ISHM 37: October 29 – November 05, 2015

ISHM_Logo_2016Key Takeaways:

  • As operations to liberate the city of Ramadi from the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) continue, Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) seized control of the “Seven Kilometer Area” in western Ramadi and the northern neighborhood of al-Jeraishi.
  • The United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) announced that hundreds of civilians were killed, and thousands others injured, in acts of terrorism during the month of October, especially in Baghdad. Iraq also remains one of the most dangerous countries for journalists. On October 29, a young Iraqi journalist was found dead in Basra after a day of being kidnapped. According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), there are more than 100 cases of assassinations of journalists that warrant further investigation, and failure to do so creates an environment of impunity.
  • This week, Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi encountered a setback in his efforts to curb corruption, improve governance, and address Iraq’s economic crisis. On Monday, Iraq’s 328-seat Parliament unanimously voted to block any further reforms by the Prime Minister without parliamentary approval. Meanwhile, the Federal Supreme Court is reviewing the constitutionality of the Prime Minister’s elimination of Iraq’s four Vice Presidential posts. On Tuesday, PM Abadi declared: “The attempts of those who lost their privileges to hinder the reform plans will not succeed.”
  • The Governor of Baghdad announced the opening of a residential compound in Abu Ghraib to house 10,000 displaced people while Anbar opened a new IDP camp equipped with 500 tents. In Diyala province, the Muqdadiyah municipal council announced that over 250 families returned to Sensil village and 90% of displaced families are expected to return by the end of this year.
  • In Anbar province, heavy rains have flooded IDP camps in Amiriyat al-Fallujah, Bzeibiz, and Habbaniyah forcing over 1,000 families to relocate. Rivers of mud have forced thousands of people living in tents to relocate. In Diyala province, more than 25,000 families are trapped by torrential rainwater due to poor response services in the district of al-Khalis. In Baghdad, entire city blocks are flooded displacing residents. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights announced that, as a result of heavy rains, many thousands of displaced people throughout Iraq are more vulnerable to disease.
  • On October 30, the Basra Health Department reported that more than 4,500 residents in and around the city of Basra sought medical attention at area hospitals for asphyxia due to extreme heat and humidity. No deaths were reported. In Iraq’s Kurdistan Region, to prevent the spread of cholera, health authorities are administering 550,000 vaccines to displaced people in 32 camps.
  • On October 30, hundreds of protesters demonstrated in the southern provinces of Karbala, Maysan, and Muthanna. In Karbala Square, protesters demanded investigations of provincial officials on charges of corruption. In Amara, protesters called for the implementation of Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi reforms. In Samawah, protesters demanded termination of the new salary scale adjustment plan which reduces salaries for university professors, police, and other public employees.

ISIS loses terrain across Iraq

On November 1, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi proclaimed that “Baghdad is now 100% safe and protected from any terrorist attack.”* Abadi added that “ the current fight against terrorists is the most important and will continue to be the priority of our spending until the war is over.” He stressed that Iraqis cannot back down now because Iraqis “can’t build their homes without winning this war.” Abadi called for unity among Iraqis and the importance of highlighting all the security advancements, supporting those who are helping with the fight against terrorism, and improving the country’s economy.
*Although Abadi purports that Baghdad is 100% safe, it is important to note that UNAMI sources reported Baghdad experienced the most casualties for the month of October. More information below.

On November 1, ISF, tribal units, and PMUs announced the resumption of their efforts for the “Liberation of Ramadi,” along with imposing a general curfew on the nearby ISF-controlled town of Khalidiya. The offensive was hindered due to deteriorating weather conditions. Major General Ismail al-Mahlawi announced that the ISF managed to advance into Ramadi city itself, advancing into the Albu Faraj neighborhood, where fighting is still present. ISF troops are reportedly two kilometers away from the government compound in the center of the city. ISF and tribal forces are allegedly being slowed down due to ISIS’ use of human shields, thus effectively singling out those who have family members in the tribal forces.

On November 1, U.S. reinforcements flew into the al-Assad airport, near the town of Baghdadi, with reports indicating that the soldiers would play an advisory role to Iraqi units.

On November 2, ISF forces continued their progress into Ramadi, advancing into the Albu Hayat neighborhood and fighting to clear ISIS from the area. North of the city, ISF continued to fight to clear the Ablu Faraj neighborhood, with Major General Hadi Rseg announcing that the ISF continued to make “significant advances.”

On November 3, U.S.-led Coalition forces destroyed three ISIS car bomb factories near the Wadi Ekab industrial center in Ninewa. Also, the Iraqi Air Force also destroyed three separate ISIS factories responsible for producing IEDs and Vehicle-Borne Improvised Explosive Devices (VBIEDs) near the city of Samarra. The Air Force claims that they destroyed at least 24 VBIEDs in the attacks.

