ISHM: September 22 – 28, 2017

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Key Takeaways:

  • Kurdistan Votes for Independence, Baghdad Retaliates – Much to the chagrin of the Iraqi government and the vast majority of the international community, on September 25, the Kurdistan Regional Government held a referendum, asking voters “Do you want the Kurdistan region and the Kurdistani areas outside the region’s administration to become an independent state?” Two days later, the Electoral Commission announced that 92.75 percent of more than 3.3 million votes cast were in favor of independence. Voting took place throughout the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, as well as in contested areas bordering the region in Kirkuk, Diyala, and Ninewa Provinces. Residents of the KRI abroad in China, the UK, the US, and elsewhere were able to vote electronically if they could prove their connection to the region. Despite fears of violent conflict between pro-independence Kurds and anti-referendum Arab and Turkmen residents of the region, none were widely reported. In retaliation for holding the referendum against the wishes of the government and in violation of a Federal Court order, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi was urged by Parliament to deploy Iraqi Security Forces to border crossings with the region and contested areas, seize oil facilities in Kirkuk Province, and to suspend non-military or humanitarian flights to Kurdish regional airports in Erbil and Sulaimania. Although the results of the referendum do not trigger independence, they could provide leverage for separation negotiations between the KRG and Baghdad. However, Abadi has vowed not to host negotiations unless the KRG annuls the vote’s results. more…
  • Turkey, Iran Conduct Military Exercises on Iraqi-Kurdish Borders – Angered by the Kurdistan Regional Government’s decision to conduct a referendum on independence, Turkey and Iran both amassed artillery and military equipment and conducted exercises at their respective borders with the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) with the understanding of the Iraqi government in Baghdad. On September 26, Turkish authorities closed the Ibrahim Khalil border crossing between Turkey and the KRI and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that “the Kurds in Iraq will feel hungry when the trucks stop entering northern Iraq.” Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi sent a military delegation to Iran on September 27 to “coordinate military efforts,” and Iran is deploying air defense systems at the border. Turkey and Iran fear unrest and similar calls for separate regions by their Kurdish minority populations. more…
  • Aid Agencies Prepare as Military Operations Commence Near Hawija – Iraqi Security Forces and Popular Mobilization Units are making “rapid progress” in efforts to clear villages and territory surrounding Hawija of ISIS militants, according to U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIS Ambassador Brett McGurk. The city in Kirkuk Province has been under ISIS control since 2014 and is one of the last major ISIS-occupied areas in Iraq. U.S.-led international coalition airstrikes are continuing to target ISIS positions and munitions depots. Over 100 thousand IDPs have been displaced from the region since August 2016, and UNOCHA expects an additional six thousand displacements during initial operations. The International Organization for Migration, UNICEF, and Iraqi Red Crescent are distributing response kits, food, water, and medical care to those displaced families. more…
  • UN, Amnesty Condemn Executions in Nasiriya – On September 24, 42 ISIS-affiliated prisoners were hanged to death at al-Hoot prison in Nasiriya after they were convicted of terrorist activity. The mass execution by the Iraqi Ministry of Justice was immediately condemned by Amnesty International and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, who questioned the trials that led to the convictions. The executions in Nasiriya come one week after an ISIS-affiliated attack in the city killed 59 and injured 96 civilians (as previously reported in ISHM). more…
  • IDP Returns to Cleared Areas May Be Premature, Report Suggests – Refugees International issued a report outlining serious concern over premature returns to areas of displacement, citing lingering challenges such as IED contamination and the risk of violent political conflict – and calling on the Iraqi government and international community to prioritize IDP conditions and protection. USAID Administrator Mark Green announced an additional US$ 264 million in humanitarian assistance from the U.S. government for emergency food, safe drinking water, hygiene kits and medicine, and the State Department released a report on partner efforts to clear IEDs. A survey of IDPs conducted by Camp Coordination and Camp Management partners found that 55 percent of IDPs do not plan to return to their areas of origin, identifying insecurity as their primary concern. (RI’s full report is available here.) more…

For more background on most of the institutions, key actors, political parties, and locations mentioned in our takeaways or in the stories that follow, see the ISHM Reference Guide.


