Aug 31, 2014

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

A special meeting of the European Council convened to discuss the ongoing crisis in Iraq, amongst other topics.  In its Conclusions, the European Council expressed its dismay at the deteriorating security and humanitarian situation in northern Iraq and condemned the indiscriminate killings of civilians, particularly minorities and indigenous groups.  It furthermore linked the instability of Syria as enabling the IS to flourish and noted that political transition in Syria is necessary for a lasting solution in Iraq.  It expressed that the IS is a direct security threat to European countries and expressed the EU’s willingness and determination to help counter the threat.  Finally, the conclusions states that EU member states must take action against extremism in their own countries to stop the flow of foreign fighters to Iraq and Syria.

The Hammurabi Human Rights Organization released a report on the human rights situation in Iraq detailing current human rights abuses and violations.  It reveals that the property of religious and ethnic minorities and indigenous groups who were forced to flee their homes has been stolen, scavenged and is being sold in large open markets.  It claims that the IS is bringing sympathizers from other Iraqi cities and outside Iraq into Mosul, to occupy the houses of the thousands of people forced to flee the IS’s violence.  Sadly, it is reported that the number of suicides in refugee camps and among displaced people in Iraq is rising.

Iraqi and Kurdish forces and Shia militiamen have started an offensive to break the siege on the Iraqi Turkmen town of Amerli that has been trapped for 2 months by IS forces.  Reports of heavy fighting between the two sides have been reported and a number of emergency air drops have reached the civilians in Amerli.


28 August 2014

Recent developments have given some hope to the some 13,000 residents of the Iraqi Turkmen town of Amerli, which has been under siege by IS forces since the start of June 2014.  Iraqi forces and Shia militas are reportedly massing close to Amerli to prepare an offensive to break the siege and rescue the many people trapped in the town.  It is also being reported that US President Barack Obama is coming to a decision on whether or not the US air force will be authorized to conduct air strikes on IS militants surrounding the town and much needed air drops of emergency supplies.  Although the condition of the residents of this town remains dire, these developments certainly provide some hope that the end to their suffering is in the near future.

After a meeting with Commissioner Georgieva and the EEAS’s Executive Secretary General Pierre Vimont, Elmar Brok, Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, called for a “strong EU foreign and security policy lead by a strong personality” to address the numerous crises around the world, including the situation in Iraq.  Elmar Brok further called for the EU to support the Iraqi government and Kurdish Regional Government through humanitarian aid and weapons from EU member states.

A UN report claims that emergency food assistance from the UN’s latest aid initiative have reached over 700,000 displaced people in Iraq.  Most recently, food convoys from the World Food Program have already reached 2,000 displaced in Karbala and that the convoys will continue until Karbala’s 15,000 registered displaced families have received emergency food supplies.


27 August 2014

The 22nd Special Session of the Human Rights Council will be held on 1 September 2014 at the Palais des Nations on the human rights situation in Iraq. The Special Session is entitled “the human rights situation in Iraq in light of abuses committed by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant and associated groups” and has already garnered more than the 16 votes required of the Human Rights Council for the session to convene.

UNICEF’s representative in Iraq, Marco Babille, reported that the Islamic State massacred 700 Iraqi Turkmen civilians in Bashir between July 11 and 12. Eyewitnesses reported that women and children were among those who were murdered by IS forces.


26 August 2014

Peshmerga forces in Northern Iraq are regaining towns formerly occupied by IS forces with help from the Iraqi air-force as part of the ongoing counteroffensive against IS forces.


25 August 2014

Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, condemned the systemic persecution and human rights violations and deprivation of Iraqi civilians, especially minority and indigenous groups at the hands of the IS.  Ms. Pillay said [of the IS], “they are systematically targeting men, women and children based on their ethnic, religious or sectarian affiliation and are ruthlessly carrying out widespread ethnic and religious cleansing in the areas under their control. Such persecution would amount to crimes against humanity.” The statement also specified that the UN had verified that IS forces had massacred as many as 670 Shia prisoners in Mosul’s Badoush Prison when IS captured Mosul on 10 June 2014.

