Jul 31, 2014

Urgent Action For Iraq’s Vulnerable Components Needed: July 2014

UNPO shares first-hand information, obtained by its members in Iraq and the wider region, about the recent developments ever since the Islamic State (IS) brutally took over numerous cities and large swathes of territory in the country. The IS jihadist militants have taken control over Mosul and the nearby region in Iraq and Syria. As the Islamic State has advanced, there have been extremely worrisome reports of the intolerant, violent and abusive attacks on civilians. Considering these activities are taking place in Iraq’s most ethnically diverse region, the countries’ minority communities, as well as other vulnerable groups such as women and children, have been disproportionately affected by the violence and have been subjected to atrocities and crimes against humanity.


The United Nations announced that in June 2014, at least 1075 people have been killed in Iraq, since ISIS militants started their march to capture towns and cities. It was reported that at least 757 civilians were killed and 599 injured in Nineveh, Diyala and Saladin provinces between 5 – 22 June, as Iraqi government troops failed to control and stop the attacks. These numbers include summary executions, extra-judicial killings of civilians, police and soldiers. Since then, the situation has deteriorated incredibly.  The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has reported that there are now over 1.8 million displaced Iraqis.  The targeting and persecution of minority groups and indigenous people due to their ethnicities and religious beliefs by ISIS militants has been particularly troubling.  Iraq's minority groups and indigenous people including the Iraqi Turkmen, Assyrians and Iraqi Kurds have faced massacres, forced conversions and direct attacks on their culture and identities.

Following the alarming security circumstances in Mosul, the Unrepresented Peoples and Nations Organization (UNPO) draws attention to the situation of Iraq’s civilians and vulnerable components, and calls for immediate action.


Timeline of Events

30 July 2014
IS destruction of the culture and history of Mosul continued as its forces were reported to have burnt over 6000 books and texts and a number of ancient social and philosophical manuscripts in the city.  A number of students saved some of the books.


29 July 2014 – Solidarity for Assyrians
People all over the world participated in demonstrations against the persecution of Assyrians by the IS and called for an immediate end to all killings and evictions of Assyrians in Iraq.  Outside the U.N. compound near the airport in Erbil, Iraq, protests braved the intense summer heat to have their voices heard and were joined by a small number of Muslims.  On Saturday the 26th of July 2014, UNPO expressed its solidarity with the Assyrians by participating in a demonstration with Assyrian organizations in the Netherlands at the Peace Palace in the Hague.  Further demonstrations were held in the Washington DC in the US and in many European cities including Paris, London, and Cologne. 
The mayor of the southern Iraqi province of Thi Qar has cancelled celebrations for the upcoming Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr in a bid to show solidarity with Muslims and Christians who fled the northern city of Mosul, a local website reported.
28 July 2014 – Destroyed Sacred Places
Al-Monitor reported that the Islamic State (IS) bombed and destroyed the tomb of the Prophet Jonah in east of Mosul on July 24, adding another example to the important cultural sites which were destructed by armed groups in the last two months in Iraq. Jonah is considered sacred by all Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam so its destruction led to sorrow among many in Mosul. The Nabi Jonah Mosque, a towering structure that housed the shrine, was also destroyed on the same day.
Three important religious sites in Mosul were destroyed on 25 July 2014 namely the Mosque of Seth, which used to be a revered figure in Mosul among Christians, Muslims and Jews; Awn al-Din Shrine, which was built in 13th century and Mosque of the Prophet Jisjis, which dated to the late 14th century.
IS threatened to continue the process of destroying sacred places of other confessions and religions, including Sunni Islam, as the militants consider religious shrines or any other sites related to persons other than Prophet Muhammad to be a sign of polytheism. These threats raised the concerns of most Iraqis, especially the Shiites and religious minorities, in addition to Sunnis who share the same respect and sanctification for these shrines and religious places.

27 July 2014 – UN Statements 
Chief UN investigator for the upcoming report on war crimes in Syria stated on 27 July 2014 that the recent atrocities committed by ISIS fighters may also be included as possible war crimes in the report.  Additionally, on 25 July 2014, two human rights experts including the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons, Chaloka Beyani, emphasized the devastating impact the conflict has had, displacing over 1.2 million people, most of whom belong to minority groups. Chaloka Benyani stressed that minority groups were particularly vulnerable and that special protection for them was vital to ensure their well-being.  He concluded by calling upon the international community to provide all the assistance and support they can to address this growing humanitarian crisis.
A total of 20 civilians were killed and some 15 others wounded in separate clashes and bomb attacks across Iraq, security sources said on Sunday 27 July 2014, as the country continues to stave off a militant Sunni Islamist insurgency.
26 July 2014 – Turkmen IDPs

