ISHM 46: January 15 – 21, 2016

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Key Takeaways:

  • The United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) released a new report documenting the staggering impact that the ongoing conflict in Iraq is having on civilians. According to the report, between January 2014 and October 2015, war-related violence killed at least 18,802 civilians, wounded another 36,245, and forced 3.2 million people to flee their homes. Furthermore, the report documents war crimes, acts of possible genocide, and other atrocities committed by the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), including the enslavement of nearly 3,500 Iraqis — mostly Yazidi women and children — and the systematic use of child soldiers. As reported previously by ISHM, hundreds of children have been abducted across northern Iraq and forced to fight for ISIS on the frontlines. Children who have refused or have been recaptured after escaping ISIS have been publicly executed.
  •  Amnesty International reports that Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) forces appear to be spearheading a concerted campaign to forcibly displace Iraqi Arab communities by destroying entire villages in areas they have recaptured from ISIS militants in northern Iraq. KRG officials have denied these allegations, claiming that the areas in question are still contested between Peshmerga forces and ISIS and are therefore unsafe for displaced populations to return.
  • While skirmishes continued on the outskirts of Ramadi and other areas across the provinces of Anbar, Ninewa, and Kirkuk, no significant territorial gains have been reported since December. Nonetheless, over the past seven days, hundreds of ISIS fighters have reportedly been killed in airstrikes and operations carried out by Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs), and International Coalition.
  • In another difficult week for the residents of Baghdad, fifteen or more explosions targeting public gatherings rocked the capital, killing scores of civilians. In Mosul, ISIS executed 45 civilians for attempting to flee the areas captured by the terrorist organization.
  • Demonstrations resumed across Iraq, particularly in Baghdad, Maysan, and Babil provinces, with hundreds of protesters calling on the central government to end corruption in all aspects of life, improve government accountability, and ensure that workers receive their salaries. Some demonstrators have indicated that Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s new reform plan is not capable of resolving the country’s deteriorating economy and financial corruption. Meanwhile, demonstrators in Basra have called for the central government to end tribal conflict in the province and have indicated that the government should invest more in peaceful community solutions.
  • There are reports of new initiatives being carried out by Iraqi civil society leaders to spread cultural awareness and distribute winter aid to the poor. In the southern province of Wasit, “the Democratic Woman” NGO called for the implementation of laws that protect the freedom of speech, the freedom to peacefully assemble and petition the government, and the “right to access information.” The organization also monitors violations against civil society activists and journalists.
  • Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced that he will take any necessary measure to maintain the Mosul Dam and protect it from any further damage. Al-Abadi met with an Italian company and a group of experts from the Ministry of Water and resources and discussed plans to maintain the dam and how to sustain it. The Mosul dam is Iraq’s largest and if it were to collapse, it will threaten the lives of over 1.5 million civilians.
  • Three Americans and their interpreter were kidnapped in Baghdad’s southern district of al-Dora by an unknown armed group that was disguised in military uniforms. Although Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) have stepped up security measures in order to find them, the Americans have not yet been found.
    ISIS destroyed Iraq’s oldest Christian monastery. The St. Elijah Monastery in Mosul was 1,400 years old and it is yet another victim to ISIS’s attack against Iraq’s rich heritage and cultural diversity.
  • Among the latest nations to step forward to aid Iraq, this week, the Kingdom of Norway contributed an additional $2.8 million to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) for immediate stabilization of Iraq. “Stabilization efforts need to be prioritized so that affected civilians can start rebuilding their lives, and contribute to a longer term solution to the conflict in Iraq” said Norway’s Ambassador to Iraq, Ms. Sissel Breie.

UN Report

On January 19, the United Nations (UN) reported that there have been an estimated 19,000 Iraqi civilian deaths in 22 months. Most of the causalities were inflicted by the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) according to Francesco Motta, head of the United Nations human rights office in Baghdad. More than 3 million Iraqis have fled their homes during this period of time as a result of increased violence between ISIS, Iraqi security forces, and pro-government militias.

On January 19, the United Nations announced that over 55,000 Iraqis have died in and over 3 million have been displaced in the past two years. The United Nations Human Rights Council’s report further notes that over half the dead were killed in Baghdad and that over one million of the displaced are children. (UN REPORT)

On January 19, the United Nations (UN) announced that the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) currently holds nearly 3,500 people as slaves with most of them being Yazidi women and children.

Amnesty International Reports on Deliberate Destruction of Arab Villages

On January 20, Amnesty International published a new report investigating the deliberate mass destruction in Peshmerga-controlled Arab villages. “KRG forces appear to be spearheading a concerted campaign to forcibly displace Arab communities by destroying entire villages in areas they have recaptured from IS in northern Iraq” said Donatella Rovera, Amnesty International’s Senior Crisis Response Advisor.

On January 20, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) responded to the report by saying that “these are contested areas between ISIS and Peshmerga Security forces.” Deputy Head of Kurdistan’s Department of Foreign Relations said that “having civilians in these areas will hinder the international coalition’s airstrikes against ISIS and will impose a threat to their lives.”