The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) has issued a statement following the review of Iraq at its 85th session requesting that the Human Rights Council convene a special session and called for a UN peace force to help create a safe zone on the plain of Nineveh to protect indigenous communities and facilitate the return of displaced people.


22 August 2014

Pope Francis of the Catholic Church has reportedly donated $1 million dollars to help Iraqi Christians and other minorities who have been persecuted and displaced by the IS, according to the Pope’s personal envoy to Iraq, Cardinal Fernando Filoni.

A joint resolution at the US Senate meant to help protect Iraqi Christians from genocide and expedite their requests for asylum in the USA. (SJR) 17 was passed unanimously by the US Senate last week.  However, it is currently being held by the Assembly Rules Committee (ARC) and it looks unlikely to be implemented.

Ethnic and religious tension are at risk of escalating in Iraq after dozens of Sunnis were murdered in a mosque outside Baghdad. Shiite militias are suspected of committing the atrocities in response to the actions of the IS. Recent developments may further divide Iraq along ethnic and religious lines, while also unsettling the hope for greater national unity that accompanied the nomination of a new Prime Minister of Iraq.


20 August 2014

A video purporting to show the brutal execution and beheading of American journalist James Foley, who has been missing in Syria since 2012, by an IS militant has surfaced online.  The militiant in the video states that the execution is in response to recent US air strikes against IS vehicles, artillery and militants.  Another American citizen, identified as journalist Steven Sotloff, is shown at the end of the video and threatened with the same fate as James Foley if the US air strikes continue.  The authenticity of the video has not yet been verified at the time of writing.  US President Barack Obama will make a statement later today once the authenticity of the video has been established.

At its 85th session, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), charged with monitoring the implementation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination completed its consideration of the 15th to 21st periodic report on Iraq and its implementation of the convention.  The difficult situation in Iraq and the atrocities committed by the IS against minority groups and indigenous people were also discussed and taken into consideration.  The Committee called for the UN Security Council to establish a UN Peacekeeping Mission to Iraq as well as a Special Session of the Human Rights Council to establish a Commission of Inquiry into the events.

The Italian parliament has decided to back Prime Minister Matteo Renzi's decision to arm Kurdish forces fighting the IS.  The decision means that Italian weapons and munitions could reach the Kurdish forces, "within days," claimed the Defence Minister, Roberta Pinotti.


19 August 2014

Pope Francis, the head of the Catholic Church, endorsed military action in Iraq to stop the Islamic State and the persecution of minorities. It marks a very rare occurrence where the head of the Catholic Church has officially advocated for military force.

The United Kingdom, Italy and Sweden have started to send tents, blankets and other humanitarian aid to Iraq by activating the EU Civil Protection Mechanism in response to a request by the Iraqi authorities.  The Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection, Kristalina Georgieva, stated, "Europe stands with the Iraqi people in their hour of need. The activation of the EU Civil Protection Mechanism ensures that European aid can rapidly reach those areas most affected by the fighting." 

The UN Agency for refugees (UNHCR) is launching "a very, very significant aid push" to reach more than half a million internally displaced people in northern Iraq.  The emergency aid will be send by air, land and sea through Turkey, Jordon, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Iran.

The Chair of the European Parliament Committee of Foreign Affairs (AFET), Mr. Elmar Brok (EPP, DE) stated that “Europe must act immediately” in Iraq and called on the Foreign Affairs Council, the EU Member States and the Commission to increase the amount of humanitarian aid to Iraq.  He further called for the EU to help to open up a humanitarian corridor, that that emergency aid and supplies can reach those who need it most.


18 August 2014

Kurdish forces backed by US air support have taken back Mosul Dam from IS control.  Ali Awni, an official from Iraq’s main Kurdish party, confirmed “Mosul Dam was liberated completely.”  In Iraq’s Anbar province, security forces and Sunni Arab tribal militias made progress against IS forces.