According to the news reported by Ahram, at a checkpoint north of Kirkuk last week hundreds of displaced Turkmen families from Telafer were on their way to Kerbala on board trucks under 50 degrees heat. Two children were reported dead and buried near the checkpoint in Kirkuk. According to human rights organisations, 60 children from Telafer died on the way. Tired mothers began shouting, “please take our children. We cannot bear to see them die from hunger and thirst. Take our hearts in return for eggs, milk and water.”
25 July 2014 – Amerli Under Siege

The reaction from the international community to the situation of Iraqi civilians is increasing but it is still lacking special attention on the worrisome conditions of Iraqi Turkmen. On 17 July 2014, the European Parliament passed a resolution on the situation in Iraq at their latest plenary session. While the European Parliament took important steps to officially acknowledging the situation facing minorities and vulnerable groups in IS-occupied Iraq, their resolution on the situation in Iraq (2014/2716(RSP)) made no specific mention of the Iraqi Turkmen, despite their being among the worst affected. 

Home to 20,000 inhabitants and to the Iraqi Turkmen people, Amerli has been singled out as a target for violence by the Islamic State and has been holding out under siege by fighters from the Islamic State for nearly 6 weeks.  According to first-hand information from UNPO members, the water supply to the town has been cut off for 10 days by the IS forces and there has been no electricity for 11 days.  Food supplies have almost been depleted and the residents of Amerli must endure intense summer heat, often exceeding 50°C.  The town continues to be shelled heavily by the IS forces. 8 people have already lost their lives and there are over 50 people who are seriously ill and over 30 seriously injured who require urgent medical attention. With no medics present and very few medical supplies, their condition is rapidly deteriorating.  A humanitarian crisis appears to be imminent.


23 July

Following the massacre of 31 women and 2 men in Baghdad’s Zayouna neighborhood last week, carried out by armed groups in the name of fighting against prostitution, Pakhshan Zangana, the head of the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) High Council of Women Affairs in Erbil, made statements regarding the victimization of women during conflicts. She called for the establishment of new programs for women and youth to prevent the influence of the radicals in Iraq, since currently all the policies are off the table. However, activists warn that the weakness of the state institutions leads to attacks on women and the situation will deteriorate every day unless precautions are taken. 

22 July

Intense summer heat poses a danger for refugees who have to stay under burning hot weather of 50 degrees in the desert of Iraq. An Iraqi Turkmen, Mahsoun Habil Muhsin, 35, who escaped from Telafer with his wife and five children told Hürriyet Daily News: “We have been suffering here for a week. The peshmarga doesn’t allow us to enter Erbil. Our children are dying because of the heat and diseases. We buried two old women and three children yesterday. There are new-born babies in the camp and they could die any minute.” 

20 July

The office of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon issued a statement condemning the systematic persecution of minority populations in Iraq by the Islamic State (IS) and associated armed groups in the strongest terms. In the statement the Secretary-General underlined that any systematic attack on the civilian population, or segments of the civilian population, because of their ethnic background, religious beliefs or faith may constitute a crime against humanity, for which those responsible must be held accountable. All armed groups in Iraq, including IS and associated formations, were invited to abide by international humanitarian law and protect civilians living in areas they control.

19 July

The Iraqi Kurdistan regional government called on the international community to rescue displaced Christians and appealed to people in the region to help displaced families within Iraq.

KUNA News Agency reported that Nechirvan Barzani, the head of the Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq underlined the worrisome situation faced by Christians who were forced to flee after the attacks started. Barzani mentioned the cooperation between KRG and UNHCR to help the internally displaced people of Iraq and noted that the Iraqi government has cut off Kurdistan’s share of the general budget, while at the same time not fulfilling its responsibilities towards the displaced residents of the Kurdistan Region. Therefore, he called the international community to provide necessary assistance to the affected families.

18 July 2014

Khedr Doumli, a Yezidi researcher and expert on minority affairs in the region, told Asharq Al-Awsat that: “More than 45 people have gone missing in Shabaki villages in eastern Mosul. Over 30 Shabakis (an ethno-religious group who live mainly in villages in the Sinjar district in Nineveh province in northern Iraq) have been killed during the security collapse in the city. Two days ago, 10 others who had been kidnapped were killed,” IS had taken control of 11 Shabaki villages when Iraqi troops pulled out. Property of Shabakis was plundered and their cattle was confiscated, slaughtered and distributed.

“A total of 13 Yezidis have been killed, and more than 38 others were kidnapped, but 24 of them were set free after the payment of ransom.” He added: “A total of 51 Shi’ite Turkmen have gone missing from the two villages of Qubba and Shrikhan, in northern Mosul. Their sanctuaries and mosques have been razed to the ground.” Doumli also said that ISIS “has dismissed hundreds of Christians from their jobs” in the province’s healthcare system, as well as “[removing] the cross and bell from all Mosul churches and raising the banners of [ISIS] on them instead,” and that they had prevented food rations from being delivered to Christians.