On November 3, ISF and tribal units began a city-wide offensive aimed at clearing several areas of Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). In the north of the city, Major General Hadi Rseg announced that ISF and tribal units cleared the 7km area, reportedly killing 58 militants and eliminating approximately 100-150 Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs). Also in the north of the city, the ISF reportedly seized the al-Jeraishi neighborhood and the al-Jeraishi bridge, killing “dozens,” of militants. To the east of the city, ISF and tribal forces allegedly cleared the al-Madheeq neighborhood, reportedly killing another 33 militants. And to the west of the city, ISF and tribal forces secured the Albu Hayat area in the city, killing a reported 40 militants.

On November 4, ISF and Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) troops continued to make advancements in Ramadi. To the west of the city, ISF troops advanced into the headquarters of the Eighth Brigade, where fighting is currently ongoing. There were also continued clashes between the ISF and ISIS in the al-Jeraishi area, with reports coming in that the ISF and tribal fighters cleared the entire area, and that they had seized control of the intersection between the neighborhood and the Anbar Operations Command. It is reported that coalition jets also bombed ISIS positions in the areas of Albu Faraj and Albu Thiab. Moreover, it is confirmed that ISF forces captured the al-Jeraishi bridge, effectively cutting off ISIS troops in the north from the rest of the city. Furthermore, ISF anti-terrorism units reportedly seized control of the “Warrar camp,” west of Ramadi. PMUs were reportedly forming units to sweep in behind the advancing ISF and work on clearing newly acquired territory of any IEDs or sleeper cells. Reports from inside ISIS-held territory indicate that ISIS continues to hold civilians captive to use as human shields. Individuals who attempt to flee or carry a white flag, to indicate that they are a civilian, are threatened with death by ISIS.

Hundreds of civilians killed and thousands other injured

On October 29, Iraqi Police found the body of a young journalist, Sayaab al-Eqabi, a day after his kidnapping. His body was found in the Yassin Khuraibet, in the center of Basra province. Mr. Sayaab was a reporter for the Iraq Times, a newspaper based out of Germany. This is not an anomaly as UNESCO reports that there are more than 100 cases of assassinations of journalists that are not investigated.

On October 31, a municipal councilman was assassinated when an adhesive IED blew up his car in Eastern Baghdad.

On November 1, UNAMI announced that a total of 714 Iraqis were killed and 1,269 injured due to acts of terrorism, violence and armed conflict in the month of October. It is important to note that most of the victims are civilians – “the number of civilians killed was 559 and the number of civilians injured was 1,067.” A total of 155 members of the Iraqi Security Forces (Peshmerga, SWAT and militias fighting alongside the Iraqi Army) were killed and 202 were injured. Over 1,150 casualties were recorded in Baghdad, making it the most affected province (298 killed, 852 injured). In Diyala, 92 were killed and 141 injured, 86 killed in Ninewa, 28 killed and 40 injured in Salah ad-Din, and 39 killed and 7 injured in Kirkuk.

On November 3, unknown gunmen assassinated a lieutenant colonel in the Iraqi Army and injured his driver in a drive-by shooting on the highway. The colonel, who was traveling in a civilian car, was pronounced dead at the scene, while his driver was rushed to a nearby hospital.

On November 4, ISIS executed 12 Iraqi youths for trying to escape an ISIS training camp in Mosul. The teenagers were reportedly trying to avoid being used as suicide bombers. They were part of the 4,000 youth being trained by ISIS.

On November 4, armed gunmen attempted to kidnap the Director-General of the Ministry of Oil, but were driven off by his security force. PM Abadi honored the security units that prevented the kidnapping.

Efforts trying to limit Prime Minister Abadi’s powers

On November 2, Humam Hamoudi, a member of the Council of Representatives of Iraq, said that “the Iraqi parliament voted on supporting PM Haider al-Abadi’s reform plans as long as they abide by the constitution. Yet, the parliament did not give a mandate to Abadi’s legislative and regulatory powers.” Earlier that day, an MP of the National Alliance, Jassim Mohammad Jaafar stated that the Federal Supreme Court had reinstated the four Vice Presidents who were dismissed by Haider al-Abadi, declaring that the decision to remove them was unconstitutional. However, on the same day, Abdul Sattar Bayruqdar, a Judiciary Spokesperson, said that “the Federal Supreme Court has not yet made any decision on the reinstatement of the dismissed Vice Presidents.”

On November 3, PM Haider al-Abadi responded to the contradictory statements that were made on Monday by some members of the Council of Representatives of Iraq. “Our persistence and determination to continue implementing the reform plans will continue” Said Abadi. He also added that “ the attempts of those who lost their privileges to hinder the reform plans will not succeed.” He continued by saying that “the public’s demands are a lot greater and will end corruption and bring justice in Iraq.”

