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Iraq: “Displaced people have the right to return to their homes.” A first training session with a tribal Sunni brigade of the Popular Mobilization Forces in Anbar

28th March 2018 | Iraq - Humanitarian norms

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On 14 and 15 February, Geneva Call conducted a first two-day workshop on the law of armed conflict, including the rules governing the rights of displaced people, for 31 fighters and commanders from a tribal Sunni brigade of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF). The event took place in the city of Ramadi, in the province of Anbar. This was the first training session for a Sunni brigade of the PMF in Anbar province.

Following the end of active hostilities against the Islamic State group (ISg), displaced people are now trying to return to Anbar, and armed actors have an important role to play in this process. During the workshop, Geneva Call’s trainer presented the rules and obligations for armed actors in their relations with displaced people, including the prohibition on discriminating against them when they are trying to return to their homes.

The brigade’s combatants had participated directly in the operations against the ISg in 2017, and some of them had also fought against Al-Qaida in 2006–2007 in Ramadi. The brigade consists of eight main tribes based in Anbar.

Participants engaged actively in the discussions and talked about their personal experiences during the most recent conflict with the ISg. The training session constituted the first step towards a deeper humanitarian dialogue on the law of armed conflict with the PMF forces in Anbar province.

Prior to the workshop, Geneva Call’s focal point in Anbar had reached out to and held a series of meetings with Ramadi’s mayor, tribal leaders and General Rasheid Fleiah, the General Commander of the tribal Sunni PMF brigade in Anbar. He offered his full support to Geneva Call and assured the organization that his troops would participate actively in the workshop on the law of armed conflict.

The 40 PMF brigades in Iraq are mainly Shia, but they also include Sunni, Christian and Yezidi individuals and battalions. With more than 100,000 fighters, the PMF is one of the main fighting forces active in Iraq. Geneva Call is maintaining a strong humanitarian dialogue with their leadership and has already trained dozens of their brigades on the law of armed conflict.