Urgent Action For Iraq’s Vulnerable Components Needed
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 Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) draws attention to the situation of Iraq’s civilians and vulnerable components, and calls for immediate action.
Timeline of events per month:
Timeline of Events
9 August 2015
Through a statement by the Turkmen Rescue Foundation, it was reported that the so-called Islamic State executed approximately 2000 civilians in Mosul. The victims were accused of being apostates due to their positions at the police, Electoral Commission, media and political positions. Approximately 700 of those executed were Turkmen. The victims were executed in front of a public audience by firing squad.
3 August 2015
The governor of Kirkuk ordered the expulsion of 38 Iraqi Turkmen displaced families from TalAfar, throwing their beds and clothes outside the building without arranging for any form of alternative shelter for them. Furthermore, the governor’s office ordered the demolition of approximately 60 houses of Turkmen citizens in Kirkuk although they had papers documenting their possession of those properties.
In a report released by the think-tank Airwars, it was brought to light that international coalition air strikes in Iraq and Syria have killed more than 400 civilians, despite the campaign being described as “the most precise and disciplined in the history of aerial warfare”. The report further identifies 57 separate incidents in which there is publicly available evidence that suggests that those air strikes killed non-combatants without links to ISIS nor other extremist groups in the region.
26 July 2015
After a bomb attack widely thought to have been carried out by ISIS in the Turkish town of Suruc, which killed 32 people, Turkey’s air force retaliated by attacking ISIS position in Syria, as well as PKK positions in northern Iraq. Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu announced that this action ie meant to defend Turkey’s security.
18 July 2015
The Spokesperson of the European External Action Service (EEAS) condemned the attacks that occurred during Eid, which celebrates the end of the holy month of Ramadan, where 100 people were killed in the Iraqi Diyala province by a terrorist attack.
In the statement, the EU’s commitment to contributing to regional and international efforts to tackle violent extremism and terrorist groups that threaten regional and global security was highlighted. It was further stated that “such violence tries to undermine Iraq’s efforts to return to peace and stability”.
17 July 2015
A car bomb killed 120 people in the city of Khan Bani Saad, in the Iraqi Diyala province, during Eid celebrations, in one of the deadliest attack in Iraq over the last 10 years. ISIS has taken responsibility for this attack.
13 July 2015
Iraqi authorities proclaimed the start of the battle to liberate the Anbar province from the so-called Islamic State. This offensive is to have the participation of the police, army, Popular Mobilization Units, and tribal fighters. The operation’s main objective is to retake the city of Fallujah, under ISIS control since January 2014.
23 June 2015
The World Health Organization (WHO) is afraid that around 90% of the health centres in areas affected by conflicts in Iraq will close down as a consequence of the combination of the more than 3 million people fleeing the violence and the high temperatures topping 120 degrees Fahrenheit in some areas. According to a spokesperson of the WHO, more than $60 million are needed to ensure that these 77 health centres stay open.
In Nineveh, a province in northern Iraq, sixteen houses of Christian residents were recently blown up. These are part of the more than 1870 houses of several ethnic and religious communities that were blown up in the province in total.
In Baghdad, Iraq, Iran, and Syria agreed to meet in a security forum to strengthen their cooperation in the fight against extremism, terrorism, and Israel.
22 June 2015
Action on Armed Violence (AOAV), a monitoring group, has stated that Iraq is the most dangerous country for civilians to live. In the top 10 of the most dangerous places in the world, the country is closely followed by Syria.
15 June 2015
According to Mr Barzani, the Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), the population of the Kurdistan region has increased by 28% after Iraqi refugees and displaced people have started moving to the area. Mr. Pennington, U.S. Consul General, has stated that the KRG’s assistance to these IDPs has been exemplary. Moreover, the latter said that he is looking forward to continuing the coordination between the KRG, the national Government and the international community for the supply of humanitarian support.
14 June 2015
Two Kurdish women’s rights organizations, Guide to Women’s Peace and Emma, have released a report in which they call on the Iraqi and Kurdish Governments to help rebuild the region of Shingal. It will take many years to rebuild the ancestral land of Kurdish Yezidis, following the Islamic State’s attacks. Moreover, the reports states that sexual crimes against Yezidi women should be investigated by female officers that have received a special training on how to address the issue.
