Urgent Action For Iraq’s Vulnerable Components Needed: September 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 September 2014
According to the news agency Rudaw, the UN faces a funding gap of $360 million to provide emergency supplies to the approximately 860,000 internally displaced people in Northern Iraq. This according to a joint response plan to be published by the UN and the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) in the coming few days.
29 September 2014
In an effort to enable children affected by the violence and conflict in Northern Iraq to continue their education, the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TİKA) has reportedly distributed stationary and school supplies to Turkmen students and schools in the Iraqi town of Erbil. This will come as welcome news to the many Turkmen students seeking to start the new school year.
27 September 2014
At the meeting of the UN General Assembly today, European and international leaders took the opportunity to draw attention to and condemn the ‘unspeakable brutality’ of terrorist actions in Iraq and Syria. Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Germany, stated the response to crisis needed to go further than the immediate humanitarian and military responses. In his address to the GA, Minister for Foreign and Political Affairs of San Marino expressed concern over IS attempts to wipe out religious and ethnic communities in Northern Iraq, labelling it ‘ethnic and religious cleansing’. Lubomir Zaoralek, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic, also condemned the brutal acts of violence perpetrated by the IS and called these ‘war crimes and crimes against humanity’ and stated that Czech Republic supported the responsibility to protect in this circumstance. Andorra’s Head of Government, Antoni Martí Petit, Portuguese Foreign Minister Rui Chancerelle and Sebastian Kurz, the Federal Minister for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs of Austria, also used their addresses to condemn the actions of the IS and call for an international solution to address the crisis. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan denounced terrorist groups in the region who falsely wave the banner of Islam and called for concerted international action to defeat them.
26 September 2014
Iraqi President Mohammed Fuad Masum addressed the UN General Assembly about the IS and the situation in Northern Iraq. He stated that the IS had committed crimes against humanity and inflicted incredible suffering on Iraqi people and further proclaimed that there was 'no other option but to defeat ISIL, all terrorists, everywhere'.
25 September 2014
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Prince Zeid Ra'ad Zeid Al-Hussein, condemned the execution of human rights defender Sameera Salih Ali Al-Nuaimy by the Islamic State. Sameera Salih was reportedly taken from her home and tortured in the days leading up to the execution. This brutal murder is just one of a number of attacks on women in IS occupied territory, including the abductions and presumed murder of two female candidates for the Ninewa Provincial Council on the 22nd and 23rd of July 2014. Prince Zeid Ra’ad Zeid Al-Hussein also condemned the continuing detention, sexual violence and exploitation and sale of hundreds of women and girls in areas captured by the militant group.
Iraqi Turkmen Front President Arshad al-Salihi called on the international community for financial and military support. He stated that Iraqi Turkmen had suffered the most causalities of any group in Northern Iraq and said, "Turkmen are the biggest target and we are being ignored". He called for the international community to arm the Iraqi Turkmen and provide greater humanitarian aid, which at the current moment he claims is only coming from Turkey.
Bishop Sarhad, the senior Chaldean Catholic Bishop of America, has urged for Christians not to be excluded from the new inclusive Iraqi government. There are not Christian ministers or cabinet members, despite their being amongst the worst affected by the advance of the IS.
24 September 2014
The IS has reportedly set up an outdoor cinema in Mosul showing massacres, executions and other brutal crimes conducted by IS militants. It has been reported that the cinema is an attempt to influence the city and its residents through fear, intimidation and propaganda.
At his address to the UN General Assembly, Francois Hollande confirmed the beheading of French citizen, Herve Gourdel, by Islamic militants affiliated with the Islamic State and spoke of the need to destroy the Islamic State. President Tayyip Erdogan used his address to call for international support to aid victims of terrorism, with a vast number of refugees displaced by the conflict currently residing in Turkey. UK Prime Minister David Cameron used his address to outline a plan for combatting the IS by call for an international comprehensive plan to combat the ideology of extremism. US President Barack Obama called for international cooperation to tackle the threat posed by the IS and called for the international community to rebuild the the fractured multilateral system on which the UN is based and “rejecting the cancer of violent extremism”.
