Hawija (Arabic: الحويجة, Al-Ḥawīja; Kurdish "hawij" for wild carrot) is the centre of Al-Hawija District in the Kirkuk province of Iraq, 45 km west of Kirkuk, and north of Baghdad. The town has a population of about 100,000 inhabitants.
Hawija district has approximately 150,000 inhabitants, about 85 percent of them Sunni Arabs and the rest mostly Shia Turkmens. Most of the inhabitants live in rural areas.
During the Iraq War, U.S. and Iraqi forces experienced numerous lethal attacks in the area from Sunni insurgents. As of March 2006, the area of Hawija was considered one of the most dangerous in all of Iraq with US soldiers and the foreign press corps in Baghdad dubbing Hawija "Anbar of the North," a reference to the violence wracked province in Western Iraq.
Following the Iraq War, Hawija came into media focus on 19 April 2013, when an unprecedented amount of violence erupted. In the 2013 Hawija clashes between Sunni protesters and Iraqi Army, some 53 people were killed. Further associated violence brought the total death toll by April 27, to 215.
According to open sources on 23 April 2013, Hawija became the focus of violent anti-government protest and deadly Government intervention tactics which left at least 27 Sunnis protesters shot dead, exacerbating political division and sectarian polarisation within Iraq. Later death toll of protests was 53, while associated violence resulted in 215 deaths by April 27. This crackdown prompted Sunni tribal figures in the town and across northern Iraq to harden their rhetoric against Maliki's government. Gun battles erupted across Iraq's majority-Sunni cities between protesters and Iraqi Security Forces—including in Ramadi, Fallujah, and Mosul. From Jordan, influential religious figure Sheikh Abdul Malik al-Saadi said, "self defense has become a legitimate and legal duty." Some Sunni tribes mobilized, declaring jihad against Baghdad.
An ISIL operated prison was raided in the area by Kurdish and American special forces on October 21, 2015. After about 70 prisoners were freed, the US bombed the facility.
During ISIL occupation, Hawija's residents have suffered severe shortages of critical supplies, including food, water, and medicine. Many of the town's residents have fled. The Kurdistan Regional Government estimates that 18,000 people fled Hawija in August 2016; they say that approximately 400–450 families arrive at Peshmerga checkpoints from Hawija each week. The UN estimates about 300 arrivals at the Debaga Refugee Camp (one of the largest in Iraq) each week. Unconfirmed reports indicated that ISIL is executing civilians caught trying to escape, and planting land mines to keep residents in place.
ISIL-occupied Hawija became isolated from the rest of ISIL's territory in July 2016 during the Battle of Mosul, when Al-Shirqat was captured by Iraqi troops. Hawija is ISIL's last enclave in central Iraq.
On September 21, 2017, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced an offensive to reclaim the city after over three years of ISIS rule. The city was liberated from ISIS by October 4, 2017.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Hawija.|