Kurdistan Votes for Independence, Baghdad Retaliates

On September 22, “propaganda campaigns” for the referendum for independence of Kurdistan officially ended at midnight. The Kurdistan Electoral Commission confirmed that the referendum will take place in Kirkuk and some parts of Ninewa and Diyala that are under Peshmerga control, despite the elevated tensions in those areas. The Commission said they are expecting a total of five and a half million voters.

On September 22, President of the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) Masoud Barzani talked in a referendum rally in Erbil. He said that the KRG is “ready to conduct a dialogue with the central government after the referendum” but that it is “out of my hand and the hand of Kurdish parties, and now it is in the hands of the Kurdish masses,” indicating that it can no longer be postponed or changed.

On September 22, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov expressed support to Iraq’s territorial integrity, in a discussion with Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari.

On September 23, the Iraqi Kurdish community living in China and other places outside Iraq began electronic voting for the referendum for independence of Iraqi Kurdistan. The voters must present proof of Iraqi citizenship. Polling stations also opened for displaced people in Iraq’s Dahuk Province. The main vote in Iraq will take place on September 25.

On September 23, Iraqi President Fuad Masum hosted a meeting with a delegation of the Kurdish Supreme Council on the Referendum, who arrived that morning in Baghdad to discuss their latest position on the referendum. Masum has been meeting with many national leaders over the past week in an attempt to mitigate the evolving crisis between Baghdad and Erbil.

On September 23, the news site Russia Today and other media sources reported that the Kurdistan region accepted the proposals made by the United Nations (UN), U.S., Britain, and France in exchange for postponing the referendum for independence. However, Kurdish officials rejected those reports, calling them “baseless,” and confirmed that the referendum will happen on schedule.

On September 24, the committee responsible for the referendum process reported a high rate of participation in the electronic voting abroad. Some voters faced technical problems. The Kurdish community abroad began voting early. Their voting time lasted three days between September 23 and September 25.

On September 24, U.S. Embassy Baghdad released a statement warning of unrest following the referendum for independence of the Kurdish regions on September 25, and it urged U.S. citizens to avoid going into disputed territories between the KRG and the Government of Iraq. The U.S. Mission in Iraq will limit the movement of personnel during the referendum as a precaution. The U.S. officially expressed its firm objection to the referendum multiple times to Kurdish and Iraqi officials. Several other states and, as of late, the UN Security Council also expressed opposition, warning that a referendum would cause instability.

On September 24, prominent Iraqi leaders made their final statements to the media on the day before the referendum for independence of Kurdistan. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi gave a speech vowing to retain the unity of Iraq, in the interest of its people. “We will not abandon our Kurdish citizens,” he said, adding that the aspiring Kurdish state is “sectarian” and “racist.” In a news conference in Erbil, President of the KRG Masoud Barzani said that the Kurds “will be ready at any time to hold talks and negotiations, and it is not reasonable to punish a people who wants to express their opinion,” and he noted that the KRG does not expect any armed conflict with Baghdad. From the UN convention in New York, Iraqi Foreign minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari stated to the press that there is no country in the world that has not expressed its displeasure with the referendum and support for Iraq’s unity. Iraqi President Fuad Masum called on leaders in Baghdad and Erbil to avoid escalation and continue dialogue to resolve outstanding issues.

On September 24, the Iraqi Government issued a statement directing the KRG to hand over all border crossings, including airports, to the authority of the Iraq Federal Government so that they could regulate all the flow of oil and other goods to and from the region. In addition, the statement requested neighboring countries and countries of the world to deal exclusively with the Iraqi Federal Authorities. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said he has given the Kurdish region until Friday to surrender their two airports in Erbil and Sulaimania, and threatened to ban international flights to those airports if they fail to hand them over to the Iraqi authorities. “Urgent” flights, such as those for humanitarian purposes, will be exempt from the ban.

On September 24, the Supreme Council of National Security of Iran announced it will stop all flights to and from the Iraqi Kurdish regions, in accordance with the request from Baghdad a day before the referendum. Later that day, the Turkish National Security Council announced that Turkish airspace will be closed to flights that initiated in the Iraqi Kurdish regions. Iran and Turkey are the only two countries (aside from Iraq) bordering Iraq’s Kurdish regions, and both are complying with the Iraqi government’s request.