17 August 2014

Peshmerga forces accompanied by US air support have launched an offensive to try and retake Mosul dam from IS forces.  President Obama justified American involvement by stating that the dam presents a significant threat to American interests in Iraq if it were to be destroyed.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has issued an update on the condition of Iraqi Turkmen trapped in Amerli.  UNPO were gravely concerned by this situation at the end of July and, yet, the 20,000 Iraqi Turkmen have remained trapped and the humanitarian situation has continued to deteriorate.  Some people have been airlifted out by the Iraqi air force, but the vast majority have not been so lucky and remain behind.  An attempt to evacuate women and children in the town following negotiations with the IS resulted in tragedy as IS militants attacked and killed 30 people attempting to leave. The Iraqi authorities requested assistance from the UN Mission in Iraqi (UNAMI) to break the siege and provide humanitarian aid, but IS presence is making it difficult for the UN to transport aid to the area.


15 August 2014

EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton, convened an Extraordinary Foreign Affairs Council.  Council conclusions were issued expressing that while there would be no coordinated European military assistance in Iraq, the EU would continue to provide humanitarian aid and expressed support for individual European states’ decisions to assist the peshmerga with arms.  It further welcomed Mr. Heider Al Abadi as Prime Minister-designate of Iraq and commended Nouri al-Maliki for facilitating a quick and peaceful transition of power.

The Czech Republic and Italy have joined France in pledging to supply the Iraqi Kurds with arms and munition.  The end of August [2014] was set as the likely date of delivery.

Incumbent Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki agreed last night [14 August 2014] that he relinquish power and allow a peaceful transition of power to Prime Minister-elect, Haider al-Abadi.  This is welcome news amid concerns that al-Maliki would engineer a coup or that political infighting would plunge the already divided country into deeper political turmoil.


14 August 2014

In the wake of the atrocities and flagrant human rights violations by the IS, the UN has declared a Level 3 Emergency (its highest level) for the humanitarian crisis in Iraq.  UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Iraq, Nickolay Mladenov, said this move will trigger additional goods, funds and assets to help those who have been displaced.

13 August 2014

French President Francois Hollande announced that France will arm Kurdish forces in the coming hours in order to combat IS forces.  Hollande stated that France’s decision was approved by authorities in Baghdad.  While an extraordinary meeting of EU ambassadors failed to reach a joint position on arming the Kurdish forces, it was agreed that individual members were permitted to.  The US are reportedly arming the Kurdish forces as well, but this has yet to be confirmed.  Earlier today, the US announced it would send a further 130 military advisers to the Kurdish region to assist with humanitarian objectives, but stressed that ground forces would not be deployed.

The UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence (SRSG) in conflict, Zainab Hawa Bangura and the UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Iraq, Nickolay Mladenov released a joint statement condemning atrocious acts of sexual violence and ‘savage rapes’ the IS has inflicted on minorities in areas under its control.  It further urgently called for the immediate protection of civilians, as about 1,500 Yezidi and Christian persons may have been forced into sexual slavery.  They called for the immediate release of all the abducted women and girls and stated that acts of sexual violence are grave human rights violations that can be considered as war crimes and crimes against humanity.

12 August 2014

Last night [11 August 2014], Martin Shultz, the president of the European Parliament, issued a statement condemning the recent terror and violence being spread by the IS and stated that the EU must support all efforts which supply humanitarian aid to those who desperately need it and those which aim at ‘suffocating’ the threat posed by jihadist networks.

Today, the European Commission issued a press release revealing that the European Commission is increasing its humanitarian aid to Iraq by an additional €5 million to address the growing humanitarian crisis in northern Iraq.  This takes the total funding from the EU to Iraq up to €17 million in 2014.