The Assyrian Green Church, one of the oldest and most beautiful religious sites in Iraq, was destroyed by explosives. Islamic State (IS) militants are heavily suspected to be responsible for its destruction as part of their horrific campaign to eradicate Assyrian history, culture and identity from Northern Iraq.
The Yazidi women who have managed to escape the IS have bemoaned the international community for forgetting them. According to experts, approximately 4,000 inidividuals remain detained by IS forces, including 3,000 women and children. Yazidi women who escaped IS imprisonment have told chilling accounts of women being beaten, raped and traded like commodities.
The UN Security Council convened to discuss the wave of violent extremism occurring across the world and particularly the threat posed by the Islamic State. A resolution was passed unanimously condemning violent extremism and expressing the need to stop the travel and movement of foreign extremists.
23 September 2014
The UN has stated that despite insecurity in the region, its programs have been able to provide food assistance to 1 million displaced Iraqis. There has also been a sharp rise in the number of refugees in recent weeks with 60 per cent of them citing fears of the Islamic State (IS) as the reason for their flight, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). According to UN statistics, “10,644 Iraqi refugees have registered with UNHCR in Jordan, with 1,383 registering in August alone – the highest monthly tally of new registrations since 2007. In Turkey, some 103,000 Iraqi refugees have come forward to be registered by UNHCR or its partners, including 65,000 since June 2014 when ISIL forces took over areas of northern Iraq”.
Syrian Kurds have come under threat as the IS is opening a second front in Syria. The latest IS offensive has targeted the Kurdish people in Syria and has resulted in numerous deaths and a great many people being forced to flee their homes. IS forces have started an assault on the Kurdish city of Kobane, which is home to 150,000 people. The UN Refugee Agency estimates that 130,000 of Kobane’s residents fled their homes. Many have called for international assistance to prevent Kobane from being overrun and more massacres and displacement from occurring.
18 September 2014
The European Parliament passed a resolution on how to address the situation in Iraq and the condition of minority groups. The resolution strongly condemned the murders of journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff and humanitarian aid worker David Haines and called on the EU to assist the local and national Iraqi authorities as much as possible in combating the IS, including the provision of appropriate military assistance. The resolution urged the international community to cut off all funding to the IS by enforcing the UN arms embargo and asset freeze more effectively and by targeting oil traders and businesses dealing with the IS. It also recognized the problem of EU citizens travelling to Iraq and Syria to fight for the IS and called for member states to take appropriate action to stem the flow of these fighters and to take appropriate legal action against anyone suspected of being involved with terrorism. Furthermore, it welcomes US efforts to form a coalition to address the situation and the Arab League for their participation. The resolution also encouraged the Commission to prepare a program to protect women and children affected by the conflict, in tandem with international partners. It stressed the ultimate goal should be the safe and secure return all citizens, especially minority groups including Christian (Assyrians, Syriacs and Chaldeans), Yazidi, Turkmen, Shabak, Kaka’e, and Sabian communities, to their homes, although the resolution stopped short of calling for safe havens to be established in Iraq for refugees.
17 September 2014
A debate on the situation in Iraq and the protection on minorities was held at the plenary session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, in preparation for a resolution on the topic on 18 September 2014. Subsequent press releases by the political groups outlined their respective position going into the resolution.
The draft resolution of the EPP Group called for prosecution of European citizens who have gone to Iraq and Syria to fight for the IS, provision of appropriate military assistance and increased humanitarian aid and the creation of safe havens in Iraq and Syria to provide security and assistance for refugees.
The ALDE Group stressed the need to provide further humanitarian assistance, especially to minority groups. They called for further cooperation, especially with regional powers, including Iran, Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf states to develop a comprehensive EU policy approach and create more political stability in the region.
The S&D Group stated that the Islamic State presents a threat not only to the Middle East, but to the entire world. They stressed that Europe must play a stronger role internationally and work with its allies to protect the people of Iraq and Syria and to uproot the Islamic State.