8 June 2015
Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), one of the very few international organizations that works in the unsafe areas of northern and central Iraq, has warned about the growing need for humanitarian aid. In response to the increasing number of refugees and displaced peoples, MSF has recently expanded its operations in these areas.
4 June 2015
On the occasion of the launch of the Iraq Humanitarian Response Plan, co-organized by the EU and the UN, the European Commission announced that it has allocated an extra budget of €25 million for humanitarian aid in Iraq. This supplementary financial support will be used in particular to support internally displaced people, funding their health care, water and food and shelter, among others.
2 June 2015
Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Iraq face many public health challenges. As up to 90% of the IDPs live outside IDPs camps and summer, with temperatures reaching 50°C will arrive soon, there exists a high risk of outbreak of diseases such as hepatitis and cholera. However, a WHO official warned that if the UN and its partners do not manage to collect the required $500 million needed for the 2015 humanitarian response for Iraq, IDPs in the country will face even harsher conditions.
The Islamic State has kidnapped at least 500 Iraqi children among which some are only five years old. The young boys and girls, who come from the provinces of Diyala and Anbar, have been taken to special camps in both Iraq and Syria where they will be trained to become soldiers or even suicide bombers.
29 May 2015
According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), around 85,000 Iraqis are currently fleeing Ramadi. Moreover, it is estimated that more than 180,000 people from the area have been displaced due to the fighting. Because of the restrictions and other obstacles at the borders of the province, people face serious difficulties while trying to flee to other areas. According to Mr. Spindler, a spokesperson of the UNHRC, “freedom of movement and access to safety” should be guaranteed to all Iraqis.
499 bodies have been unburied in the presidential complex in Tikrit. It is believed that these bodies are Iraqi militaries, who were killed in the Iraqi Base called Camp Speicher in June 2014.
22 May 2015
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), the last border crossing between Iraq and Syria controlled by the Syrian government has now been seized by the so called Islamic State. Moreover, the SOHR stated that 50% of Syria is currently controlled by the IS and that the group has also significantly increased its presence in Iraq after Ramadi was captured.
21 May 2015
After a meeting between the EU ambassador to Iraq and the President of the Kurdistan region last Wednesday [20-05-2015], the former revealed plans about the opening of an EU office in Erbil, the capital of the Kurdistan region. Moreover, during the meeting in which the diplomatic and economic ties between Kurdistan and European countries were discussed, Ambassador Hybaskova promised that Kurdistan will continue to receive support from the EU.
20 May 2015
As a result of the ongoing sexual abuse of captured Yazidi women and girls by IS militants, many of them have committed suicide. For this reason, the Islamic State has prohibited Yezidi woman and girls to wear headscarves, as these have been repeatedly used by Yazidis to hang themselves.
19 May 2015
The city of Ramadi has become a ‘ghost town’ after more than 100,000 residents fled the capital of Anbar province in April alone. However, since the fall of Ramadi to IS last Sunday [17 May 2015], another 4000 families have fled the city. Dozens of displaced Iraqis are currently waiting at a checkpoint at the border of the Kurdistan region, hoping to enter the area.
According to the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons (IDP’s), Mr. Beyani, the disturbing developments that are currently taking place in Iraq, including the fall of Ramadi, are likely to result in massive new displacements. Therefore, today [19 May 2015], the Government of Iraq was urged by a UN human rights expert to give the nearly three million IDP’s in the country a higher priority.
18 May 2015
A group of 64 Iraqi Turkmen refugees has arrived in Turkey after escaping from the Islamic State in Iraq. The Turkmen belong to one of the ethnic groups that have been most seriously affected by the IS. The refugees had to travel through Syria, as it was too dangerous to go directly to the Turkish border. It took them more than two weeks to arrive in Turkey’s southeastern province of Hatay.
14 May 2015
As thousands of Yazidis are trying to escape the Islamic State, big sums of money have been paid by some of them to be rescued. Although some people are willing to smuggle Yazidis for free, just to help them, the majority of the smugglers ask for a significant amount of money. According to a spokesperson of the NGO Yazda, some people paid up to $15.000.
