, and international organizations, including UN agencies and local and international NGOs, provided protection and other assistance to IDPs. Humanitarian actors continued to provide support to official IDP camps and implemented community-based services for IDPs residing outside of camps to limit strain on host community resources. The UN Humanitarian Country Team decided in July to demobilize its humanitarian coordination architecture by December 31. As part of the transition away from a UN-led humanitarian response, the United Nations will hand over coordination and service provision for IDP populations to the federal government and the KRG authorities.

According to the IOM Displacement Tracking Matrix, as of June 30 there were an estimated 1.2 million persons internally displaced, with 180,010 residing in camps and an additional 81,198 in informal settlements, predominantly in Erbil, Duhok, and Ninewa Provinces. According to the IOM, 106,014 IDPs lived in critical shelters, including unsafe and abandoned buildings, religious buildings, and schools, which were not safe, adequate, or permanent. The IOM reported as of June 30, a total of 4.97 million persons had returned to their areas of origin across the country as areas became liberated from ISIS starting in 2015.

Outside of the IKR, the government has one IDP informal settlement and one camp. The settlement, in Anbar Province, accommodated 323 households (1,938 individuals) as of June. One-half of the camp population was part of female-headed households, many with perceived ISIS affiliations. As of August, the remaining IDP camp outside the IKR, in Ninewa Province, accommodated 935 households (4,432 individuals).

After repeated advocacy from the United Nations and the international community, the government agreed to a coordinated return plan for both camps. In 2021 the government worked with the Sunni Endowment to provide one million dinars ($685) each to families who elected to leave the camps; however, the IOM reported the Sunni Endowment stopped issuing return grants during the year due to changes in administration and administrative challenges. The Ministries of Planning and of Migration and Displacement cited the lack of budget funding due to the central government-formation impasse as hindering the implementation of their National Plan to Address Displacement in Iraq, which was approved in 2021.

In some areas, violence, insecurity, and long-standing political, tribal, and ethno-sectarian tensions hampered progress on national reconciliation and political reform, complicating the protection environment for IDPs. Thousands of families faced secondary displacement due to economic and security concerns. Forced displacements strained the capacity of local authorities in areas with higher concentrations of IDPs. Climate-induced displacement also affected areas of return across the country.

Families returning to their place of origin often grappled with the destruction of their homes, a lack of access to services, and a dearth of livelihood opportunities. Many returnees were concerned by the prevalence of PMF groups or remnants of ISIS and, in Sinjar, militias aligned with the PKK. According to the IOM, as of June a total of 20,165 families (120,990 individuals) had returned to Sinjar, a return rate of 40 percent for the entire district. Displaced families, especially those with perceived ties to ISIS, including victims and survivors of ISIS crimes, were often unable to obtain or replace vital civil status documents, without which they were unable to work, go to school, or move freely. In some cases this led to secondary displacement or a return to IDP camps.

On December 27, the Council of Ministers approved a prime ministerial decree restoring ownership rights to homes and residential land to thousands of Iraqi Yezidis from Sinjar. The decree paves the way for ending discriminatory policies, in effect since 1975, that had denied these citizens the right to own their homes.

In June the Council of Representatives (COR) allocated 25 billion dinars ($17 million) to support implementation of the law to provide support to Yezidi and other survivors of the 2014 genocide by ISIS. In August, in cooperation with NGOs, the government opened a Survivors’ Directorate branch office in Sinjar as part of the law for Yezidi survivors of the 2014 genocide by ISIS. Following the implementation of regulations to the law passed in September 2021, the Survivors’ Directorate began to accept applications for survivors to receive benefits under the law.

Government assistance focused on financial grants to returnees, but payments were sporadic, and there was a large backlog in responding to applications. Faced with large movements of IDPs across the country, the government provided food, water, and financial assistance to some but not all IDPs, including in the IKR. Many IDPs lived in informal settlements without access to adequate water, sanitation, or other essential services.

In October the Ministry of Displacement and Migration reported economic, tribal, security, and social reasons in addition to unemployment and lack of services were preventing IDPs’ return.

Some local authorities also applied government compensation laws in a discriminatory manner and excluded families with perceived ISIS affiliations. Many families, especially in Ninewa, applied for but had not yet received the monetary compensation due them by law because COR, in the absence of a formed government, did not pass a federal budget, and authorities prevented some families with perceived ISIS affiliations from applying. As a result many IDPs did not have the resources to rebuild their homes.

All citizens were eligible to receive food under the Public Distribution System (PDS), but authorities implemented the PDS sporadically and irregularly, with limited access in areas that were among the last to be liberated. Authorities did not distribute all commodities each month, and not all IDPs could access the PDS in each province. There were reports of IDPs losing access and entitlement to PDS distributions and other services due to requirements that citizens could redeem PDS rations or other services only at their registered place of residence.

Local authorities often determined whether IDPs would have access to local services. KRG officials asserted all IDPs and refugees in the IKR benefited from access to public services and infrastructure (such as drinking water, electricity, education, health care, roads, and irrigation systems) on an equal basis with the local population, which they stated reflected the KRG’s commitment to safeguarding human rights and human dignity under pressing circumstances.