On September 24, the Kirkuk Provincial Council decided to cancel official working hours in all government institutions on referendum day, September 25. Kirkuk is one of the places where sectarian-based tensions over the referendum are at their highest.

On September 25, Kirkuk police headquarters imposed a curfew on cars in Kirkuk Province “until further notice.” The curfew was declared at 4:30 PM, an hour and a half before the polls for the referendum of independence of the Kurdish regions were planned to close. Security forces were deployed at key locations. An anonymous police officer said the curfew was a preventative measure “to keep the situation under control.” The referendum raised fears of an outburst of violence, especially in ethnically mixed Kirkuk.

On September 25, Iraqi Kurdistan held a referendum for independence. The Electoral Commission on the Referendum of Kurdistan set up 12 thousand polling stations, seven thousand within the Kurdish provinces Dahuk, Erbil, and Sulaimania, and five thousand in Kurdish areas outside the Kurdish Administration, including Kirkuk Province and parts of Ninewa and Diyala. Voters were presented with a single question: “Do you want the Kurdistan region and the Kurdistani areas outside the region’s administration to become an independent state?” which was spelled out in four languages, Kurdish, Arabic, Turkish and Syriac. Due to a large turnout on the day of referendum, the Electoral Commission decided to extend the voting deadline by one hour. Polling stations closed shortly after 7 PM, with the hour extension, and the vote count began. In the evening, the Electoral Commision for the Referendum in Kurdistan revealed that participation reached 72.16 percent. A total of 3,305,925 citizens cast their vote. The final results of the referendum are expected to be announced within 72 hours. Meanwhile, celebrations began at the end of the voting day in the Kurdish Provinces of Dahuk, Erbil, and Sulaimania.  

On September 25, the Iraqi Parliament held its 22nd session in the presence of 167 deputies. Kurdish Members of Parliament were absent again. They have not attended since the Parliament’s vote to reject the referendum for independence of the Kurdish regions two weeks prior. An anonymous source reported that “the Parliament decided to oblige the commander-in-chief of the armed forces to redeploy the federal military forces in all the disputed areas, including Kirkuk, where the forces were present before 10/6/2014”

On September 25, a local official in Diyala reported more than 300 Arab families arrived to Diyala from Kirkuk Province after being forced out of Kirkuk by Kurdish security forces for refusing to take part in the referendum. He added that Diyala is preparing for massive forced deportations of Arabs to their province. On September 24, the Iraqi Observatory for Human Rights stated that the security forces in Kurdistan region “exerted great pressure on displaced families to Kirkuk to participate in the referendum.” There have been several reports of Arabs being deported to Diyala from Kirkuk over the past several weeks.

On September 25, three districts in Diyala Province (Khanaqin, Jalaula, and Qazani) held the referendum for independence of Kurdistan despite the Provincial Council’s decision to reject it. MP for Diyala Province, Raad Faris Almas, called on the General Command of the armed forces to intervene immediately to protect the Arabs and Turkmen in these districts and prevent the continuation of the referendum.

On September 25, General Sirwan Barzani, former Peshmerga commander and nephew of KRG President Masoud Barzani, expressed gratitude for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s support for the Iraqi Kurdish aspiration for independence. “We will not forget those who gave us serious support, including Israel,” he said on the day of the referendum in an interview with the Russian news agency RIA Novosti. Many international actors, including the United Nations Security Council, U.S., United Kingdom, and France, expressed their objection to the referendum for Kurdish Independence.

On September 26, the Independent High Electoral Commission for the referendum revealed that 282,000 votes, or 9 percent of the votes, indicate more than 93 percent of the voters favor separation from Iraq.

On September 26, Gorran party Member of Parliament, Hoshyar Abdullah, claimed that participation in the referendum was small, not exceeding 50 percent in most regions, and that the extension of the referendum time by an additional hour was used to for illegal voting to raise the participation rate to 70 percent. A day earlier, the Electoral Commission reported a high participation rate of 72.16 percent. Gorran, a Kurdish party, was outspoken against the referendum during the weeks leading up to it, arguing for its postponement.