11 May 2015
The Islamic States has established military training camps in Raqqa (Syria) and Tal Afar. In these camps, the IS detains Yezidi children and forcibly trains them to become child soldiers. According to Mr Sheikh Shamo, a Yazidi Member of the Kurdistan Parliament, approximately 600 to 700 Yezidi children are currently missing.
5 May 2015
Around 150 displaced Christian Iraqi families who fled the IS in Mosul, now live in the Christian neighborhood of Ankawa, in Erbil. While living in tents and shipment containers, the refugees struggle to provide their children with education. Due to the fact that the refugees do not speak Kurdish, they are unable to attend local schools.
3 May 2015
From 3 may 2015, Massoud Barzani, the President of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), travelled to Washington for a three-day visit, which included a meeting with US President Barack Obama. During the meeting, the two politician discussed various subjects including the war between the Kurds and IS, relations between Baghdad and Erbil and the establishment of an independent Kurdish state.
In a prison camp in Northern Iraq, at least 25 Yazidis have been killed by IS militants on 2 May 2015. The victims, who were shot, include men, women, and elderly. According to Mr. Khalil, a Member of Parliament, the reasons behind the shootings are unknown, although he believes the IS is trying to spread horror among the Yazidis to force them to convert to Islam.
1 May 2015
A new EU decision allows the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to attend high-level meetings between the EU and Baghdad. According to Dellawar Ajgeiy, the KRG representative in Brussels, this is a victory, as it allows for an improvement of the relationship between the KRG, the Iraqi Government and the EU, in addition to a better protection of the interests of the Kurds.
30 April 2015
Iraq has been urged by global organizations, including the UN and the EU, to sign the Rome Statute and to join the International Criminal Court (ICC), as this will give the Court jurisdiction to prosecute the crimes committed by leaders of the Islamic State. The ICC can prosecute individuals responsible for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, but only when national authorities are unable or unwilling to do so. However, Iraq, as well as Syria, are not willing to join the ICC, as this would open the possibility for the ICC to prosecute all crimes, and not only the ones committed by the IS.
28 April 2015
Peshmerga commanders in Kirkuk estimate that Kurdish forces are now in control of almost all Kurdish territories outside the Kurdistan region, as they have recaptured at least 36 villages from IS militants. This is a significant achievement for the Kurds, as the implementation of article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution, which requires that Iraqis displaced by “Arabization” must be compensated and moved back to their original areas, is now much closer.
23 April 2015
Although Iraqi forces have recaptured some parts of Ramadi, they are still fighting for the control of some areas. The landmines and other explosives that IS installed in the city make it harder for the forces to clear some districts. Besides, according to a local authority, chemical weapons have been used by IS militants in some areas of the Anbar province.
21 April 2015
As millions of people face displacement as a result of Iraq’s humanitarian crisis, the situation is in danger of escalating due to lack of coordination between Iraq’s authorities, which are responsible for providing safety to those fleeing into Iraqi Kurdistan, according to the United Nations.
According to the United Nations, more than 114,000 people have fled the Ramadi region in the past weeks.
20 April 2015
The Kurdistan region’s Security Council has announced that the peshmerga forces have successfully driven off IS militants from an area of 84 square kilometres in Northern Iraq.
13 April 2015
UNESCO has recently opened two secondary schools for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the Kurdistan region. The Dawodiyah Secondary School and the Baharka Secondary School were opened with the objective of improving access to quality education for both boys and girls.
12 April 2015
In Mosul, IS militants have recently kidnapped 120 schoolchildren aged between twelve and fifteen. It is believed that the children will be trained to become fighters of the Islamic State if their families do not have enough resources to pay a ransom.
10 April 2015
According to several sources, the women who were part of the group of Yazidis released earlier this week, were victims of gang-rapes, tortures, physical and sexual abuse, and other types of violence during their captivity. During the last eight months, some of these Yazidi women and children were sold as sex slaves or even given for free as ‘’prizes’’ to ISIS fighters.
One of the victims is a nine year old girl who was raped by at least ten different men during her captivity. News reports have revealed that the young Yazidi girl is pregnant as a consequence of sexual abuse by members of the Islamic State. The victim, who was noticed by aid workers in a refugee camp in Iraq, is both mentally and physically traumatized.
