Heads of the displaced families returning to Khwalis, Iraq, are greeted by the members of the Isnod Reconciliation Council to mark the beginning of the return of the families. The displaced families left the area during Iraqi army clearing operations last year.
AL KHWALIS, Iraq (Oct. 2, 2008) — More than 100 displaced families returned to their homes recently in the town of al Khwalis.
The event was celebrated by a welcome ceremony and is a significant mark in the reconciliation process. The families left the area when tensions mounted after the Iraqi Army cleared the area of al Qaeda last year.
“Today was a ceremony that represents the reconciling of differences between Sunni and Shia families,” said Capt. Roger Miranda, executive officer, 1st Battalion, 19th Brigade, 5th Division, Military Transition Team. “These people have been living in the town of Hib Hib since they were displaced.”
There were more than 500 people who returned to Khwalis in the reconciliation process that had been ongoing since January. The reconciliation council met multiple times and decided who is allowed to come back.
“I am so happy today because these families are able to come back to their homes,” said sheik Ratif al Sa’adi, a member of the reconciliation council for al Khwalis, “This is a great step for the council and for the people returning.”
The Isnod Reconciliation Council in al Khwalis worked for several months to get the displaced people back to their homes. The council met several times for months to reach this point.
“It takes several meetings with the council to get this result,” said Sa’adi. “It has taken months for this to happen and they have been gone a little bit less than a year.”
Coalition forces support the reconciliation council for the area of al Khwalis by assisting with security and providing recommendations about how to move forward with the process, said Capt. Keith Miller, commander, Outlaw Troop, 4th Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment.
“This is a great boon for the area. Al Khwalis had a big AQI influence come in and affect a lot of destruction,” said Miller. “Now the families are coming back and living together once again.”
With the return of the families, there is a restored trust and unity in the town and one of the benefits is that it makes it harder for anyone to come in and disrupt it. There will be less ability for AQI to seek refuge in these villages, Miller said.