17 July 2014

ISIS removed the cross on top of the dome of St. Ephrem Cathedral which is the seat of the Syriac Orthodox Archdiocese in Mosul, in the Shoorta neighborhood. The Leader of the Chaldean Church Patriarch Louis Raphael sent a letter to the Members of the Iraqi Parliament asking them "to accelerate the elections of the three presidencies to save the country from the dangers of and disorganization and loosing".

According to reports by the Assyrian International News Agency (AINA), since the seizure of the city, all construction work has come to a complete stop and construction workers are now unemployed. There is an increased demand for black colored clothing, veils and hijabs. Women are not allowed to walk the streets unless accompanied by a male. All barber shops and womens' salons have been closed.


16 July 2014

According to recent first-hand information, ISIS has paid visits to many Christian houses in Al-Majmoa'a, Al-Mohandeseen and Nergal (Mosul) neighborhoods warning families about the consequences, should they refuse to convert to Islam. It was stated that they would have to pay "jizya", an Islamic tax to be paid by non-Muslim, or move if they did not convert - a consequence of which many Christian families decided to leave their houses.
Today it was found out that ISIS marked the doors of the houses of many Christians with the Arabic letter ن , which stands for "Nasara or Christian", as an indication that these houses belong to Christian families.

15 July 2014

Al Jazeera reported speaking to a young man on the phone in Anbar Province, western Iraq, on sharia law which is now being applied in Iraq. How sharia is applied is often decided by whomever is dispensing justice and how they interpret the Quran.

"The Islamic State raided the house of a former member of  Parliament, Wisam Aker al-Rawi", he said. "She was in her house in Rawa. The IS soldier tried to take her. Her family, some people from the town and the mosque elders managed to stop them, But still the IS took her two brothers and confiscated 3 kg of gold and a large amount of money. A day later they freed them but only after they flogged them. They kept the gold and money. They have arrested and flogged others and they do this daily. They have set up a sharia court and they flog people without mercy."

14 July 2014

Ersad Salihi, President of the Iraqi Turkmen Front, gave a speech at the Iraqi Parliament calling for the establishment of a safe haven for Turkmens in Diyala and Kirkuk in order to guarantee their safety. Salihi emphasized his concerns about 350,000 displaced Turkmens in Iraq by underlining the historical agony of Turkmens, who have always been caught up in between different conflicting sides in the region.

12 July 2014

Human Rights Watch stated in a report that since 9 June, at least 225 Sunni Iraqis were executed in Tal Afar, Bakuba, Cumarha and Anbar with 8 victims being younger than 18 years old, while ISIS have being expanding its control over the region and pushed back Iraqi security forces.

11 July 2014

A suicide car bombing and a roadside bomb killed 28 people and wounded 25 in Kirkuk. Many of the victims were reported to be women and children.

It was stated that 13 IDPs, including children, have died between Mosul and Erbil because of lack of food and water, while they were trying to find a safe shelter. Baharka Transit Camp (10 km north of Erbil) which is an old warehouse, is one of the camps in which 5000 Turkmens who fled Tel Afar are trying to survive. The living conditions at Baharka Transit Camp are appalling. The place is very dirty, very hot (48°C) and there is no sanitation infrastructure and no medical help. There is an urgent need for baby milk and diapers. There are not enough mattresses and many people are sleeping on the floor outside the warehouse. Children are suffering from diarrhea and dehydration. More IDPs are on their way to this transit camp.

10 July 2014

The Conversation News Company published an article to raise awareness of Iraq’s long and rich cultural heritage – a legacy of thousands of years under the rule of various influential empires. The region is filled with historical artefacts, stone temples and statues (Hatra being the most famous one as a UNESCO World Heritage Site), ancient churches and libraries, and these are all considered to be under threat of the conflict in the country ever since the ISIS attacks started.


9 July

It was reported that ISIS seized the house of Dr. Duraid Hikmat Tobia in Mosul. Dr. Tobia is a member of the Hammurabi Human Rights Organization and an Advisor to the Governor of Nineveh on Minority Affairs. Dr. Tobia had received a telephone call from ISIS militants telling him that they had confiscated his house. 
Mosul residents continue to leave the city to other regions in Northern Iraq. ISIS militants confiscate the houses of those who leave, including the house of the Chaldean Patriarchate. ISIS occupied a house belonging to the Chaldean Bishopric located in the Al Shurta neighborhood in Mosul. Nearly all churches and monasteries in Mosul are now empty, the religious staff has fled.
Tensions which started with the bombings on 27 June 2014 continue in the areas of Baghdeda (Karakus) between ISIS and Kurdish forces. Two nuns, Sisters Utoor and Miskintah, and three orphans (two girls and one boy) are missing, and are believed to be kidnapped by ISIS militants.