The report by Amnesty International makes it clear that KRG officials have made “about entire villages rather than about specific individuals following proper investigations, and seemingly discount outright the possibility that some of those who are today in IS-controlled areas may be trapped there due to shifting frontlines.”

Furthermore, the report indicates that KRG officials have “implicitly” or “explicitly” justified the forcible displacement of Arab residents as a way to reverse the mass displacement of Kurds during the Saddam Hussein regime. “We are just taking back some of what was ours,” a KRG security official told Amnesty International.

Military Operations Against ISIS Continue in Anbar, Kirkuk, and Mosul

On January 15, coalition air strikes killed 21 Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) fighters in Mosul. The bombings targeted the headquarters of ISIS in the city as well as other nearby neighborhoods.

On January 15, coalition aircraft attacked Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham positions in the village of Bartella near Mosul. The aircraft killed 12 ISIS militants and destroyed three vehicles.

On January 15, the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) killed 150 members of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) , effectively clearing the Sufi area east of Ramadi from the organization’s control. The ISF is also working to dismantle improvised explosive devices planted by ISIS on roads and in buildings throughout the area.

On January 16, Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) killed 26 Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants. Supported by tribal militias and coalition aircraft, the ISF battled in the al-Jwaiba, al- Husaybah, and al-Sijariah areas 8 kilometers east of Ramadi.

On January 17, Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) carried out military operations in the contested areas east of Ramadi, killing 40 Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) fighters. These operations in the al-Jwaiba and al-Sadikiyah areas also destroyed five armed convoys, six defensive positions, and 16 explosive devices.

On January 17, coalition aircraft bombed a village controlled by the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), killing nine militants and injuring 22 others. The village, Mojama’ al-Shaheed, is located in al-Rashad county, which is 45 kilometers south of Kirkuk.

On January 17, Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs) repelled an attack by the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) in the village of Baiji, which is 40 kilometers north of Tikrit. The PMUs were able to kill 10 ISIS militants in the battle.

On January 18, Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs) killed three leaders of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). PMUs clashed with ISIS militants in the town of Karma, east of Fallujah as the terrorist group attempted to breach Fallujah.

On January 19, Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) killed 14 Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants. The operation took place north of Fallujah and also destroyed three vehicles belonging to ISIS.

On January 19, Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) aircraft bombed an Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) camp, killing 20 militants and destroying weapons and bombs. The attack was in response to the “forced marriage” of captured Yazidi girls to ISIS fighters in western Anbar province.

More Than Fifteen Bombs Rock Baghdad and ISIS Executes 44 Civilians in Mosul

On January 15, a bomb exploded in the west of Baghdad, killing one person and injuring eight. The bomb exploded in the evening near a number of shops.

On January 15, a roadside bomb detonated and killed an employee within the Ministry of Finance. The bomb also injured the employee’s wife and daughter when it destroyed the car in which they were traveling in the north of Baghdad.

On January 15, a bomb assassinated two people and injured seven in southern Baghdad. The bomb exploded in the afternoon near a mosque and a hospital.

On January 15, a roadside bomb exploded, killing one person and injuring eight others. The attack occurred in the morning near shops in the village Abu Dasheer, south of Baghdad.

On January 15, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) executed 19 people from the city of Qayyarah, which is 60 kilometers south of Mosul. ISIS claims that these people were attempting to escape to the Kurdish city of Makhmur.

On January 16, a bomb exploded, killing two people and injuring eight. The bombing occurred in a public market in the Saba al-Bour area north of Baghdad at a popular outdoor market.

On January 16, a roadside bomb detonated, killing two people and wounding seven. The bombing occurred in the morning in the al-Sibaa area in central Baghdad.

On January 16, an explosive device killed one person and injured five others. The attack occurred in the morning in the al-Ghazaliya district of west Baghdad.

On January 16, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) executed 25 people in the city of Mosul. ISIS accused these men, women, and children of trying to flee Mosul to the nearby Kurdish town of Makhmur.

On January 17, a roadside bomb exploded, killing two people and injuring nine. The attack occurred in the morning near a popular market in the Mahmudiya district south of Baghdad.

On January 17, a roadside bomb detonated, killing one person and injuring five. The bombing took place in the morning in the al-Obeidi district of eastern Baghdad.

On January 17, a roadside bomb exploded, killing one person and injuring six others. The attack happened in the evening in the Furat district of southwestern Baghdad.

On January 18, a roadside bomb detonated, killing one person and injuring six others. The bombing occurred in the morning near shops in the al-Sawib district of southwestern Baghdad.

On January 18, an explosive device killed one person and injured eight others. The attack took place in the morning near a market in the Abu Ghraib district in the west of Baghdad.

On January 18, a roadside bomb killed one person and injured five others. The explosion occurred in the evening near shops in the al-Amil district in southwest Baghdad.