8 April 2015
More than 200 Yazidis have been released by ISIS. The majority of those released are women and children. Yazidis have been treated with cruelty by the Islamic State ever since the organization took over their towns in northern Iraq. Many of them have been killed, raped, or enslaved.
7 April 2015
In Tikrit, the Iraqi military has discovered eleven mass graves that contain the corpses of around 1700 Iraqi soldiers. The authorities are expecting to discover more mass graves in the region, as the Islamic State has most likely executed a much higher number of persons since it overran Tikrit in June.
6 April 2015
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has announced the willingness of the Bagdad government to cooperate with the Kurdish authorities to liberate the inhabitants of the northern province of Nineveh from the Islamic State.
According to Rahman, representative of the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG), the top priority of the KRG is currently the fight against the Islamic State. Gaining full independence, which has been the objective of the KRG for decades, is not the immediate priority at the moment, in consideration of the threat posed by the Islamic State.
5 April 2015
Press TV has reported the use of toxic chemical weapons by the Islamic State in Tikrit. The chemicals include chorine gas and ammonium nitrate and were used against government forces, Kurdish peshmerga and voluntary forces. The use of chemical weapons by the Islamic State has been reported before by various sources in northern Iraq and Syria.
1 April 2015
The town of Tikrit was recently liberated from the Islamic State by Iraqi Security Forces. Ján Kubiš, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Iraq, called it a victory for all Iraqi people. Mr Kubiš called for the Iraqi government to ensure the safe return of all those who fled Tikrit over the past year.
30 March 2015
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon met with Iraqi leaders in Baghdad to discuss the security situation and recent political developments in Iraq. During his visit, Ban Ki-moon met several Iraqi officials, including President Fuad Masum, the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister. In order to respond to the urgent need for additional resources to save lives in Iraq, Ban Ki-Moon called on Iraq and the international community to increase assistance to the more than 2.5 million people who have been displaced by the occurring violence. He also stressed his concerns about the numerous killings, abductions, and destruction of property by the so called Islamic State.
28 March 2015
The head of UNESCO announced that the UN body responsible for cultural protection will increase its measures to protect Iraq’s cultural heritage. Since the beginning of the year IS militants have looted and destroyed priceless artefacts at museums and archaeological sites, including the ancient city of Hatra, which is listed as a world heritage site by UNESCO.
26 March 2015
The UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs has urged the international community to end the violence in Syria, which is disproportionately affecting civilians. More than 220,000 people have died since the beginning of the conflict in 2011. Furthermore, as the Islamic State has closed down offices of several aid organizations in Deiz ez Zor and Raqqa, the conditions in these areas are deteriorating every day.
23 March 2015
More than 900 Yezidi who were captured by the Islamic State have been rescued. However, 4500 Yezidi are still detained and this number includes approximately 3000 women. Until now, around 55000 Yezidi’s have fled from the Islamic State.
In Iraqi Kurdistan, displaced Iraqis and Syrian refugees have received the assistance of the Qatar Red Crescent (QRC). Around 35,340 families received food, blankets and heaters.
20 March 2015
The situation in Iraqi Kurdistan is deteriorating. Because of the Islamic State, there are more than 1 million internally displaced people (IDPs) and 225,000 refugees from Syria, all in need of assistance. This caused Iraqi Kurdistan’s population to grow by 28% in the last year. Problems include competition for jobs and grim conditions in the area. The poverty rate in the area has more than doubled.
19 March 2015
According to a UN report based on interviews with more than 100 alleged victims and witnesses, the Islamic State has committed war crimes, crimes against humanity, and they could even be accused of committing genocide against the Yazidi community.
In the province of Kirkuk, 4000 Iraqi Turkmens are fighting the Islamic State. According to Iraqi government officials, there are another 10.000 Turkmens who have finished their training. During military operations in Kirkuk last week, in which Turkmen fighters participated, the Islamic State lost control of 31 villages and three towns.
17 March 2015
During an interview, Mr Neil Wright, UNHRC representative in Iraq, stated that considering that there is no solution to the Syrian crisis in sight, there will probably be an increase in the numbers and needs of Syrian and Iraqi refugees throughout 2015. It will also take a long time before an improvement in the political and security situation actually has an impact on the daily lives of Iraqi citizens.