The Greens/EFA Group stated that an EU common strategy for fighting the IS was necessary and that governments and companies dealing with the IS should be sanctioned. It also stressed more support for refugees and asserted that all those responsible for serious human rights violations should be held accountable before the ICC. Finally, the Greens/EFA group urged caution and control with regards to any military action in Iraq, so as to prevent negative impacts on civilians.
The EFD Group issued a press release on Tuesday [16 September 2014] asserting that Russia was on the side of the EU in countering the threat posed by the IS.
No press releases on the subject were found from the European Conservatives and Reformists Group or the Confederal Group of the European United Left - Nordic Green Left.
16 September 2014
Approximately 75% of the residents of the predominately Iraqi Christian town of Alqosh have returned to their homes this past week. The town was overrun by IS militants and the residents forced to flee in early August, but the town has recently been recaptured by Kurdish and Iraqi forces. With increased security, many of the residents have been able to return to their homes and the formerly displaced people have recaptured some normality in their lives.
15 September 2014
An International Conference on Peace and Security in Iraq was convened in Paris, bringing together 26 nations from Europe, Asia, the Middle East and North America, as well as the European Union, the United Nation and the Arab League. The participants noted that the IS poses a global threat and pledged to support the newly formed Iraqi Government in combatting the IS by any means necessary, including appropriate military assistance. The participants at the conference stressed, however, that any military action in Iraq must comply with international law and refrain from jeopardizing the lives of civilians. The need to continue and increase efforts at providing much needed humanitarian assistance was also reaffirmed
A number of Arab states have offered to conduct air strikes against IS forces alongside the ongoing efforts by the United States. It solidifies the anti-IS position of these Arab states and is perhaps the most concrete statement of intent by Arab States against the Islamic State to date. However, it could risk further inciting regional tensions and stirring up religious tensions.
14 September 2014
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has pledged to increase and intensify its humanitarian action in Iraq to provide aid and assistance to the 1.5 million displaced people. It aims at providing food, clean drinking water, medical supplies and other emergency assistance in 17 of Iraq’s provinces.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has published a report detailing the humanitarian funding and commitments to Iraq in 2014. At the time of writing at total of 903,025,703 USD has come from various sources to address the crisis in Iraq, with a further 26,119,169 USD pledged.
The IS has published a video showing a militant beheading British humanitarian aid worker David Haines. David Haines has been held captive since being abducted in Syria last year. He is the third civilian to be executed by the IS in this manner, as a supposed retaliation against US air strikes against IS forces. The UN Security Council strongly condemned this “heinous and cowardly” act and offered sympathy and condolences for his family. The 15 members of the Security Council released a joint statement saying, “This crime is a tragic reminder of the increasing dangers humanitarian personnel face every day in Syria. It also once again demonstrates the brutality of ISIL, which is responsible for thousands of abuses against the Syrian and Iraqi people.”
UN Humanitarian Chief Valerie Amos visited a camp for internally displaced persons in Dohuk and the town of Khanke in northern Iraq as part of a four-day visit to the country. She called for sustained funding and support from the international community to continue to assist those most in need. With winter coming and vast numbers of people still displaced, she pointed out the need for increased assistance in the coming months to stabilize the humanitarian situation there.
Human Rights Watch, amongst others, are calling for an investigation into an air strike by Iraqi government forces that hit a school sheltering displaced persons in Alwayi Al-Thawri neighborhood of Al-Alam on 1 September 2014. The air strike killed 31 civilians, including 24 children, and wounded 41 others. On 13 September 2014, the newly elected Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi ordered the Iraqi Air Force to “halt shelling of civilian areas even in those towns controlled by ISIS.”
9 September 2014
Iraq’s parliament has officially named Haider al-Abadi as prime minister and approved most of his Cabinet appointments. A real attempt to form a unified and inclusive government has been made with positions allocated to Shia, Sunni and Kurdish individuals. Three deputy prime ministers were named: Hoshyar Zebari, the Kurdish outgoing foreign minister, Saleh al-Mutlak, a secular Sunni, and Baha Arraji, a Shia Islamist. A defence and interior have yet to be named, but Mr. Abadi has promised to do so within a week. US Secretary of State, John Kerry, called the new government “a major milestone” for Iraq. In the Kurdish autonomous region, there was a fierce debate on Monday [8 August 2014] as to whether it should participate in the new government. The KRG were reportedly unsatisfied with concessions made by the National Alliance, the coalition of Shia political groups, particularly with regards to the KRG’s budget. The Kurdish bloc eventually decided to attend the parliamentary session and participated in the formation of the new government.