On November 1, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Iraq, Jan Kubiš, arrived to al-Najaf province and met with supreme religious leader Ali al-Sistani to discuss some of Iraq’s most critical challenges. During a press conference, Kubiš articulated that “effective reform plans are needed in Iraq and that the Iraqi government should prioritize the public’s demands, and expedite its fight against corruption.” He added that “Iraqi politicians must not only criticize the current reform plans, but should provide alternative solutions.”

On November 1, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi stated that “the government’s agenda is clear: to encourage private sector [growth] and cooperation between [the] public and private sectors. The government is currently working to remove all bureaucratic obstacles that hindered all investment activities and economic prosperity,” indicating that the government is pushing for an open economy at the 42nd opening of Baghdad International Fair. PM Abadi also added that the “for the past 40 years, Iraq has relied heavily on one economic factor: oil” pointing to the need to invest in other sectors in order to improve Iraq’s economy.

On November 1, during a phone call with President Vladimir Putin, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi expressed a desire to strengthen Iraq’s relations with Russia in the fight against terrorism in Iraq and Syria. Putin expressed his support to this approach and stressed the needs to “expand joint efforts in the fights against terrorism in the region.”

New shelter opportunities for IDPs in Anbar and Baghdad while hundreds return to their homes in Muqdadiyah

On October 31, Adnan Hussein, head of the Muqdadiyah municipal council, announced the return of more than 250 new families to the village of Sensil, north of Muqdadiyah. Adnan Hussein expects that more families will return in the next several days and that he is confident that 90% of the displaced families will be back in their communities by the end of this year.

On October 31, Ali Dawood, a representative for the Council of Khalidiya in Anbar, announced that it is setting up a new IDP camp with 500 tents in the town of Habbaniyah. Chairman of the Committee Services Committee Anbar, Barakat al-Issawi, also announced that 500 blankets and pillow covers, as well as 1,000 food baskets will be distributed to displaced families in Khalidiya and Amiriyat al-Fallujah.

On November 1, the Major General Ali Ibrahim Dbon announced that 525 trucks loaded with food were sent to civilians in Baghdadi, west of Ramadi. Dbon stated, “1010 tons of flour were included in the trucks by the Ministry of Trade.”

On November 3, the Department of Immigration and Displacement in Kirkuk opened registration for displaced people from districts that are under control of ISIS. The Department of Immigration and Displacement states that it will help “in the delivery of financial and food assistance.”

On November 3, Dindar Zebari, Deputy Head of Department of Foreign Relations, for the Kurdistan Region of Iraq announced, “The number of displaced people in the Kurdistan region currently stands at more than two million people…the region receives more than 500 displaced people every day.” Zebari stated that the regional government spent a billion dollars in the past year to help the displaced and blames international organizations and the Iraqi government for not taking more responsibility to help displaced people.

On November 4, the Governor of Baghdad announced the opening of a residential compound in Abu Ghraib to house 10,000 displaced people. Governor Tamini stated, ” the construction can begin within 24 hours and for approximately ten thousand displaced people living in tents.”

Heavy rains lead to destruction and flooding

On October 29, the Anbar Provincial Council announced that camps in Amiriyat al-Fallujah, Bzeibiz, and Habbaniyah are significantly damaged due to heavy rain. Many camps have begun to sink, therefore the Anbar government has enacted a campaign to provide emergency shelter for the displaced families. No deaths or injuries have been reported. More than 1,000 families were evacuated from camps in Anbar.

On October 31, the Governor of Diyala, Mohammed al-Hamdani, announced, “there are more than 25,000 families trapped by rain water due to poor services in the district of al-Khalis. Flooding in the al-Khalis District reached a meter and a half, which trapped over 4,000 families in their homes. al-Hamdani called on the Ministry of Municipalities to reconsider looking into the district’s sewage system that was halted in initial stages, warning that over 70% of homes in Al Khalis District could be lost if the project is not completed.

On October 31, in its third day of flooding, people in the district of Doura in Southern Baghdad called for PM Abadi’s direct help, since they are neglected by the municipal government. Ali Abu Mohammed, a local resident, stated that, “the municipal department responsible halted pumps minutes after the flooding” As a result, many homes have experienced overflowing sewage, leaving many families no choice but to abandon their homes.

On November 1, the rain flooded the roads linking Diyala and Wasit and have destroyed farmlands in Aldboni district. No casualties have been reported. On November 4, the Gazzanah Directorate, in coordination with the Diyala police repaired the main road linking Diyala and Wasit that was destroyed due to rain.