On September 26, an anonymous source reported that Iraqi President Fuad Masum did not participate in the referendum for independence of Kurdistan yesterday. The source claimed it aligned with Masum’s “firm position” not to make a unilateral decision.

On September 26, Kirkuk Police announced an end to the curfew and reopening of the roads to the province. The curfew, banning vehicles roaming in the province, was imposed on the evening of the referendum day, Monday September 25, and lasted until Tuesday at dawn. Kirkuk’s police chief Omar Arif noted said “the security situation is stable and life is very normal.” The curfew was imposed “to keep the situation under control” following the referendum, which was more tense in Kirkuk than most places it took place. It was the second curfew Kirkuk imposed in two weeks because of tensions over the referendum.

On September 27, Erbil airport director, Tallar Fayek, said in a press conference that the Iraqi government’s ultimatum to ban international flights from Erbil and Sulaimania airports if they are not surrendered to Iraqi authorities is illegal “because it is against the international laws that they have committed to internationally.” Fayek rejected to comply with the Iraqi government’s decision, emphasising that the airports are used to provide important humanitarian aid to displaced Iraqis.

On September 27, Minister of Transportation to the KRG, Mouloud Murad, called the Iraqi government’s ultimatum threatening to ban international flights from the Kurdish regions a “clear hostility,” and threatened to resort to the international community in case the ban is implemented. He reiterated that the airports in Erbil and Sulaimania support the livelihoods and humanitarian needs of the majority of the people in the region.

On September 27, the Civil Aviation Authority of Iraq informed foreign airline companies to suspend all public flights to the Erbil and Sulaimania airports in the Kurdish regions beginning Friday and “until further notice.” The Iraqi government announced on September 24 that it would ban international flights to the Kurdish regions if the airports fail to be handed over to iraqi authorities by Friday, September 29.

On September 27, Royal Jordanian Airlines, FlyDubai, The Lebanese Middle East Airlines, and EgyptAir all complied with the request by the Civil Aviation Authority of Iraq and announced they will suspend its flights to Erbil and Sulaimania, in the Kurdish regions of Iraq beginning September 30. These airlines have regular flights to Erbil and Sulaimania on a weekly basis.

On September 27, the Electoral Commission in the Kurdistan Region announced the results of the referendum for independence of Kurdistan. The total number of voters was 3,305,925. Out of those, 2,861,471, or 92.75 percent, voted “Yes.” The total number of eligible voters, including voters from areas outside the Kurdish Administration, was 4,581,255. Voter turnout to the referendum was 72.16 percent.

On September 27, Iraqi Parliament decided on a resolution in response to the referendum. The 13 points of the resolution includes: obliging the Iraqi Prime Minister “to take all legal and constitutional steps” to maintain Iraq’s unity and allowing ISF to spread in all disputed areas, including Kirkuk; mandating the Iraqi Government to retake the oil field in Kirkuk and disputed areas; and closing all border crossings between the Kurdistan Region of Iraq and neighboring states.

On September 28, the Kurdish Parliament rejected the Iraqi Parliament’s resolution of the previous day. They claimed that the Iraqi Parliament’s decision is a “collective punishment on the people of Kurdistan” and stressed the illegality of the decision. The Kurdish Parliament also congratulated the success of the referendum and called for dialogue with Baghdad.


Turkey, Iran Conduct Military Exercises on Iraqi-Kurdish Borders

On September 22, the Turkish National Security Council held a meeting chaired by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to discuss possible actions Turkey could take in response to the referendum in Iraq’s Kurdish regions on September 25. On Turkish media, the Council called on Kurdish leaders to “retreat from the referendum step before it is too late.”

On September 23, Iraqi Army Chief of Staff Osman al-Ghanimi arrived in Ankara to meet with his Turkish counterpart, Khulosi Akkar. Turkey recently announced it will conduct military exercises along its border with Iraq, just as the referendum for independence of Kurdistan is about to unfold. Turkish Prime Minister Ben Ali Yildirim said that “security, economic and political options on the table,” responding to a question about possible Turkish military intervention in the Iraqi Kurdish regions. Turkey feels threatened by Kurdish aspirations for independence in Iraq because there is a large Kurdish population in Turkey that may be inspired to secede as well.