15 March 2015
A mass grave with the bodies of 16 Turkmens has been discovered in the Bashir district near Kirkuk. It is believed that they were killed by IS militants.
14 March 2015
According to the Kurdish Regional Government in Iraq (KRG), the Islamic State is using chemical weapons against Kurdish Peshmerga forces. Evidence of the use of chlorine by IS militants was found by conducting a lab analysis on samples from a suicide bombing on 23 January 2015.
13 March 2015
ISIS has announced its acceptance of the promise of allegiance by Boko Haram in Nigeria. This raises further concerns, as it makes the two terrorist groups, both authors of appalling violations of the human rights of ethnic and religious minorities, potentially more difficult to defeat.
UNICEF has stated that among the people affected by the ongoing conflicts in Syria and Iraq, there are around 14 million children.
12 March 2015
A resolution that calls for the protection and safety of Assyrians and other religious minority groups has been passed by the European Parliament. The resolution calls for a safe haven for Assyrians in northern Iraq, and recommends to the international community to be more active in the prevention of kidnappings.
11 March 2015
The Islamic State has launched coordinated offensives in the city of Ramadi. Those offensives are targeted against Kurdish forces in Syria and Iraq, and the Iraqi national forces.
9 March 2015
Since the beginning of their campaign, IS militants have abducted more than 200 Iraqi Turkmen women. Many of them have been raped of killed. Other Turkmen women died after going on labour while fleeing their hometowns.
8 March 2015
According to local lawyers in Iranian Kurdistan, 23 Kurdish female activists are currently imprisoned. These women are part of the over 100 female Iranian activists currently in jail. Two of the women have been sentenced to life imprisonment, while the other 21 have been condemned to a total of 68 years in prison.
7 March 2015
The Islamic State are continuing their offensive against Assyrian Christians in Northeast Syria. From 23 February 2015, Christian towns along the Khabour river have been attacked. The Syrian Christians have desperately appealed for help, as between 262 and 373 members of their community were abducted in the last few days. According to the European Syriac Union, some are still missing.
4 March 2015
Another barbaric execution by the IS has taken place in Raqqa. Once again, a young man has been thrown from a building, after IS militants accused him of being gay. Photos released by the local activist group ‘Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently’ show how the blindfolded man was killed in presence of a huge crowd.
3 March 2015
Although a small group of the over 200 Assyrians kidnapped by IS was released last week, the fate of the remaining victims remains unknown. According to the Assyrian International News Agency, at least twelve of them have been executed.
1 March 2015
Nineteen Assyrian Christians were released in north-eastern Syria by the IS. They are part of the estimated 220 Assyrians that were kidnapped from 12 different villages on 23 February 2015. According to the Assyrian Human Rights Network, the captives were released after being ordered by a Sharia court to pay a tax for not being Muslims.
23 February 2015
According to the German newspaper ‘Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung’, the Islamic State’s offer to hand over the bodies of Kurdish fighters for 10 to 20 thousand dollars each, is a clear proof of the financial difficulties that the terrorist organization is facing.
Besides, dozens of Assyrian Christians have been kidnapped by IS militants in a surprise attack. Some 65 to 90 children, women, and men have been kidnapped, and at least 21 Assyrians are missing. This adds up to several similar instances that have taken place in the past few months.
Assyrians have always been one of the most persecuted minority groups by the IS. The IS has displaced tens of thousands of them, stating that the organization would execute any Assyrian who refused to convert to Islam.
The UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) released a report covering the widespread human rights violations in Iraq from 11 September 2014 until 10 December 2014. The report notes that ’Many of the violations and abuses perpetrated by ISIL may amount to war crimes, crimes against humanity and possibly genocide’. In fact, members of Iraq’s diverse communities, including the Turkmen, Yezidi and Kurds, have been intentionally and systematically targeted by the IS.
22 February 2015
In recent days, Kurdish fighters have reconquered around 185 square miles of an area in the Sinjar district that was under the control of the IS. The city of Mosul is now surrounded on three sides by the Kurds and it has become more difficult for the IS to transfer goods and weapons to it. According to Mr Masrour Barzani, Chancellor of the Kurdistan Region Security Council, Mosul will soon be liberated.