On November 1, Hanen al-Qadu, deputy chairman of the Committee for the Displaced stated, “The poor municipal services in Iraq has increased the suffering of the displaced people…those who have been displaced from their homes and live in camps are experiencing very bad conditions and the cruelty of the rain has increased their suffering, which washed out most of those camps.” The Committee for the Displaced called on the government to allocate funds swiftly for IDPs, particularly for the IDP camps in Baghdad that have experienced flooding. After the Iraqi Red Crescent in Baghdad administered questionnaires, it found that more than 1,400 displaced people have been significantly affected. The rain has been so intense that many streets in Baghdad are flooded, which has limited the movement of citizens as many have not been able to leave their places of residence.

On November 1, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights announced that thousands of displaced people are now more vulnerable to disease after the heavy rain. The rain has damaged many of the IDP camps. Masroor Muhyiddin, a member of the Board of Commissioners, warned that IDPs are subjected to cold and to diarrheal diseases. Due to lack of resources disbursed by the government, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) is distributing medicine to vulnerable civilians. Muhyiddin also asserted that “the government has been busy withdrawing water from inside the cities and has overlooked and neglected the needs of the displaced.”

On November 1, after multiple deaths throughout Iraq due to the heavy rains, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared a state of emergency in Baghdad. A representative stated that Abadi will form an Emergency Committee “headed by the Minister of Construction and Housing and made up of the ministers of defense, interior, electricity, industry and water resources, the director of the Office of the Prime Minister, the Secretary of Baghdad, and the Baghdad governor” to mitigate the damage of the rain and respond to urgent needs. A combination of rainwater and sewage flooded many streets and homes throughout Iraq.

On November 2, the Directorate of Qazaniyah district and the Iraqi army worked together to deliver 150 food baskets to the families affected by the floods. Director Akram Mazen stated, “the delivery of materials were directly supervised by the governor of Diyala, Muthana al-Tamimi, and the commander of Tigris Operations General Abdul Amir al-Zaidi.” Director Akram Mazen also stated, “The floods destroyed more than 30 houses in Qazaniyah in the past two days.” Efforts to open the main road that were closed due to rain from Qazaniyah towards Badra and Jassan continue.

On November 3, the Ministry of Displacement and Migration formed standing committees to address the needs of displaced people affected by the rains. The ministries stated that the committees will be working “around the clock” to rebuild tents and help the individuals affected by the heavy rain.

Government officials in Basra, Diyala, and Kurdistan respond to health concerns

On October 30, the Basra Health Department reported that more than 4,500 civilians with asphyxia sought aid in the district hospitals due to extreme heat and humidity since Thursday. The Medical Director of Operations in the Department of Health, Basra Musab Abdul Latif, expressed that “all who were hospitalized recovered after receiving full treatment.” The middle east is expected to be the first region to experience this deadly combination of extreme heat and humidity, as spikes in heat and humidity are expected to become more frequent.

On November 2, the Department of Health for Diyala province closed four stores after finding a total of two tons of rotten food inside the city of Baquba. Faris al-Azzawi, a spokesperson for the Department of Health, stated that the rotten food was transferred to a landfill to be destroyed. al-Azzai also stated that the Department of Health will pursue legal action against the store owners for violating health and environmental conditions.

On November 3, the Ministry of Health in Kurdistan launched a campaign to vaccinate displaced people against cholera in 32 camps. The Ministry of Health reports that it has 550,000 vaccines; however, they acknowledge that this will not be sufficient to vaccinate all vulnerable people in IDP camps. IDP camps in Salahuddin have not recorded any cases of cholera yet but there is fear that the rain will increase vulnerability.

Demonstrations show no sign of slowing down

On October 30, hundreds came out in Karbala Square to demand the resignation of Chief Justice Medhat al-Mahmoud and the proper investigation of provincial officials, including the opening of corruption files if warranted. According to a member of the protest’s organizing committee, protesters are also calling for an investigation pertaining to the fall of Mosul and the Camp Speicher massacre to be conducted.

On October 30, hundreds demonstrated in the city of Amara in Maysan province demanding the application of Prime Minister al-Abadi reforms, stating that “services are non-existent” and the Abadi government “has not fulfilled their promise.” Protests of similar scale were also seen in Tahrir Square, Baghdad.

On October 30, hundreds mobilized in Samawah, Muthanna province calling for the abolition of the new salary scale adjustment plan and the implementation of reforms for university professors and public employees. Haider al-Shammari, the demonstration coordinator, warned of “sit-ins in every government department in the event of the implementation of the pay scale” and blamed Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi for the “spread of this tragic situation.”

About our research team: EPIC Executive Director Erik Gustafson and EPIC Research and Advocacy Intern Alexsandra Canedo authored the final analysis and compilation of this report, with significant contributions by EPIC Program Manager Taif Jany and EPIC interns Brian Nichols and Tanesha Singletary. ISHM’s research methodology was developed by Ahmed Ali.

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