Iraq has suffered from massive internal displacement for several decades, but with the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) the numbers of those displaced have grown drastically. More than three million Iraqis—or ten percent of the country’s population—currently live as internally displaced persons (IDPs). In an effort to address this crisis, the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies (CCAS) and the Institute for the Study of International Migration (ISIM) at Georgetown recently joined efforts with the University of Kurdistan, Hawler (UKH) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to host the conference “Migration and Displacement in Iraq: Working Towards Durable Solutions.”
The conference took place April 19-21, 2017 on the UKH campus in Erbil, Iraq with additional funding from the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration. The goal was to create a forum for considering approaches and solutions to the forced displacement crisis based on the lived experiences of Iraqi IDPs. The conference brought together more than 40 researchers—including academics from several universities in Iraq—development practitioners, and local leaders to discuss various aspects of forced migration, such as durable solutions, local governance, social cohesion, transitional justice, housing and property issues, living conditions of internally displaced peoples (IDPs), and obstacles to return.
Among the presenters was CCAS’ Professor Rochelle Davis, who gave a talk with Lorenza Rossi of IOM titled “Durable solutions for Iraqi IDPs: a longitudinal study.” Their presentation discussed the findings of a joint IOM-GU longitudinal study of 4,000 IDP families in Iraq on the ways in which Iraqi IDPs experience displacement, adapt to their circumstances, and create durable solutions. Davis also presented “Social cohesion and displacement in Iraq: Historical perspectives, Contemporary narratives,” which was authored by Davis and Rossi, along with Grace Benton, Project Manager and Research Associate at ISIM and a 2014 graduate of the Master of Arts in Arab Studies (MAAS) program at CCAS and Michael Cohen, Research Assistant to the project and 2017 MAAS graduate. Research and writing workshops were offered on the last day of the conference, including one led by Vicki Valosik, the Multimedia and Publications Editor at CCAS, on “How to Publish in Peer-Reviewed Journals.” An evening reception at the historic Citadel in Erbil with live music, a photography exhibit from IOM, and remarks from distinguished guests was a highlight of the conference.
Following the conference, presenters were invited to submit papers for a special issue of International Migration, the refereed, policy-oriented journal of IOM. The issue will be guest-edited by Davis and Valosik and will center on the theme of migration and displacement in Iraq and the larger Levant. “The findings and conclusions from the research presentations provide new and insightful material for policy and programming, and give voice to the experience and needs of Iraqi IDPs,” said Davis. It is the hope of CCAS that the special journal issue will elevate this voice and further the overall goals of the conference: to share research findings on IDPS and returnees with relevant stakeholders and to provide information that can be used “to produce an evidence-based road map for the alleviation and progressive resolution of internal displacement in Iraq.”