On September 23, the Turkish Army announced that it destroyed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) sites in northern Iraq by airstrikes. The PKK has been involved in armed conflict with Turkey since 1984, seeking an independent state for Turkish Kurds.

On September 24, the armed wing of the PKK killed 13 Turkish soldiers on the Iraqi-Turkish border. The PKK attacked the Turkish soldiers in retaliation for a Turkish aerial strike in Amadiyah district in Dohuk Province a few days earlier, which killed seven Iraqi Kurdish civilians.

On September 24, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard conducted large-scale military exercises near the border with the Iraqi Kurdish regions. A statement released by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard said that the military maneuvers are in accordance with a previously-scheduled program and have nothing to do with the developments in Iraq.

On September 24, Iranian artillery shelled the border between Iran and the Iraqi Kurdish regions. The artillery hit heavily and continuously in Juman District, northeast of Erbil. This area is known to have Iranian-Kurdish PKK armed forces. Deputy head of the KDP Shakhwan Abdullah responded by calling on Iraq’s government to intervene to stop the bombing. He added that after self-determination the region will defend itself.

On September 25, the Iraqi Ministry of Defense announced the beginning of large-scale joint military exercises of Iraqi and Turkish forces along their joint border. Turkish Prime Minister Ali Yildirim criticized the stubbornness of the KRG for holding the referendum for independence while he gave a similar announcement about a joint military maneuver. The announcements came on the day of the internationally criticized referendum in the Kurdish controlled regions.

On September 25, in a televised speech, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that Turkey will completely close its borders to the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq, including for exports and sales of oil. “We will not allow any changes in northern Iraq” he said, noting that all options for response for changes in the border are on the table. “Turkey has the strength to fight terrorism.”

On September 25, Turkish authorities announced the closure of the Ibrahim Khalil border crossing between Turkey and Iraq’s Kurdish region in retaliation of the referendum for independence in Iraq’s Kurdish regions, happening the same day. The Ibrahim Khalil border crossing is strategically important to Iraq. Iraq has been commercially dependent on it for decades and it is their main gateway to Europe. In additional retaliation to the referendum, Turkey also decided to prevent the broadcasting of several Kurdish TV channels from Iraq on Turksat, a series of Turkish communications satellites.

On September 25, the Turkish Air Force carried out an attack in northern Iraq. A Turkish military official reported that Turkish jets struck and destroyed weapons and ammunition in camps belonging to the PKK in Zab, Afshin, and Besian areas. The official said the PKK “were preparing to launch an attack against Turkish forces.”

On September 26, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened Iraqi Kurds with starvation and waved the military option. “The Kurds in Iraq will feel hungry when the trucks stop entering northern Iraq,” he said in a speech addressing the referendum for independence in Iraqi Kurdistan a day after it took place. Turkey complied with the Iraqi government’s request to suspend flights to and from the Iraqi Kurdish regions and, on referendum day, it announced it will close its land crossing as well. Erdogan also mentioned: “options are available to us, including the military, but we hope to reach peaceful solutions through dialogue.”

On September 26, Deputy Commander of the Iranian Air Force, Ali Reza Hami, said that Iran is sending new Anti Air defense systems to the Iranian border with the Iraqi Kurdish regions. Hami said the defense systems are intended to protect the airspace on the western borders of Iran. On September 24, Iran announced it will suspend flights to and from the Iraqi Kurdish regions, in accordance with a request from Baghdad.

On September 27, Iraq sent a top military delegation to Iran to “coordinate military efforts.” No further details about it were provided, but it is assumed to have to do with Iraqi retaliation efforts against the referendum for Independence of Iraqi Kurdistan, which the KRG held despite the Iraqi government’s objection. Iran and Turkey have both mobilized units along their borders with Iraqi Kurdistan and have complied with Iraq’s request to suspend flights to and from the Kurdish regions.


Aid Agencies Prepare as Military Operations Commence Near Hawija

On September 21, an anonymous source reported that leaders of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) had fled to Hawija from Sharqat. This migration began after the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) began their offensive to clear Sharqat, in Salah ad-Din Province, of ISIS militants. Hawija, in Kirkuk Province, is the last standing ISIS stronghold in the region.

