A humanitarian crisis is under way in Iraq with thousands of civilians fleeing from their homes with nothing, because of the attacks against religious minorities by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) who have taken control of great areas in the north.
According to the UN “over the last 48 hours 200,000 civilians have fled the advance of ISIL, with at least 180,000 crossed into Dohuk district of the Kurdistan Region. This in addition to large numbers of civilians displaced as a result of the ISIL advance into Sinjar and Tal Afar districts of Ninewa Governorate that took place on 2-3 August, which resulted in up to 200,000 predominantly Yezidi civilians becoming trapped on Jabal Sinjar in territory now controlled by ISIL. With the conflict ongoing, many more civilians are expected to flee the fighting.”
In a press release the UN said that “many of those displaced or directly affected by the violence belong to Iraq’s minority religious and ethnic communities – including Yezidi, Christians, Shabak, Turkomen and others.”
The Deputy Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General (DSRSG) for Iraq, Mr. Gyorgy Busztin, said “I am gravely concerned for the physical safety of many of those civilians trapped in areas under ISIL control or in areas affected by violence. The UN continues to receive reports that members of minority communities are being subjected to serious human rights violations by ISIL including murder, kidnappings, forced conversions, physical and sexual assault, and the looting and destruction of property and places of religious and cultural significance, in what appears to be a widespread and systematic policy aimed at cleansing non Sunni ethnic and religious communities from areas under its control”.
The DSRSG further stated, “The United Nations is also deeply worried by the humanitarian situation of civilians in areas under ISIL control. Many are in locations that are inaccessible, including those who have been trapped for over 5 days on Jabal Sinjar mountain – women, children, aged people and people with disabilities and those in need of medical assistance”. The DSRSG further added: “Without the delivery of urgent life-saving items, including water, food, shelter and medicines, the lives of thousands of these civilians is now at serious risk”. The numbers of displaced in the Kurdistan Region-Iraq have risen at an alarming rate and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) is unable to meet their needs. DSRSG Busztin called on the Iraqi Government to urgently make resources available to the KRG to help alleviate the crisis.
The United Nations is coordinating humanitarian assistance for the latest influx of civilians displaced into the Kurdistan Region and is exploring all avenues to try to get supplies to those trapped in ISIL areas of control – however, resources are being stretched to the limit.
The DSRSG stated, “I urgently call on the Government of Iraq and the Government of the Kurdistan Region to coordinate a security and humanitarian response to the current crisis and to do their utmost to ensure the availability of resources to support the humanitarian needs of those civilians displaced or affected by the violence. I also urgently call on the members of the international community to provide assistance to the Governments of Iraq and the Kurdistan Region to combat the threat posed by ISIL and associated armed groups and to ensure the protection of civilians from the effects of violence, particularly members of Iraq’s ethnic and religious minorities who are now at serious risk”.
In a statement the Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said that he is “deeply appalled at today’s reports of attacks by the terrorist group Islamic State (IS) in Kirkuk, and Qaraqosh, and earlier attacks in Tal Afar and Sinjar district affecting mainly the vulnerable communities of Christians, Turkomen, and Yezidis. Reports of Yezidis amassing along the Turkish border as well as thousands also trapped in the Sinjar mountains in desperate need of humanitarian assistance are of urgent and grave concern.”
“The Secretary-General welcomes the successful humanitarian airdrop that has taken place so far but expresses his continuing and deep concern for the safety of those civilians.”
“The Secretary-General calls on the international community, especially those with the influence and resources to positively impact the situation, to support the Government and people of Iraq and to do all it can to help alleviate the suffering of the population affected by the current conflict in Iraq.”
Pope Francis expressed also his concern, according to a statement by the director of the Vatican’s press office Federico Lombardi.
“The Holy Father -he said- is following with deep concern the dramatic news reports coming from northern Iraq, which involve defenseless populations. Christian communities are particularly affected: a people fleeing from their villages because of the violence that rages in these days, wreaking havoc on the entire region.”
At the Angelus prayer on July 20th, Pope Francis cried with pain: “[O]ur brothers and sisters are persecuted, they are pushed out, forced to leave their homes without the opportunity to take anything with them. To these families and to these people I would like to express my closeness and my steadfast prayer. Dearest brothers and sisters so persecuted, I know how much you suffer, I know that you are deprived of everything. I am with you in your faith in Him who conquered evil!”
“In light of these terrible developments, Lombardi said, the Holy Father renews his spiritual closeness to all those who are suffering through this painful trial, and makes the impassioned appeals of the local bishops his own, asking together with them in behalf of their sorely tried communities, that the whole Church and all the faithful raise up with one voice a ceaseless prayer, imploring the Holy Spirit to send the gift of peace.”
“His Holiness urgently calls on the international community to protect all those affected or threatened by the violence, and to guarantee all necessary assistance – especially the most urgently needed aid – to the great multitude of people who have been driven from their homes, whose fate depends entirely on the solidarity of others.”
“The Pope also appeals to the conscience of all people, and to each and every believer he repeats: “May the God of peace create in all an authentic desire for dialogue and reconciliation. Violence is not conquered with violence. Violence is conquered with peace! Let us pray in silence, asking for peace; everyone, in silence…. Mary Queen of peace, pray for us!”