20 February 2015
Around 25.000 Iraqi-Kurdish fighters are preparing an operation to recapture the Iraqi city of Mosul from IS in April or May. In Saudi-Arabia, military chiefs from more than 20 countries gathered to discuss how to strengthen the Iraqi army against the IS. Before the IS captured Mosul, it was home to more than a million people. Currently the city is in the hands of 1000 to 2000 IS militants.
18 February 2015
After hours of heavy fighting, Kurdish forces succeeded in repelling an assault by IS fighters. During the fight, which took place southwest of Erbil, 40 IS fighters were killed.
17 February 2015
In Al-Baghdadi, 45 people were burned to death by jihadist militants from the IS, who has captured much of the Western Iraqi town, located near the Ain al-Asad air base. Al-Baghdadi was one of the few towns in Anbar province still controlled by the Iraqi government until its fall last week.
According to the spokesperson of the EU HR/VP, the murder of the 45 residents of Al-Baghdadi is further evidence of the denial by IS of human life and dignity. Through its regional Strategy for Syria and Iraq as well as the Da’esh threat (add hyperlink to the strategy) of February 2015, the EU is determined to stand by Iraq in the fight against terrorism.
Besides, according to Iraq’s ambassador to the UN, Mohamed Alhakim, the IS is using organ harvesting as a way to finance its operations. Alhakim accused the IS of ‘crimes of genocide’ for targeting certain ethnic groups, and stated that bodies with surgical incisions and missing kidneys or other body parts have been found in mass graves. Adding that doctors in Mosul have been executed for refusing to participate in organ harvesting, Alhakim called on the UN Security Council to look into the allegations.
16 February 2015
During Monday’s series of airstrikes, key targets of IS were destroyed by the U.S. and its allies. Two vehicles, a building, and a large tactical unit were destroyed.
Besides, in the early morning Egyptian F-16 jets bombed IS camps. The bombings were carried out in retaliation of a video showing the beheading of Egyptian Christians by IS militants, released on 15 February 2015. According to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, his country reserves the right for retaliation.
15 February 2015
A video in which 21 Egyptian Christians are being beheaded by black-suited IS militants was released on Sunday. In January 2015, it was confirmed by the Egyptian foreign ministry that the Egyptians had been kidnapped in two incidents in Libya.
14 February 2015
IS militants released a nine-minute video in which they threaten to carry out terrorist attacks in Brussels and Paris. The video is called ‘A message to France’, and it was released in Arabic and French.
Furthermore, a video in which seventeen Kurdish soldiers are being paraded through a town in cages has been released by the IS. The video, which is believed to have been filmed in Hawija, shows prisoners in orange jumpsuits being paraded through screaming crowds. There is fear that the prisoners will be burned alive, as the video shows similarities with the brutal death of the Jordaninan pilot Muath al-Kasaesbeh earlier this month.
13 February 2015
Ethnic and religious tensions in Iraq are growing, with unconfirmed reports claiming that Yazidis have attacked four Arab villages, believed to have sided with the IS, over the past two weeks in revenge of the persecution and killings of Yazidis by the IS last year. According to a special adviser at HRW, Fred Abrahams, the amount of horrific crimes carried out against Yazidis by the IS only keeps growing.
12 February 2015
According to the World Bank, Iraq’s Kurdish region is currently facing not only a humanitarian, but also an economic crisis. The World Bank stated that foreign investment has fallen as a consequence of a suicide attack at the oil hub of Kirkuk earlier this month. Besides, trade, public-investment projects and transportation have been disrupted. At least $1.4 billion is needed for the Kurdistan Regional Government to stabilize the economy.
The United Nations Security Council unanimously approved a resolution on measures targeting sources of funding for ISIS and Al-Nusrah Front (ANF). The Council urges global cooperation to “impair, isolate, and incapacitate” terrorist threats.
11 February 2015
During a plenary debate on the humanitarian crisis in Iraq and Syria taking place in Strasbourg, MEPs called for more support to help the victims of the violence of the IS. In January 2015, 12.2 million Syrians were in need of humanitarian assistance. According to the EU’s humanitarian aid Commissioner, Christos Stylianides, around 20 million people are in need of urgent assistance.
