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>> His family fled fierce clashes between Iraq's military and Islamic state. Now Mahdi Ahmed's daughter-in-law is dead, and his son and granddaughter are injured after they were told it was safe to return home. Refugees and aid workers say the Iraqi military is forcibly returning displaced people to unsafe areas in the predominantly Sunni Anbar province, exposing them to deadly traps and vigilantes, allegedly to ensure that an election takes place on time.
> They're doing this because of the elections. They want people to go back to vote. But if I go back and see my house destroyed, my money gone and my life ruined, why would I vote for them?
His daughter was also seriously wounded. More than 2 million Iraqis were displaced by the war against Islamic state. Now that war is over, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is riding a wave of popular support. But critics say he is more interested in winning elections in May than returning displaced Iraqis home safely.
Iraqis must be in their area of origin in order to vote, and if they have not returned home, this could delay the polls.>>
Mahdi's case is not unique. Aid workers at camps in Anbar province tell Reuters military trucks arrive at camps unannounced, and commanders read lists of people who have one hour to pack their belongings and go. They estimate that between 2,400 and 5,000 people were forcibly returned in the past two and a half months.
An Iraqi military spokesman said claims the military forced civilians to go home were an exaggeration. But he said citizens have to go home now that Islamic state has been defeated.