8 September 2014
In a presentation to the UN Security Council, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Leila Zerrougui, voiced her concern and anguish with the situation of children in Iraq and the Islamic State’s total disregard for human life. “ISIL has tasked boys as young as 13 to carry weapons, guard strategic locations or arrest civilians. Other children are used as suicide bombers,” said Ms. Zerrougui. Approximately 700 children have been killed, summarily executed or seriously injured in Iraq since the start of the year, according to UN monitoring bodies.
Speaking at the 27th session of the Human Rights Council, the new UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, called for the international community to stop the increasingly interrelated conflicts in Iraq and Syria and took the opportunity to lash out at the Islamic State. Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein accused the IS of having an “extremely narrow and unyielding ideology” and accused them of trying to create a “house of blood”. Furthermore, he urged Iraq to join the International Criminal Court (ICC) to ensure accountability and justice and called for special protection for religious and ethnic minorities, children and women affected by the conflict.
Assisted by US air strikes, Iraqi government forces have reportedly secured a large area around the strategic Haditha dam. IS militants have repeatedly attempted to capture the dam and posed a significant threat, so these are welcome developments for those fighting against the IS.
7 September 2014
The Arab League has vowed to take all necessary measures to combat the IS and agreed to cooperate with international and regional efforts to do so at a meeting of Arab foreign ministers in Cairo. It also endorsed a UN Security Council resolution passed last month requiring states to, "act to suppress the flow of foreign fighters, financing and other support to Islamist extremist groups in Iraq and Syria".
6 September 2014
Peshmerga forces have recaptured Mount Zartak and surrounding towns from IS forces, assisted by US air strikes. The mountain is located in the Anbar province is strategically important as it overlooks a plain that stretches to Mosul.
5 September 2014
At the recent NATO Summit in Wales, US President Barack Obama announced that a coalition of NATO allies is ready to join the United States in military action against Islamic State. A ‘core coalition’ has already been formed, US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said, which would be composed of the US, Britain, Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Poland and Turkey. It is hoped that more countries will join the coalition to combat the threat posed by the IS. The US and its allies intend to develop a comprehensive plan for fighting the IS before the annual UN General Assembly session in New York taking place this month.
2 September 2014
Recently nominated EU Foreign Policy Chief, Federica Mogherini, has given a speech to the European Parliament about a number of EU foreign policy issues, including the situation in Iraq. She expressed her belief that the unity of all Iraq is essential and that a referendum on splitting the country into different states along religious and ethnic lines is a misguided approach. She also voiced her opinion that stopping the IS would include action in Syria, but did not necessitate cooperation with Assad.
Amnesty International has uncovered evidence that the IS is committing waves of ethnic cleansing, committing war crimes and carrying out summary executions against religious and ethnic minorities in northern Iraq. In particular, it has documented several massacres around Sinjar and compiled a report titled: ‘Ethnic cleansing on historic scale: the Islamic State’s systematic targeting of minorities in northern Iraq’, which provides first had accounts of the atrocities being committed.
1 September 2014
A special session of the Human Rights Council was held on the situation in northern Iraq. A resolution was adopted urging the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to immediately send a mission to Iraq to investigate IS violations and abuses. It also strongly condemned violence against persons on the basis of their religion or ethnic affiliation, as well as violence against women and children. Accountability for these atrocities was a major theme of the special session. Flavia Pansieri, the Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, stated that they are gathering evidence of crimes committed by the IS and affiliated groups that constitute severe violations of international human rights and humanitarian law.
After almost 2 months under constant threat of violence by IS forces, the suffering of the 15,000 remaining residents of Amerli is coming to an end as the siege on the town has finally been broken. Kurdish and Iraqi forces now are in control of the Iraqi Turkmen town. They were assisted by US air strikes targeting IS military vehicles and air drops of emergency aid to the residents.