American intelligence officials estimate that around 20.000 foreign fighters have joined the IS. 3400 IS fighters from the Western world, of which ca 150 from the U.S.A, are currently fighting in Iraq and Syria. Francis X. Taylor, the intelligence chief of America’s Homeland Security Department, stated that Washington is “unaware of any specific, credible imminent threat to the Homeland.”
10 February 2015
The US has confirmed that 26-year-old American aid-worker Kayla Muller, who was captured by IS in 2013 and held hostage by the group since, has been killed. IS claims she had died in a Jordanian air strike on the Syrian city of Raqqa, whereas the Pentagon says there is "no doubt" IS killed her.
9 February 2015
Militants of the IS executed yet another man in public. The man was being charged for witchcraft, although precise details of his ‘crime’ remain unknown. Released photos show the brutal beheading of the man.
6 February 2015
The European Commission and the High Representative presented the first EU comprehensive strategy on tackling the crises in Syria and Iraq and the threat posed by IS. The new strategy will bring together an additional € 1 billion in funding for the coming two years. 40% of the financial assistance will be reserved for humanitarian aid.
3 February 2015
Jordan executed two prisoners linked to the IS. Sajida al-Rishawi and Ziad al-Karbouli were both executed in the morning of 3 February in revenge for the publication of a 22-minute long video showing Jordanian pilot Moaz Al-Kasasbeh being burned alive in a cage. Al-Kasasbeh was captured by IS after his F-16 jet crashed near the group’s Syrian headquarters of Raqqa in December.
Jordanian King Abdullah II called the murder a ‘cowardly act of terror’, but added that Kasasbeh's death 'would only make us stronger'.
27 January 2015
Iraqi Shia militias have been accused of killing of over 70 civilians, including some children, who were escaping from the conflict. However, the Interior Ministry’s spokesperson denied responsibility for the deaths and suggested that they might have been killed by IS fighters.
26 January 2015
After over four months of fighting, the Kurdish Peshmerga have allegedly expelled IS fighters from the city of Kobane, on the border between Iraq and Syria. At the same time, the Iraqi army managed to free the city of Diyala.
According to the testimony of a refugee, the Iraqi Turkmen who fled to Turkey from Mosul and Tal Afar, receive less resources and attention than Syrian refugees in the same area. Even essential medical treatment is difficult to obtain.
19 January 2015
According to Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently, a local activist organization, a week ago a group of 13 teenagers was executed by the Islamic State in Mosul for watching a football match between Iraq and Jordan in violation of religious rules.
Most media also reported on videos circulating on the internet that show men being thrown from a building in Mosul, allegedly as a punishment for being gay. Other videos show women being stoned on charges of adultery.
17 January 2015
Approximately 250 Yazidi prisoners have been released by the Islamic State after over six months of captivity. The group, which included several children and elderly people, reached a checkpoint not far from Kirkuk and is now in safe hands in an area under Kurdish control. Most of the released prisoners are in poor health and have clearly been abused and neglected during their captivity. The reasons behind the release of these prisoners are still unknown.
15 January 2015
According to the testimony of a pregnant teenager who managed to escape the IS, Yazidi female prisoners are subject to several abuses, including rape, torture, forced conversion to Islam and forced blood donations to IS fighters.
13 January 2015
The President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Mr Peter Maurer, who is visiting Iraq this week, reported on the extremely difficult conditions that internally displaced persons continue to face. In underlining the need for more support, including from ICRC, Mr Maurer praised the country’s leaders and the local communities, who are doing their best to protect their civilians from the ongoing conflict and are generously helping their displaced fellow countrymen before international organizations and NGOs can reach them with aid.
The cold wave that has plagued the Middle East over the past few weeks with snow and temperatures falling below freezing, is putting the lives of thousands of refugees at risk. According to Agence France-Presse, the temperature drop has already killed at least 27 children in Iraq alone.
12 January 2015
The US Department of Defense has been issuing daily reports on the involvement of their troops in the conflicts in Iraq and Syria. For example, on 11 and 12 January alone, US forces conducted 21 airstrikes on Syria and 25 on Iraq. These figures are confirmed by Middle-Eastern news agencies.
