Khalil al-Jobory escaped the “Islamic State” (IS) terrorist militia groups, but setting up a new home in the city of Tikrit proved far more complicated than expected. As he had fled from an area under IS control, he needed ten different signatures in order to be classified as a non-threat. “It took over a month,” the Iraqi says.
But in the meantime internally displaced persons need only four signatures to obtain security clearance – thanks to a concept called Community Policing which the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) has set up at the request of the Iraqi government and with German financial support. Representatives of municipalities and the security authorities meet in Community Policing Forums to discuss urgent problems and find solutions. “My relatives now also feel they can come here,” al-Djobory says. “I wish we had police like this all over Iraq.”
The concept of Community Policing is meant to restore trust in the state and the Iraqi government among people in areas that have been liberated from IS. The idea is that Community Policing will enable Iraqis to experience police officers serving their communities, providing support to local people and helping returnees to overcome their fear of conflicts.
Community Policing is part of a package of more than 52 projects in Iraq being coordinated and funded by the Directorate-General for Crisis Prevention, Stabilisation, Post-Conflict Peacebuilding and Humanitarian Assistance of the Federal Foreign Office. Some 290 million euros have been provided for Iraq in 2017 alone. Stabilising the situation in Iraq and helping local people are not merely humanitarian imperatives and part of global responsibility for peace. They also make it easier for internally displaced persons to stay or return home.
Greater trust and better opportunities at home
Most Iraqis want to return home, even under the most difficult circumstances, says Placido Silipigni, project manager of IOM, which is carrying out the German-funded Community Policing project in Iraq. Silipigni stresses that security is the crucial aspect for people. “If you don’t have a certain level of security, you won’t have economic growth. And then people lose hope and look for alternatives.” This leads to displacement and migration movements among population groups that do not actually want to emigrate. A functioning police force is therefore key to building trust and improving options for people to stay in the country. “A police officer’s uniform stands for the state,” Silipigni says. “The uniform should say ‘We are here to protect you and to guarantee freedom for everyone’.” However, this only works “if people trust and respect the police”.
Community Policing Forums provide a neutral authority
Silipigni and his team put a lot of effort into choosing the police officers who will take on a community-policing role. These officers need experience and training to chair the forums where the community’s problems are discussed. They also need the ability to recognise and defuse tensions before they turn into overt conflict. They often play a role in building better relations between the community and internally displaced persons and returnees and in overcoming their mutual suspicion.
Their work can also involve organising a safe route for children to travel to school during a wave of attacks by IS terrorists or ensuring that teenagers whose families face hardship do not drift into crime. The Community Policing Forums address problems that are otherwise never discussed in public as well, such as domestic violence and who can help in such cases. “Showing that the police are also there to help weak and vulnerable people in society sends an extremely important message,” Silipigni says. Community Policing Forums are meanwhile seen as a neutral authority. “That in itself is a huge step forward.”.
Find out more:
German Red Cross: Helping refugees in northern Iraq (Video)