On September 21, the ISF announced that they had successfully cleared seven villages north of Sharqat. 25 ISIS militants were killed during the ISF offensive. Additionally, the ISF rescued 30 families that ISIS militants attempted to use as human shields.

On September 21, the ISF cleared 11 villages in Hawija, a significant progression towards completing the “first phase” of the process to clear the Hawija District of ISIS militants. An anonymous source in Kirkuk added that Hassan Wali al-Bayati had been killed during the offensive in an airstrike by the Iraqi Air Force in Hawija.

On September 21, the Joint Operations Command confirmed that it was coordinating with Peshmerga forces in the battle for Hawija. According to Colonel Ryan Dillon, “They are not a part of the elements that are conducting the advance, but they will very much likely play a part because of the proximity of the Kurdish defensive line, to where Hawija is.” The Joint Operations Command stressed that it had a humanitarian plan to save civilians during the operation and estimated the number of ISIS militants between 800 and 1,500.

On September 21, the United Nations (UN) Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) released a “flash update” on humanitarian conditions in Hawija. The report stated that the humanitarian impact in Hawija is expected to be lower than the numbers initially predicted because many of the villages on the front lines are sparsely populated. The initial military movement is now expected to displace about 6,000 people. About 350 people have fled the area so far, with the majority going to Salah ad-Din. No civilian casualties have been reported yet, but 85,000 people live in Hawija which has yet to be fully cleared. There is shelter for about 35,520 internally displaced people (IDPs) available in four nearby camps, where humanitarian organizations and the Iraqi Ministry of Migration and Displacement are providing food, water, and health care.

On September 22, U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIS, Ambassador Brett McGurk confirmed that the ISF was making “rapid progress” in clearing Hawija of ISIS militants. McGurk asserted that ISIS had been surprised and overwhelmed by the two concurrent ISF operations in Hawija District and Anbar Province. It is the first time the ISF has opened more than a single battlefront against ISIS.

On September 22, Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs) announced that they had begun the second step of the first phase to clear Hawija. Later that day, Lieutenant General Abdul Amir Rashid Yar Allah declared it complete and that 19 villages had been cleared.

On September 23, sources revealed that the first area of Hawija had been cleared of ISIS as well as seven villages south-west of Kirkuk city. Another source reported that the Khanukkah mountain range had also been cleared. Additionally, 21 terrorists were killed and three car bombs were destroyed in the operations.

On September 23, Secretary General of the Badr organization, Hadi al-Amiri, announced the end to the first phase of military operations in Hawija, after clearing Zab (28 km west of Hawija), and a large number of nearby villages. A total of 19 villages have been cleared of ISIS fighters near Hawija after the first two days of operations. Hawija, in west Kirkuk Province, is one of the last standing ISIS strongholds in Iraq.

On September 23, Ali al-Husseini, a spokesman for PMU forces, stated that Iraqi forces had begun an operation to clear Zarka and its surrounding areas, including the road between Tuz Khurmatu and Tikrit. Al-Husseini declared that forces were having great success and had already managed to control the Zarka bridge.

On September 24, the International Coalition air-force carried out 53 airstrikes to support Iraqi forces. 46 of the airstrikes were in Hawija District and seven were in Rawa District. The Military Information Cell reported that a total of 48 ISIS member were killed by the airstrikes and a large amount of weapons, explosives, and logistical equipment belonging to ISIS were destroyed. Later that day, the Iraqi Air Force launched an airstrike in Taza District (30 km south of Kirkuk city). The anonymous source said that they targeted ISIS headquarter sites.

On September 24, the Military Information Cell of the Joint Operations Command announced the completion of the first phase of the operation to clear Hawija District of ISIS militants. The operation began on September 21, and by September 23, 19 villages have already been cleared in the nearby area.

On September 24, the International Organization of Migration (IOM) assisted recently displaced people from Hawija. IOM estimates that the number of newly displaced individuals from Hawija is around 2,400. IOM also stated that many of the IDPs they assisted were children, women, and older people who arrived dehydrated and exhausted. When the families arrived, they were given two kits: a Rapid Response Mechanism (RRM) kit and a Non-food Items (NFI) kit. The most recent people displaced from Hawija add to the 102,700 IDPs from Hawija who have been displaced between August 2016 and September 2017.

