Jul 28, 2014

Time Running Out For 20,000 Iraqi Turkmen under Siege by the Islamic State in Amerli

Caught in between the inability of the Iraqi and Kurdish forces to protect them from the IS and the lack of awareness and attention of the international community, the Iraqi Turkmen of the town of Amerli are facing a struggle for their existence and, for now, they are forced to do it alone.  


Amerli and its citizens are not strangers to unprovoked violent attacks.  Home to the Iraqi Turkmen people who are indigenous to northern Iraq, it has been singled out as a target for violence by terrorists and extremists throughout its history. Amerli was the site of a devastating suicide bomb attack in 2007 that killed 150 people and injured 400 others. With the advance of the Islamic State, it is facing an even greater threat. 

For six weeks this town of 20,000 inhabitants has been holding out under siege by fighters from the Islamic State, but time is running out. According to the firt-hand information UNPO received from its members on 25 July 2014, the water supply to the town has been cut off for 9 days by the IS forces and there has been no electricity for 10 days. Food supplies have almost been depleted and the residents of Amerli must endure intense summer heat, often exceeding 50 degrees Celsius. The town continues to be shelled heavily by the IS forces. Eight people have already lost their lives and there are over 50 people who are seriously ill and over 30 seriously injured who require urgent medical attention. With no medics present and very few medical supplies, their condition is rapidly deteriorating. 

The plight of the Turkmen in Amerli has not been widely been publicized, despite the severity of their situation. The lack of recognition on the behalf of the international community to the plight of the Turkmen in Amerli was evidenced by the latest plenary session and resolution of the European Parliament on the situation in Iraq. While the European Parliament took important steps to officially acknowledging the situation facing minorities in IS-occupied Iraq, their resolution on the situation in Iraq (2014/2716(RSP)) made no specific mention of the Iraqi Turkmen, despite their being among the worst affected. The atrocities facing the Christians were rightly acknowledged and condemned and yet the equally devastating hardships endured by the Iraqi Turkmen were overlooked by the European Parliament. 

In this context, UNPO appeals to the European Parliament and the international community as a whole to acknowledge the plight of the Turkmen in Iraq and not to overlook the situation in the town of Amerli, which risks turning into an unmitigated disaster for its 20,000 inhabitants. Without immediate action, the 20,000 people in Amerli face no foreseeable end to their hardships; the numbers of sick and injured will continue to grow and with no healthcare and sanitation and little food and water, there is little that can be done for them without outside help. It is a desperate situation that requires immediate and concrete action on behalf of the international community.