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has reported that there are approximately 1.2 million displaced people in Iraq.  In the Kurdish region alone there are 700,000 displaced Iraqis and a further 220,000 Syrians forced to flee their homes.  The UNHCR also relayed as many as 35,000 of the Yezidi people trapped in the mountains around Sinjar have escaped to Dohuk governorate of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq over the past 72 hours.

The NATO General Secretary has issued a statement in support of Iraqi President Fuad Masum’s decision to nominate Mr. Haider  al-Abadi as Prime Minister of Iraq.

11 August 2014

The political situation in Iraq is being thrown into further disarray as Prime Minister al-Nouri Maliki has accused the President of Iraq, Fuad Masum, of violating the constitution and he lodged an official complaint in court due to his refusal to grant Nouri al-Maliki a third term as prime minister, despite his coalition winning the most seats in April.  Instead, the Shia National Alliance had nominated the deputy parliamentary speaker, Haider al-Abadi, instead of the incumbent.  Iraq’s highest court has ruled that the president must form a government with the largest political block.  President Fuad Masum has officially replaced al-Maliki with Haider al-Abadi, although al-Maliki has remained defiant and refused to step down.  This political discord is an unwelcome sign for the many calling for national unity to combat the IS. 

The EEAS has issued a statement welcoming the nomination of Haider al-Abadi to the position of the prime minister by Iraqi President Foad Masoum and called on all Iraqi political leaders to intensify their efforts to quickly form an inclusive new government. The spokesperson for the US State Department spokeswoman, Maria Harf, and the special representative of the UN secretary-general to Iraq, Nicklay Mladenov,also both voiced support for President Fuad Masum.

10 August 2014

A major security concern has arisen as the IS has taken control of the Mosul Dam.  The dam is one of the largest in Iraq and provides the IS with control over a majority of the water supply to the region.  Additionally, so much water is held back by the dam, that if the IS opted to destroy it, it would put Mosul and the surrounding area under several feet of water and could even reach Baghdad.  While analysts suppose that the water supply is too important for the IS to destroy the damn at the current moment, there is genuine concern that they could destroy the dam if forced to retreat or that the dam may break by itself through inadequate maintenance.

The spokesman for the Iraqi Ministry of Human Rights has stated that the IS are detaining about 500 Christian and Yezidi women under the age of 35 in schools around Mosul.  The women are facing regular human rights violations and abuse.  They are reportedly being treated as slaves and are threatened with rape and death.  Unconfirmed reports claim these women are being sold or given to jihadists as wives.
The first of thousands of displaced Yezidi trapped in the mountains around Sinjar have been rescued after Kurdish forces were able to secure a safe corridor for them to escape.  More than 5,000 Yezidi people were able to escape the mountains through this corridor, but far more still remained trapped.  Furthermore Kurdish forces, along with US air support, have recaptured the towns of Makhmour and al-Gweir near Erbil.

The EU External Action service issued a statement condemning the latest attacks by IS militants and expressed its grave concern at the deteriorating humanitarian situation of civilians, particularly minorities, in northern Iraq.  The statement said the actions of the IS may constitute crimes against humanity and called for them to be investigated and those responsible to be held accountable.  It concluded by stating that the EU is providing much needed humanitarian aid to civilians in northern Iraq, in conjunction with UN agencies and other international partners.

Finally the French Minister of Foreign Affairs, Laurent Fabius, has stated that France is examining the possibility, in conjunction with other EU member states, of supplying the Iraqi Kurds with arms.  He also labelled the actions of the IS state as ‘genocide’.  Laurent Fabius stated that France was willing to work on a plan of action within the Security Council, and that France would not intervene without Security Council approval.

9 August 2014

Francois Hollande, the President of France, has expressed his support for American military action against IS militants in northern Iraq.  He voiced his willingness for France to take part in a plan for action through the UN Security Council on the topic and furthermore called upon the European Union to provide the much needed humanitarian relief in Iraq.

