Iraq: An exodus of religious minorities flees Islamist militias

Pillar of cloud: A dust storm swirls over Iraqis fleeing ISIS-controlled Mosul at the Khazer checkpoint operated by the Kurdish peshmerga forces between Nineveh and Erbil province, Iraqi Kurdistan, July 23, 2014.

Pillar of cloud: A dust storm swirls over Iraqis fleeing ISIS-controlled Mosul at the Khazer checkpoint operated by the Kurdish peshmerga forces between Nineveh and Erbil province, Iraqi Kurdistan, July 23, 2014.

A highlight of my time in Iraq was tagging along with Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) as they made a visit to Khazer checkpoint. There, Kurdish peshmerga forces are regulating movement between Nineveh Province—where Islamist forces known as ISIS have seized control of Mosul—and Erbil Province—where Kurdish forces have maintained relative safety and stability while the rest of Iraq is in turmoil. I had traveled through this checkpoint several times while visiting other parts of Nineveh Province outside of ISIS control, but this was the first time I could get out of the car and meet at least a few of the  people streaming through this bottleneck.

Veteran CPTer Peggy Gish posted stories both on the CPT web site as well as Mondoweiss. Here’s are some excerpts from the latter:

“It is dangerous in Mosul. The Iraqi government is randomly bombing civilian areas and civilians are killed or injured. We civilians are the victims–in the middle between the Iraqi government and ISIS fighters,” one of the men fleeing Mosul told us. “One of the main problems there is that we have little services. The hospitals have little medicines or anesthesia for doing surgeries. The only benefit of having ISIS there is that there are no more checkpoints inside the city. ISIS took down all the barriers separating neighborhoods.” …

Children and teenagers sat in the back of pick-up trucks, amidst bundles of clothing and household items. Parents, holding babies, looked worried and tired. Other families sat on blankets in temporary shelters out of the hot sun, waiting for their papers to be processed or for a person to come to the checkpoint to sponsor them so they can enter the area of Iraq controlled by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). They had all fled they homes because of ISIS’ threats and takeover of their communities. …

On Friday 19 July, ISIS gave Christians in Mosul an ultimatum that by noon Saturday they must convert to Islam, pay a fine of about $470 per person, or face “death by the Sword.” They were to leave with only the clothes they were wearing. We heard that 52 Christian families left Mosul early Saturday morning and headed either for nearby Christian villages, or in the KRG governorates of Duhok or Erbil. Christian leaders, we contacted, told us the Bishop of the Catholic Churches of Mosul is sponsoring these families, and churches throughout the KRG area are helping them resettle.

But it’s not just the Christians. Other minorities such as the Shabak, Yesidis, Turkmen and other Shia Muslims were also being threatened by ISIS and are coming into the KRG areas. One of the Peshmerga crossing at the checkpoint explained to us that the large bus-loads of people coming through were mostly Shia Muslim Turkmen from Tal Afar. From here, they would be driven to Suleimani, then to Baghdad and Shia areas in southern Iraq.

20140723-125753-iraq-0217

20140723-125245-iraq-0171

20140723-125158-iraq-0197

20140723-125034-iraq-0192

20140723-124556-iraq-0157

20140723-122746-iraq-0104

20140723-122650-iraq-0098

20140723-122228-iraq-0083

20140723-121853-iraq-0103

20140723-121701-iraq-0039

20140723-121442-iraq-0023

20140723-120124-iraq-0026

 

1 Comment

  1. Pingback: VIDEO: Me taking the shot from the last post

Comments are closed.