Updates: January 24-30, 2015
- Conditions of Iraqi Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) continue to be challenging given bureaucratic hurdles, problems with access to some conflict areas, and inefficiency in aid distribution. The World Food Programme (WFP) released a report detailing the difficult conditions of IDPs in southern Iraq.
- There are allegations that Iraqi Shi’a militias within the Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs) killed 72 Iraqi Sunni civilians in Barwanah, a majority Sunni village in Diyala province, after the clearing of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) from Diyala province in northeastern Iraq. The events are disputed and a government investigation is underway. Diyala is a diverse province and has witnessed intense sectarian violence in the past.
- ISIS is reportedly indoctrinating primary school students in the western province of Anbar and forcing children to join its ranks as soldiers. Clashes between ISIS and anti-ISIS forces also continued in the province.
- Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi ordered the formation of a committee to develop a legal framework of the National Guards Law which is an important political and security issue for the Iraqi Sunnis. The Iraqi Parliament known as the Council of Representatives (CoR) approved the 2015 budget.
- Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga and ISIS continued to clash in northern Iraq including in Kirkuk and Ninewa. These clashes highlight the persistent threat of ISIS in the northern parts of the country.
Bureaucracy Delays Aid Distribution for IDPs in Iraqi Kurdistan
On January 25, Member of the Iraqi Council of Representatives (CoR) Khalid Al-Khatuni, from the Iraqi Sunni Iraqi Forces Alliances, highlighted the difficult living conditions of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) particularly in Iraqi Kurdistan. Al-Khatuni warned that “the repercussions of the IDP crisis are further exacerbated by the day and the humanitarian situation is becoming very difficult.” He called for improving the mechanism of distributing the monthly allowance to IDPs which is currently around 859.03 USD. Al-Khatuni also added that a special health card for IDPs should be distributed in order to allow them to receive health care and called for providing the IDPs with cash in lieu of their food rations which they are not receiving. Finally, Khatuni called for the need of “temporary decisions” to assist the IDPs and the need to revisit the requirement of presenting four documents in order to receive governmental assistance. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Displacement and Migration announced the number of IDP families nationwide that have received financial allowance. According to the Ministry, 465,311 families received the allowance with the majority of aid distributed to families in northern Iraq. The numbers are as follows: 265,010 families in northern Iraq including in Iraqi Kurdistan, 38, 291 families in Baghdad and Babil, and 10, 734 families in the southern provinces. On January 26, the Embassy of Japan informed the CoR’s Foreign Relations Committee that the government of Japan will donate 90 million USD to support Iraqi and Syrian IDPs in Iraq. This sum follows the previous donation of 27 million USD in 2014.
World Food Programme Releases Report on IDPs in southern Iraq as Babil opens Schools for IDPs
On January 26, The Education Directorate in Babil province in central Iraq announced the opening of 15 new schools in the province for displaced students and confirmed the enrollment of 5,223 students as of January 26. Four schools are located in the capital city of Hilla. The rest have been built according to the density of the IDP population in the province. On January 27, the World Food Programme (WFP) issued a report on the conditions of the Iraqi IDPs in the south-central provinces of Najaf, Karbala, and Babil. The report indicated that IDP conditions in these provinces have reached “critical levels.” The report notes that IDPs are suffering from difficult financial conditions and that they have resorted to taking shelter in schools, mosques, and unfinished construction buildings. IDPs also described to WFP the lack of education and employment in their new provinces.
Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) and Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs) Clear ISIS from Diyala Areas and Concerns Mount After Civilian Killings
On January 24, a combined force consisting of the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) and Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs) which include Iraqi Shi’a militias, and members of the Juburi tribe launched operations to clear the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) from the Muqdadiyah area in northeastern Diyala province. On January 24, Diyala Police Chief, Lieutenant General Jamil al-Shammari, stated that six villages were cleared. On January 25, Governor of Diyala province, Amer al-Majmai, instructed all civil service staff and managers in the province to begin preparations to deploy to Muqdadiyah in order to deliver basic services. Governor Majmai also called for all displaced families to return. On January 26, the Ministry of Defense announced that operations were launched to defuse cleared areas of ISIS-implanted Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) which were numbered at 400 IEDs. As the operations ended, reports emerged that over 70 Iraqi Sunni civilians were killed by unidentified gunmen in the Barawnah village in Muqdadiyah. General Abdul Amir al-Zaidi, who is the commander of the Tigris Operations Command and the ISF in Diyala denied that his forces had executed civilians in Barwanah. The Interior Ministry also made a statement, blaming the rumors on ISIS as “an attempt to undermine the reputation of ISF.” On January 28th, CoR members from Diyala province demanded an investigation into the death of the civilians. On the same day, the Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights indicated that it received “tens” of complaints from civilians in Diyala in relations to alleged burning of house and civilian homes in Diyala by the ISF and PMUs. On January 28, Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi launched an investigation into the events in Barwanah.