8 July

According to official reports by The Hammurabi Human Rights Organization, electricity continues to be in scarce supply in Iraq. Only 15 megawatts reaches the Nineveh Plain, which is only 3% of the required amount. Residents of Baghdeda (Karakus) have begun drilling wells to secure potable water supply. ISIS militants have cut off water supplies to Tel Kepe, Batnaya and other villages. In addition, there is a lack of medical workers since most have fled the region.

6 July 2014

The predominantly Turkmen city of Tuz Khurmatu was bombed on Sunday afternoon by jets at 17:50 local time, killing a 12-year-old girl and wounding at least eight others, as reported by Sardar Ahmed Fatih, a member of Tuz Khurmatu town council to Rudaw.

3 July 2014

Al Jazeera published reported about Iraqi women who are being pushed into desperate and dangerous situations, as men continue to join the fighting in Iraq against ISIS. It was reported that after their village al-Karmah was attacked and their male family members were killed, 40 women and 30 children had to flee with only their clothes on their back to Karbala. Military personnel refused to let the women enter the city, saying that they may be "agents" for the Islamic State at the city's checkpoint. "These women, who've lost their husbands, brothers and sons, are leaving their homes with their young children, trying to escape the conflict, without knowing where to go" Suzan Aref, director of the Women's Empowerment Organisation in Erbil, told Al Jazeera. UNICEF estimates that approximately 250.000 children, accompanied by their mothers, have fled their homes across Iraq in the last week.

It is reported that as more women in Iraq are left isolated, the threat of sexual violence against them is increasing and they become more vulnerable to threats of trafficking, kidnap or sexual harassment. ISIS has issued city rules ordering women to “dress decently” and only to go out of their houses if needed”. Iraqi women, who are left behind due to the conflict are mostly economically dependent on their male family members, have to bear the weight on their shoulders to survive and provide for their children without social security, skills or the freedom to leave their houses.

2 July 2014

Amnesty International reported on thousands of exhausted Iraqi civilians fleeing the conflict in north western Iraq who are stranded at checkpoints separating the autonomous Kurdish provinces and the rest of the country. The organization emphasized the difficulties refugees are encountering when seeking shelter after fleeing from the clashes. The number of refugees reached 1 million since January 2014.

Amnesty International published the following news: 
"Thousands of exhausted Iraqi civilians fleeing the conflict in north-west Iraq are stranded at checkpoints separating the autonomous Kurdish provinces controlled by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the rest of Iraq, said Amnesty International today. Almost all the families interviewed by Amnesty International’s research team in Iraq today and last night are Shi’a Turkmen who fled Tal ‘Afar when fighters from the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) captured the city two weeks ago. They have since been sheltering in the Sinjar area, further west towards the Iraq-Syria border, but do not feel safe there as ISIS recently took control of parts of the border area.

“Thousands of frightened civilians have left their homes and their lives behind only to find themselves stranded on the streets. The Kurdish regional authorities have an obligation to allow Iraqi civilians seeking to flee the fighting to enter or transit through KRG areas,” said Donatella Rovera, Amnesty International's Senior Crisis Response Adviser.[...] Sunni Muslims who have also been fleeing areas under ISIS control (Mosul, Tal ‘Afar and surrounding areas) in large numbers for fear of government airstrikes have similarly been facing increasing difficulties to enter KRG areas; many have simply given up trying and  returned home where they live in fear. An estimated 1 million people have been displaced in Iraq since January 2014. According to the International Organization of Migration (IOM) there were 10,000 internally displaced people within the Sinjar district as of 25 June. " 

[Click here for the full Amnesty International article] 

1 July 2014

Amnesty International has spoken to recently released detainees from the Yezidi community who were captured by the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) in Iraq, as well as to family members of those still held by the group. [...] The captives are among scores of minorities who have been targeted in a spree of sectarian detentions and abductions carried out by ISIS in recent weeks.

“A clear pattern is emerging whereby ISIS is deliberately targeting Iraq’s minorities as well as others suspected of opposing the group, singling them out for detention and abduction,” said Donatella Rovera, Amnesty International’s Senior Crisis Response Adviser currently in northern Iraq.[...]. The organization has also documented a string of abductions carried out by ISIS targeting minority communities, including Turkmen and Shabak Shi’a, Yezidi and Christians. Sunni Muslims suspected of opposing ISIS have also been targeted. Some of those abducted in recent days have since been found dead.[...]

[Click here for the full Amnesty International article]