On January 19, a bomb exploded, killing two people and injuring five others. The attack took place in the afternoon near a market in the village of Hor Rajab, south of Baghdad.

On January 19, a roadside bomb killed one person and injured six. The bombing happened in the afternoon in the Taji district north of the city of Baghdad.

On January 20, an explosive device detonated, killing two people and injuring five others. The bombing took place in the morning in the al-Obeidi district, east of the city of Baghdad.

On January 20, a bomb exploded, killing one person and injuring four others. The attack occurred at noon and targeted the men who were working on maintenance of an electrical facility in the Rasheed district, south of the city of Baghdad.

On January 21, a roadside bomb exploded, killing one person and injuring seven others. The bombing occurred in the afternoon near a restaurant in the Al-Shu’ala neighborhood of northwest Baghdad.

Iraqis Protest Corruption, Government Accountability, and Tribal Conflicts

On January 15, hundreds of demonstrators in Tahrir Square, central Baghdad, called on the central government to ensure that employee salaries will not be cut, especially for freelancers and contract workers. The demonstrators further expressed that their current salaries are not even enough to meet the basic costs of living.

On January 15, dozens of demonstrators gathered in the city of Amarah, central Maysan, and demanded that the central government stop restricting the freedoms of citizens and stop arresting activists.

On January 15, dozens of protesters in Babil called on the central government to improve government accountability, end corruption in all aspects of the Iraqi state, and stop the manipulation of staff salaries. They asserted that Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi cannot provide the holistic programs the country needs in order to prevent economic deterioration and financial corruption.

On January 15, demonstrators and civilian activists near the courthouse in Basra demanded an end to tribal armed conflict in the province. One of the organizers of the demonstration, Haidar Abdul Amir, stated that the military’s intervention in the conflict should be complemented with peaceful community solutions such as the campaign titled, “Stop Terrorist Tribes”, which distributes educational publications in the areas where conflicts abound. The protests are an extension of the demonstrations that have been recurring over the past months regarding reforms and the fight against financial and administrative corruption in Iraq.

New Programs to Spread Cultural Awareness, Distribute Aid, and Empower Women in Iraq

On January 15, activists initiated a project titled, “Take a Book and Select a Price”, in order to encourage citizens of the province to read and spread cultural awareness throughout the community. Through “Take a Book and Select a Price”, an individual can offer any price in exchange for a book. If they do not have the money, they can take it free of charge. The creator of the project, Iqadan Hani, said that he coordinated with booksellers and librarians to develop the initiative.

On January 17, the Women’s Democratic Organization called for a law that protects their freedom of expression in conjunction with other laws that protect the right to freely access information and the right to demonstrate. The organization also confirmed its quest to monitor violations against civil society activists and journalists as a result of increased professional attacks. According to the head of the organization, Sana Karim al-Tai, the organization has a partnership with the Iraqi Institute and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency to construct a digital project that monitors and investigates these violations.

On January 19, activists in the city of Kut launched a campaign titled, “ I’m With You” in order to kickstart a clothing drive that collects and distributes clothing to the poor. Campaign organizer Mohammed al-Khalidi said that the drive brings in more than 150 pieces of clothing per day, which is able to fully clothe 60 people each day.

Maintaining the Mosul Dam

On January 16, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced he will take any measure necessary to maintain and keep the Mosul Dam from further damage. The Prime Minister met with an Italian company, along with a group of experts from the Ministry of Water Resources, advisors, and university affiliates regarding the maintenance of the dam and the business procedures that were implemented to sustain it. The Mosul Dam provides water and electric power to over 1 million people and it is located adjacent to areas regulated by the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). The Italian government reported last December that it will send 450 troops to protect the company while they work on the dam.

Three Americans Kidnapped in Southern Baghdad

On January 17, three Americans were kidnapped in the Dora neighborhood of southern Baghdad. On their way to visit their Iraqi translator’s private residence, their car was stopped by men in military uniforms, and although Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) has stepped up security measures in order to find them, the Americans have not been recovered.

ISIS Destroys the Oldest Christian Monastery in Iraq

On January 20, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham destroyed the oldest Christian monastery in Iraq. Satellite images confirm that the 1,400 year-old Assyrian St. Elijah monastery was leveled by explosives sometime last year after ISIS captured the city of Mosul.

Norway Donates $2.8 Million to Stabilize Iraq

On January 19, the Kingdom of Norway donated $2.8 million towards the stabilization of Iraq’s newly liberated areas. The money will be used to support the rehabilitation of civilian infrastructure, to jumpstart the local economy, and to assist displaced persons who will be returning to their homes in the Ramadi area in the coming months.

Derived from firsthand accounts and Iraq-based Arabic and Kurdish news sources, the Iraq Security and Humanitarian Monitor (ISHM) was developed by EPIC’s Senior Visiting Fellow Ahmed Ali (@IraqShamel). This week’s final report was compiled and authored by EPIC Program Manager Taif Jany (@TaifJany).