11 January 2015
Iraqi Body Count reported on at least 17,000 civilians killed in Iraq, 500 of which occurred in the first ten days of 2015. This brings the total count of civilian deaths in Iraq since 2003 to a shocking estimate of between 135,000 and 150,000.
The Kingdom of Sweden announced that it may send a small military unit to Iraq, following a request for assistance by the Kurdistan Regional Government. According to the guarantees given by the Swedish Foreign Minister, Ms Margo Wallstrom, the soldiers will provide the Kurdish peshmerga forces with training only, and Sweden will not send combat troops. The Scandinavian country is hoping to prove its commitment to “share responsibility for meeting a difficult threat”. The Swedish Minister also referred to a similar possible deployment of non-combat troops by the Republic of Finland, as suggested by the Finnish Minister of Defence, Mr Carl Haglund, in November 2014.
Iraqi Prime Minister, Mr Haider al-Abadi, expressed his belief that it will be very difficult for Iraq to find a solution to the deteriorating situation of its military forces while simultaneously fighting the IS. Although he has already taken several measures to resolve the existing obstacles, including sacking high-officers who were involved in corruption scandals, al-Abadi believes the restructuring of the military might take up to three years.
7 January 2015
The mayor of Kirkuk announced that his administration does not have enough resources to assist the half-million refugees currently in the only refugee camp of the city and especially to protect them from the cold. The local administration believes it is the central government’s responsibility to help these people, many of which fled to Kirkuk over six months ago.
30 December 2014
The whereabouts of the 136 Turkmens who were kidnapped by jihadist in Tal Afar in September and have been kept as hostages in Mosul for the past three months are currently unknown. The group includes 62 young women and 74 children below the age of 11, some of which only a few months old. The families of the missing Turkmens have not had any news since 20 December.
27 December 2014
National Public Radio reports that the present conflict, following 10 years of instability, is destroying Iraq’s cultural diversity irreversibly. Numerous minorities, including the Yazidi, several different Christian groups, Mandaeans and Shabaks, which have inhabited Northern Iraq for centuries, have been forced to leave their ancestral lands. While some are hoping to return to their homes in the future, many are fleeing the country permanently. This will have a profound impact on Iraq as it represents an enormous cultural loss for the country.
16 December 2014
President of Iraqi Kurdistan, Massoud Barzani, endorsed new legislation, which was already ratified by the parliament in October 2014, to establish ‘5 official languages’ in the Kurdish region in Iraq. Under the new legislation, Kurdish and Arabic remain the two official languages in the region, but languages of the Turkmen, Assyrian and Armenian communities will be considered to be official languages in areas where these communities form the majority of the population. However members of these communities who live in Kurdish majority regions will not be able to have full recognition and enjoyment of their languages.
15 December 2014
Residents inside Mosul have stated that the IS has cut off all communications in the city and are preventing Mosul’s residents from leaving. It is suspected that this is being done in preparation for a large offensive by Iraqi government forces to retake the city in the near future.
Over 180 German citizens who fought for the IS in Iraq and Syria have returned to Germany, according to Thomas de Maizière, the federal minister of the interior. Most of those who have returned have reportedly had their passport revokes and harsher punitive measures are being looked into.
The situation in Iraq and Syria and the threat posed by the Islamic state was discussed at the 3361st Council meeting of the EU Foreign Affairs Council. The Council discussed the crisis with the UN Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, which will inform the EU’s comprehensive strategy for the region.
14 December 2014
Christians are allegedly being tortured in local churches across northern Iraq by IS militants. The churches themselves are reportedly being defaced, with statues and crosses being removed and destroyed.
13 December 2014
The Islamic State released a pamphlet on the topic of female captives and sex slaves. The pamphlet was distributed across Mosul and tries to justify the practice of sexual slavery by referring to the Quran and Islamic teachings. The pamphlet says it is permissible to buy, sell or give slaves and female captives as gifts, because they are property. It also states that IS fighters and sympathizers may have sex with their slaves, including prepubescent girls, and punishment for those who try to flee is whatsoever will ‘deter others like her from escaping’.
The US Congress has decided to remove two Iraqi Kurdish political parties from its terrorist list: the Kurdistan Democratic Union (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). The two parties were classified as terrorist groups in 2001 under the Patriot Act, despite being traditional allies to the USA.