Pope Francis, head of the Catholic Church, has appealed to the international community to take steps to ending the humanitarian crisis in Iraq and to provide necessary aid to all Iraqis displaced by the violence.  He condemned the violent actions of the IS and expressed his grave concern with the plight of Iraqi Christians affected by the recent violence.

8 August 2014

There was a significant focus last night [7 August 2014] on action by the international community to assist in addressing the crisis in Iraq.  At a briefing of diplomats and representatives of international organizations in Erbil, the Head of the KRG Department of Foreign Relations, Minister Falah Mustafa, outlined the threat posed by the IS and the most recent political and humanitarian developments.  He proclaimed that the threat of the terrorist groups like the IS is not confined to one state, but rather constituted a threat to the entire international community.  Minister Falah Mustafa therefore articulated that it was also the responsibility of the international community to assist in combating the IS and called for urgent humanitarian and military action, particularly air support, to assist the KRG in fighting the IS forces.

President Obama also announced last night that the USA would provide such air support in a limited and targeted manner.  He outlined two major components of the impending US action in Iraq: protecting American personnel and interests in Erbil and Baghdad through targeted air strikes against the IS and, secondly, to address the humanitarian crisis and potential genocide facing the Yezidi people trapped in the mountains around Sinjar.  He stated that the US air force would be conducting air drops of emergency aid and supplies to the trapped Yezidi people and has already started to do so.  Furthermore, President Obama stated that the US air force would conduct targeted strikes against IS forces around the mountains of Sinjar to protect the Yezidis and would work with peshmerga forces to open a safe corridor for those trapped to leave the mountains without the threat of violence and death from IS forces.  President Obama concluded, saying: “One Iraqi said, “There is no one coming to help”, well today America is coming to help”.

In the early afternoon, the US air force launched its first air strikes against IS forces.  The air strikes targeted mobile artillery being used to shell Kurdish forces outside of Erbil.