On September 24, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and other organizations released a map of RRM distribution in Hawija. Those figures indicate that 1,812 kits have been distributed and 6,795 individuals have been assisted.

On September 25, the Iraqi Red Crescent Society announced that over 350 families were displaced so far in Hawija. The families have been received at the Hajj Ali camp and provided with food and medical attention.

On September 26, ISIS fighters attacked Iraqi forces in an attempt to regain control of the strategic Zarka Bridge on route 55 west of Toz, which links between Tikrit and Tuz Khurmatu. However, the Iraqi forces repelled the attack, killing 16 of the ISIS fighters and wounding four others.

On September 27, seven prominent leaders of ISIS were killed in an airstrike by the U.S.-led international coalition in Hawija. One of those killed was a security official of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The airstrike also destroyed several vehicles and a tactical unit.

On September 28, Human Rights Watch disclosed that Iraqi citizens were reporting abuses by PMU forces associated with the Badr Organization in the Hawija operation. Allegedly, members of the PMU group detained and beat male villagers and then took away four men without providing information why. None of the villagers are aware of their current condition.


UN, Amnesty Condemn Executions in Nasiriya

On September 24, the Ministry of Justice declared that it had executed 42 ISIS-affiliated terrorists in Al Hoot prison in Nasiriya. This mass execution was the largest this year and was carried out after the suicide attacks in Nasiriya last week which killed at least 59 and injured 96. ISIS claimed responsibility. According to the Ministry of Justice, the terrorists were executed for killing members of the security forces, armed robbery, and detonating improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs).

On September 25, Amnesty International responded to the execution in Nasiriya. Lynn Maalouf, Middle East Research Director at Amnesty International, said “There can be no doubt that individuals who carry out deadly attacks against the civilian population should face justice, but the Iraqi authorities need to recognize that carrying out executions is not the answer and will not make the country or its people safer.”

On September 26, the Ministry of Justice responded to threats that were made after the execution of the 42 ISIS-affiliates on September 24. The Ministry of Justice requested that the Iraqi Parliament ensure that the Ministry was protected.

On September 27, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein announced that he was appalled to learn about the mass hanging of 42 prisoners at al-Hoot prison in Nasiriya. Al Hussein said that the executions raised concerns over Iraq’s use of the death penalty because “Under international law, the death penalty may only be imposed after a strict set of substantive and procedural requirements have been met.” Al Hussein asserted that he did not believe these conditions were met for each of the prisoners.


IDP Returns to Cleared Areas May Be Premature, Report Suggests

On September 20, United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Mark Green disclosed that the United States (U.S.) would be providing an additional US$ 264 million in humanitarian aid to Iraq. In total, the U.S. government has now provided about US$ 1.7 billion in aid to Iraq. The most recent aid to families will include emergency food, safe drinking water, hygiene kits, and medicine. The U.S. will also be providing services such as emergency shelter, basic health care, and protection. The U.S. is currently the single largest donor of humanitarian assistance to Iraq.

On September 21, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) updated information about their response to humanitarian conditions in Mosul and other areas of Iraq. In West Mosul, MSF has treated more than 3,671 patients in the emergency room of their clinic. In East Mosul, MSF has been assisting Al-Khanssa Paediatrics Teaching Hospital by increasing bed capacity and treating 1,642 patients in the emergency room. In Qayyarah, MSF has opened clinics, provided mental health services, and treated more than 9,000 patients.

On September 21, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) announced that displacement in Ninewa Province has decreased. Additionally, the number of IDPs returning to Mosul has increased. However, UNHCR received reports that Kurdish security forces were not allowing IDPs to cross the Hamdaniya checkpoint, east of Mosul, until after the September 25 referendum.

On September 21, the United Nations Security Council voted unanimously on Resolution 2379 to create an independent investigative team to hold ISIS accountable for its actions in Iraq. The team would investigate ISIS for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide and work with survivors to hold ISIS accountable. Under-Secretary General Pramila Patten of the Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict made a statement regarding the resolution. She highlighted the importance of the team for ensuring the documentation of sexual violence.

