Soldiers secure the area outside a school, which was used as a makeshift clinic during a medical engagement in Abu Amer, a small village in the Wasit province of Iraq, March 28. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Tami Hillis)
BAGHDAD (April 23, 2008) — With security improving, local economies flourishing and community reconstruction underway, Iraqis who once fled their South Baghdad homes in fear are now returning to the villages they deserted.
This is a good sign, said Maj. Mark Bailey, the officer in charge of the Multi-National Division – Center governance cell. “Once people are convinced that security is good in their area, they come back,” said Bailey, who is with 401st Civil Affairs Battalion, attached to 3rd Infantry Division. “If they own a business, they re-open their business, which helps the economy.”Out of the approximate 18,700 Iraqis who left their homes, it is estimated that 10,450 have returned, according to MND-C records.
Humanitarian aid provided by MND-C, the United Nations and the Iraqi government has been one method of reintegrating the newly returned citizens, Bailey said.
“The CA Battalion (supply section) provides humanitarian assistance packages to the (MND-C) brigade combat teams, and they hand those out where they’re needed,” he said. “It’s also a good way to gain people’s trust.”
Units in 4th Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division have seen a steady influx of returning Iraqis, and have conducted operations to ensure the area is safe for their return.
Operation Varsity II, one such effort, resulted in the removal of dozens of al-Qaeda in Iraq from an area containing 19 previously deserted homes.
Soldiers also helped rebuild and refurbish local buildings, and set up health clinics and hygiene classes in some villages to better educate Iraqis on how to take care of themselves. Leadership from 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment has also held various meetings with local residents to hear their concerns.
Bailey said the returning families usually still have relatives or business opportunities in the villages they come back to, which helps progress.
“They have ties with the local community,” he said. “They have pride in the area. And if they believe it’s safer, and then they tell their families, that’s when things start to improve.”
As of April 15, displaced Iraqis from the areas of Yusifiyah, Khidr, Janabi Village, Radwaniyah, Qarghouli Village, Owsat Village, Rasheed, Mushada Village, Mahmudiyah and Latafiyah have made their way back home.