Anbar Security Developments and ISIS Forcibly Recruiting Child Soldiers
On January 25, Brigadier General Abdul Amir al-Khazraji, deputy commander of Iraq’s Special Forces known as the Golden Division in Anbar, announced that five ISIS members were killed in clashes in central Ramadi in western Iraq’s Anbar province. On January 25, the Ministry of Defense announced that 22 an ISF, Iraqi Sunni tribes operation was launched in the outskirts of Barwana and Albu Hayat village, near the town of Haditha western Anbar. The operation was supported by coalition airstrikes. On January 28th, a contingent of the Iraqi Shi’a militia, Kata’ib Hizbollah (KH), deployed to the Sajariya area east of the city of Ramadi. The KH force will reportedly take part in future operations to clear ISIS in Anbar. Local officials indicated that the force deployed at their request and that it is “welcome.” Finally, ISIS is reportedly imposing forced recruitment of men aged 10-15 years old in the town of Rutba in western Anbar. Security sources also indicate that ISIS is “[training] children” in Rawa, Ana, Qaim and Hit on various types of weapons and that ISIS has initiated its own educational program to promote its message among children.
Council of Ministers Recommends National Guards Law and Parliament Approves Budget
On January 27, the Council of Ministers (CoM) approved “in principle” the formation of the National Guards. The CoM decided to form a committee to draft a bill outlining the scope of the National Guard and it will be voted on in the next Council of Ministers session which is slated for February 3. On January 29, Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi’s spokesperson, Rafid al-Juburi announced that the office of the Prime Minister is in the process of developing a national reconciliation conference. No date has been set for the conference. On January 29, the Iraqi Council of Representatives (CoR) approved the budget for 2015. The 2015 budget will be over $100 billion with a deficit of around $20 billion.
Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga and ISIS Clash in Northern Iraq
On January 24, the Ministry of Peshmerga of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) announced that Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga forces had retaken the Kisik Junction, west of Mosul from ISIS. The junction is a strategic area given its location on the crossroads between Mosul, Tal Afar and Sinjar and controlling it will constrain the ISIS line of supply and communication. On January 25, an anonymous source stated that Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga forces operating near Bashiqa, northwest of Mosul, repelled an attack by ISIS. On the same day, an anonymous Peshmerga source announced that ISIS militants launched an offensive near the villages of Tal al-Rim and Sultan Abdullah Heights in al-Gwer, south of Erbil. The attack was repelled by Peshmerga forces. On January 25, an anonymous source announced that anti-ISIS coalition airstrikes targeted 10 ISIS sites near Hawija, southwest of Kirkuk. On January 27, Peshmerga forces repelled and ISIS attack near Sinjar in western Ninewa province. On January 28, coalition airstrikes also targeted ISIS positions in Mosul and in Bashiqa, northwest of Mosul. On January 30, ISIS launched a major offensive against Peshmerga positions in Mullah Abdullah, Tal al-Ward, Maktab Khalid, and Maryam Beg in southwestern Kirkuk province. ISIS was able to take control of some of these positions. Peshmerga forces were reportedly able to retake some of these areas after receiving reinforcement and clearing ISIS. However, clashes are reported to be ongoing. In central Kirkuk city, an ISIS attacker used a Vehicle-Borne Improvised Explosive Device (VBIED) to target the old police directorate as two other attackers attempted to enter the building but were killed by security forces. In conjunction with the attack, four ISIS suicide bombers barricaded themselves in a nearby abandoned hotel. The attackers were reportedly killed by security forces in ensuing clashes. In the aftermath of the attacks, the local Kirkuk government declared a curfew in the city until further notice.
Ahmed Ali is a Visiting Senior Fellow at the Education for Peace in Iraq Center.