Religion and Migration in Iraq: Investigating the Reasons for Return of Internally Displaced Christians to Baghdeda

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Nora Monzer
Philipp Öhlmann


Iraq, internally displaced persons, Christianity, humanitarian aid, ethno-religious identity, conflict


The emergence of terrorist group Daesh in 2014 and the international military campaign against it caused humanitarian crisis and mass displacement in Iraq. About 5.8 million people became internally displaced, and as of 2021, 1.2 million remain in displacement. This article engages with the question of what motivates people to return from displacement to their area of origin. It investigates the role religion played in the decision of internally displaced Christians to return to Baghdeda in the Ninewa Plain, Iraq’s largest Christian town. Based on qualitative interviews, the article examines the factors influencing people’s decisions to return. We find that religion constitutes an important factor influencing the decision to return, within the nexus of other considerations such as economic opportunities, reconstruction, and security. Religion thereby plays a role because of the respondents’ Christian identity, the encouragement to return by religious leaders, and the reconstruction efforts led by the churches.

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