7 August 2014
It has just been reported that the entirely Christian town of Qara Qosh has been emptied of its 50,000 inhabitants and is now under the control of the Islamic state.  The towns of Tal Kayf, Bartella and Karamlesh have also been captured by the IS, with their original populations fleeing the towns overnight. Sources in Iraq assert that IS forces continue to advance into territory previously controlled by the peshmerga, most worryingly towards towards the refugee camp on Khazir river in direction of Kalak.  This will further exacerbate the humanitarian crisis resulting from the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians.
Further reports state that number of Yezidi people trapped in the mountains around Sinjar with very little food and water may be as many as 40,000.  The Iraqi government has joined efforts to airdrop emergency supplies to those stranded, but there is simply not enough reaching them.  With no other means to transport vital aid to these displaced people and no way for them to leave without facing violent attack by IS forces, they face a catastrophe if Sinjar remains in the hands of the IS for much longer.
6 August 2014
The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) has started working to address the needs and provide emergency aid to the many internally displaced people in the Nineveh province in Iraq and to the estimated 200,000 people displaced by the IS’s assault on Sinjar. UNHCR reported that they were providing 2,000 family tents and 6,000 emergency aid kits to help the 15,000 displaced people in camps around the town of Shariya, in addition to the 1,000 kits they sent on Monday, 4 August 2014.
Fighting erupted across Iraq between the IS and Kurdish and Iraqi forces, as the peshmerga launched a counteroffensive in Sinjar, Telkeif and across the Nineveh plains with support from the Iraqi air force.  Although Sinjar remains in the hands of the IS, peshmerga forces made gains to the south and west of Telkeif.  IS fighters are reported to have launched a series of mortar attacks killing two children and a woman in the city of Qaraqosh and another person in Telkeif.  The humanitarian crisis in the region remains, unabated, as the Yezidi people trapped on the mountain of Sinjar are still facing death from hunger and thirst, despite efforts by the Human Rights Commission in Kurdistan to airdrop emergency supplies.  Sources in Iraq report that IS fighters have massacred several hundred Yezidi and that a couple of hundred Yezedian woman and girls have been kidnapped by IS forces outside of Sinjar.
Kurdish television reported that IS forces had repelled the Kurdish counteroffensive and had taken control of two Kurdish settlements close to Erbil: Mahmour and Gwar.  The IS shelled the Christian enclaves of Bartella and Qara Qosh killing five people, including a woman and her baby.
In Baghdad, a deadly series of car bombs ripped through the city killing 51 people.  Four separate car bombs detonated across Baghdad, including a pair of bombs targeting the densely populated Shiite neighborhood of Sadr City. These bombings occurred following an attack by the Iraqi air force on IS fighters at a prison in Mosul.  Any direct links between the two events have not yet been confirmed.
5 August 2014
The brutal and discriminatory treatment of ethnic and religious minorities by the Islamic State continued following the IS’s recent assault and capture of Sinjar and Zumar.  The Yazidi people made up as much as two-thirds of the population of the captured Sinjar province before being forced to flee as the IS captured the town.  The Yezidi religion is ancient and unique from both Christianity and Islam and is thus regarded as heretical by the IS.  Reports state that 67 Yezidi men were executed by IS forces and that many more are trapped on the Sinjar mountain and are surrounded by IS fighters. 
UNICEF has also reported that 40 children from religious and ethnic minorities in Sinjar have died over the last two days as a result of violence, displacement and dehydration.  The report states that up to 25,000 children are stranded in the mountains around Sinjar and are in need of urgent assistance.
The UN Security Council issued a statement condemning, in the strongest terms, the most recent attacks by the IS on Sinjar and Zumar and their systemic attacks and persecution of the minority populations in northern Iraq, especially the Yezidi people in the most recent attacks.  The Security Council recalled that widespread and systemic attacks on civilian populations due to their ethnic or religious background may constitute crimes against humanity, and called on member states to implement targeted financial sanctions, an arms embargo and travel bans on the Islamic State and those associated with or assisting them.  It encouraged political entities in Iraq to overcome divisions and strengthen nation unity to address this crisis.  Finally, the Security Council urged all parties to cease human rights violations, permit humanitarian access and intensify the efforts to address the humanitarian needs of internally displaced people in Northern Iraq.
4 August 2014
The IS has taken strategic territory in clashes with forces from the Kurdish peshmerga, marking the IS’s first major victory against Kurdish forces.  Both sides suffered casualties as Kurdish soldiers were pushed back by the advance of the IS forces.  The IS has captured the towns of Sinjar and Zumar, an oil field and, most worryingly, the largest damn in Iraq from Kurdish forces in their latest assault over the weekend.  Minority groups and indigenous people in the area have been forced to flee after the spread of the IS.  The Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki has just announced that the Iraqi air force will provide air support for Kurdish forces fighting the IS.
The Spokesperson of the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy released a statement condemning the ‘terrorist actions’ from the Islamic State, especially the killing and kidnapping of innocent civilians, and expressing concern at the dire humanitarian situation faced by almost 200,000 people who have been forced to flee their homes by these recent attacks.  The statement concludes by calling upon the Government of Iraq and the Government of the Kurdistan Region to confront the threat posed by the IS.
2 August 2014
The US Congress unanimously passed House Resolution 683, which states Congress’s concern on the situation in Iraq and recognized the urgent need to protect religious minorities being persecuted by the Islamic State.  It signified an important step for the USA to recognize and hopefully take steps to alleviate the plight of minority and indigenous groups in Iraq.
1 August 2014
The Society for Threatened People has issued a press statement that Islamic State forces are preparing for a large-scale offensive on the Syrian city of Hassakah, which is inhabited by 200,000 people of varying faiths and ethnicities.  Large numbers of Hassakah’s Assyrian population are fleeing the region due to threat posed by the IS.  Fearing a repeat of the situation faced by Assyrians in Mosul, Assyrian families in Hassakah have left their property and livelihoods behind to escape the advance of the IS.