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The Politics of Return: Iraq Yezidis and the Ongoing Displacement in Post-ISIS Iraq
The attack of the so-called Islamic State (ISIS) on the Sinjar Region in August 2014 forced more than 300,000 Yezidis to flee and seek refuge in the autonomous region of Kurdistan in Northern Iraq. This paper, based on ethnographic research conducted among displaced Yezidis in a camp in Iraqi Kurdistan, examines the conflicting temporal expectations held by Yezidis, humanitarian actors, and state officials. Yezidis aim to create a sense of normalcy and stability in their new environment, while humanitarian and state organizations aim to create a temporary and inhospitable space to encourage Yezidis to return to their place of origin in the post-ISIS era. In the last eight years, the Kurdish and Iraqi Governments have worked alongside humanitarian organizations to implement a range of measures to create what I term a "humanitarian meantime." This refers to a condition marked by a sense of alienation and perpetual waiting, brought about by measures such as depriving Yezidis of privacy, continuously monitoring their private spaces, and prohibiting them from making any significant modifications to their living spaces, all with the aim of forcing Yezidis to view their displacement as a temporary situation. The designation of Sinjar as a "disputed territory" between the Iraqi and Kurdish governments has severely restricted the options available to displaced Yezidis in Iraq, hampering their ability to resettle or integrate into host communities. Any such efforts could alter the demographic composition of the Sinjar region and potentially challenge the control and power of both governments. Given these dynamics, the paper argues that instead of serving as a permanent "space of exception," the camp for displaced Yezidis represents a "space of deterrence" - an unpleasant waiting zone that constantly drives residents toward leaving the camp.
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