Almost one million of the country’s IDPs and refugees resided in the IKR, with approximately 30 percent living in camps and 70 percent outside camps, according to the KRG’s Joint Crisis Coordination Center. The KRG hosted 25 of the 26 IDP camps in the country and committed not to close them until the IDPs returned to their area of origin voluntarily. According to the center, as of August, 40 percent of IDPs throughout the IKR were Sunni Arabs, 30 percent were Yezidis, 13 percent were Kurds (of several religious affiliations), and 7 percent were Christians. Members of other religious minority groups comprised the remaining 10 percent. Despite the difficult economic situation and security challenges that occurred in the region, KRG officials reported preserving the rights of these members of minority groups was a top priority. Individuals in some IDP camps require government permission to return to their areas of origin, and government officials frequently denied these security clearances for displaced households with perceived ISIS affiliation. Because of this perceived affiliation, these households faced problems obtaining civil documentation and had limited freedom of movement, including the ability to seek medical treatment, due to the risk of arrest or inability to reenter the camps where they resided. Humanitarian organizations reported female heads of household in multiple IDP camps struggled to obtain permission to move and were subject to verbal and physical harassment, including rape, sexual assault, and exploitation, by government forces and camp residents.

IDPs, particularly those suspected of ISIS affiliation, continued to face hostility from local government officials and populations, as well as expulsion when they attempted to return to areas of origin unassisted by the IOM or the government. In formerly ISIS-controlled Anbar, Duhok, Kirkuk, Ninewa, and Salah al-Din Provinces, humanitarian agencies reported movement restrictions for families with relatives suspected of ISIS affiliation. An Interior Ministry official estimated the number of those with perceived ISIS affiliation at 250,000. Tribal leaders and humanitarian actors reported fabricated accusations of ISIS affiliation led to the stigmatization of IDPs. IDPs were also often the targets of stigmatization or discrimination because of familial rivalries or for economic reasons.

Many Christian IDPs refused to return to the town of Tal Kayf, citing fear of the PMF 50th Brigade that occupied it and the presence of the Tesferat detention center and court, which the ICRC reported may hold women and minors suspected of being ISIS family members. Prior to 2002 there were between 800,000 and 1.4 million Christians in the country, but that figure had reportedly fallen to less than 150,000, located primarily in the Ninewa Plain. Only a very small number of the country’s population of 400,000 to 500,000 Yezidis had returned to their homes, with Sinjar having an estimated return rate of 35 percent, including non-Yezidis. Many chose to stay in camps, saying a lack of reconstruction plans or public services, as well as insecurity, discouraged them from returning home.

The repurposing of the government-owned Virgin Mary Compound in Baghdad resulted in the forced eviction of 121 families (approximately 400 individuals) that had taken shelter there after having been displaced from the Ninewa Plain during the 2014 ISIS invasion. According to the Christian Department in the Minorities Endowment, 63 of the 121 families had been evacuated by the end of the year, with 14 families relocating to a building belonging to the Chaldean Church in Baghdad. The rest of the families relocated to the Ninewa Plain and Erbil where they reportedly moved in with relatives or rented homes on the local economy. There have been limited efforts to implement the comprehensive Sinjar Agreement signed by the government and the KRG in 2020, which included expanded reconstruction efforts to support voluntary returns of Yezidis still displaced in the IKR and abroad. The IOM reported an uptick in the migration of Yezidis to Turkey with intended onward travel to Europe beginning in August. According to the IOM, 1,861 individuals crossed the Ibrahim al-Khalil border between August 24 and September 24, of which 30 percent departed from camps and 70 percent from informal settlements.

The country contributes to statelessness, including through discrimination against women in nationality laws.

There were a significant number of individuals in the country who were either stateless or at risk of statelessness, including displaced children who lacked civil documentation and faced exclusion from local communities, including being barred from attending school, denied access to health care, and deprived of basic rights. Many of these children were born under ISIS rule and were issued birth certificates considered invalid by the government. They faced extreme difficulties in obtaining civil documentation due to perceived ISIS affiliation. This was made more difficult as women were unable to obtain birth certificates for their children without their husband present or a certificate of their husband’s death.

These women and children were stigmatized because of their association with ISIS, leaving them at heightened risk of suicide, retaliation, and sexual exploitation. Although some communities issued edicts and took steps to absolve women of perceived guilt associated with their sexual exploitation by ISIS fighters, so-called “honor” killings remained a risk. Communities generally did not accept children born to ISIS fighters. Absent a consistent, countrywide plan to document children of Iraqi mothers and ISIS fathers, those children were at risk of statelessness.

The Yezidi community more willingly welcomed back Yezidi women who survived ISIS captivity but not children fathered through rape by ISIS fighters. The Yezidi community frequently forced women to give up such babies and children to orphanages under threat of expulsion from the community. Women who chose to keep their children faced the threat of ostracization from their community and “honor” killings. International NGOs provided shelter referrals to some Yezidi women and, in some cases, assisted mothers in finding homes for forcibly abandoned children. Those children who did not receive assistance were without parents, identification, clear country of birth, or settled nationality. The law for survivors of the ISIS genocide does not include specific provisions related to the status of or benefits for ISIS-born children and their mothers, especially children born of sexual violence.

UNHCR’s advocacy, legal awareness raising, and civil documentation support continued to be available to persons at risk of statelessness.

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