On September 22, OCHA discussed the importance of providing employment opportunities to IDPs returning to their areas of origin. Its article highlighted the plight of two Iraqis who were trying to find employment in Al-Udheim upon returning after ISIS had been cleared. In particular, OCHA asserted that employment creates a stake in a community and is likely to lead to less instability.

On September 24, President Donald Trump issued a proclamation enhancing vetting capabilities of both immigrants and nonimmigrants from certain countries that provided inadequate information-sharing and identity-management protocols. The countries included were Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Syria, Venezuela, and Yemen. Iraq was not included despite not meeting the baseline because of “the close cooperative relationship between the United States and the democratically elected government of Iraq, the strong United States diplomatic presence in Iraq, the significant presence of United States forces in Iraq, and Iraq’s commitment to combating the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).”

On September 25, UNHCR released a “flash update” that included key figures from the conflict in Iraq. In particular, the update estimated the number of IDPs since January 2014 was 3.2 million. The update also included a situation update, population movements, response update, and figure of the Mosul emergency response since October 2016. The figure provided information that, thus far, 1,097,466 people were displaced from Mosul in total with 823,260 currently still displaced.

On September 25, Save the Children reported that refugee arrivals from Iraq and Syria to Greece are at their highest point since March 2016. About 200 people are arriving per day and about 40 percent of them are children. Many of the children are either unaccompanied or have been separated from their families.

On September 26, Refugees International (RI) released a field report about IDPs attempting to return to their areas of origin, suggesting that most returns to cleared areas are premature. RI highlighted the most basic concerns IDPs felt about returning home, such as security, livelihoods, civil documentation, and services and infrastructure. The report requested that the government focus on amending those issues before IDPs attempt to return.

On September 26, the U.S. State Department helped remove improvised explosive devices (IEDs) around Ba’ashiqah’s water system. The U.S.’s implementing partner, Janus Global Operations, completed clearance of the Basakhrah water well which serves the local agricultural office. In total, Janus cleared 237 IEDs, which will eventually allow the facility to provide water to two thousand families.

On September 26, head of the Diyala Provincial Council, Ali Al-Daini, requested that the Department of Immigration provide support to the 400 displaced families returning to Diyala Province. Al-Daini said the families returning faced deplorable conditions and needed aid urgently.

On September 27, a group of International Organization of Migration’s (IOM) Camp Coordination and Camp Management (CCCM) partners distributed a “Camps Intention Survey Snapshot Analysis.” According to the analysis, around 55 percent of IDPs planned not to return to their areas of origin. Those who planned to return listed “security” as their major reason. Likewise, those who planned not to return also gave “security” as their major reason not to return. The same group also released an exit survey for Mosul area camps. From these IDPs, 81 percent of families return to their areas of origin.

On September 27, UNHCR released an Iraq fact sheet that discussed their involvement in Iraq. UNHCR’s current main activities are protection, shelter and Non-Food Items (NFIs), and CCCM. According to the fact sheet, only about 18 percent of the requested US$ 557.1 million for the Iraq mission has been funded.

On September 27, the IOM distributed two Displacement Tracking Matrices (DTM), one tracking IDPs and one tracking returnees. The DTMs have identified and confirmed about three million IDPs and two million returnees throughout Iraq.


IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties

DateLocationDeathsInjuries
09/27/17South Baghdad04
09/27/17Central Baghdad12
09/27/17Subaih area, Abu Ghraib District west of Baghdad13
09/26/17al-Bur street, North Baghdad17
09/26/17Nahrawan, east of Baghdad13
09/23/17Duluis village (44 km northeast of Baquba) , Diyala Province10
09/23/17Near Sadiyah, Diyala Province10
09/23/17Near the village of Mohammed, Daquq area, 30 km south of Kirkuk40
09/22/17Sinjar District, Ninewa Province30

 

Please note: some geographic locations represented are approximations and this map may not represent all incidents.


Derived from firsthand accounts and Iraq-based Arabic and Kurdish news sources, the Iraq Security and Humanitarian Monitor is a free publication of the Education for Peace in Iraq Center.


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