The number of people who are currently displaced inside Iraq is estimated to be 2.8 million, or one out of every ten Iraqis This figure is cumulative and represents both those displaced before and after the 2003 US-led invasion. Displacement in Iraq is “chronic and complex:” since the 1960s Iraq has produced the largest population of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and refugees of any state in the Middle East with the exception of Afghanistan. Under the Ba’athist regime, an estimated 1.2 million people were internally displaced as a result of factors that include the Iran–Iraq War and policies of forced displacement that were intended to quell resistance and consolidate the control of territory, particularly in the Kurdish northern and Shiite southern area. In the period directly following the 2003 invasion, population displacement was largely the result of US-led military operations against insurgents, especially in Sunni areas. Such displacements were generally temporary.
According to the Iraqi Red Crescent Society, over 80% of the displaced are women and young children. (IRCS June 2008). IDMC reports that most displaced women are single or unaccompanied, and the elderly also make a large part of the displaced population. Approximately 58% of IDPs are Sunni Arabs, 29% are Shi’a Arabs, and 13% are minorities such as Shabaks, Kurds, Armenians, and others. Baghdad is the center of post-2003 displacement: around 60% of Iraqis displaced since then have come from Baghdad, and the city also hosts around 40% of the displaced population. Fleeing or fearing sectarian violence, many Baghdad residents left their homes to move to neighborhoods inhabited by those of the same religious, tribal, or sectarian group. This process has led to the homogenization of communities in the capital city and throughout the country. After Baghdad, Diyala is the governorate most affected by displacement. Many displaced persons have also resettled in the Kurdish north, but persistent tensions over governorate borders in this multi-ethnic area have caused further population displacements.
A displaced Iraqi boy holds a white flag as his family flees during the battle between Iraqi rapid response forces and Islamic State militants at Tigris river front line between east and west of Mosul, Iraq.