UN humanitarian agencies operating in Iraq are bracing for what could be a displacement catastrophe of massive proportions as the US-led offensive to retake Mosul from ISIS is launched. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) warns that up to one million people may be forced from their homes in the operation, which is expected to last months. (UN News Centre) The UN High Commissioner for Refugees Fillippo Grandi arrived in Erbil Oct. 17 to discuss preparations for the anticipated deluge. (Rudaw) With fighting now underway on the outskirts of the city, at least 2,000 residents have massed on the border with Syrian Kurdistan, hoping to cross over to safety. Another estimated 3,000 Mosul residents have arrived at an IDP camp near Hasakah in northern Syria. (BasNews)
The Pentagon plans to send some 600 additional troops to Iraq to help launch a long-awaited offensive to retake Mosul from ISIS in the coming weeks. Added to the 560 new troops announced in July, this will bring total US troop strength in Iraq to over 5,000. Most of the new troops will be deployed to Qayyarah, an Iraqi air-base also known as Q-West, about 40 miles south of Mosul that has become the key staging base for the offensive. Some also will be deployed to the al-Asad base, which is further west in Anbar province. (LAT, Sept. 28)
Amnesty International is demanding that Iraq's Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) immediately end the "shocking and arbitrary" detention of a Yazidi woman who has been held without trial for nearly two years after surviving captivity at the hands of ISIS. Bassema Darwish, a 34-year-old mother of three from the Babira village in Nineva governorate, has been detained by the KRG since October 2014, accused of complicity with ISIS forces who killed three Kurdish Peshmerga fighters when they arrived at the house where she was being held captive in Zummar village. She is currently detained at a prison in Erbil, denied access to family and counsel. She gave birth to a daughter while in custody.
Bill Weinberg rants against the conspiranoid notion that the US intentionally created ISIS, dismissed as a "fairy tale" by secular and progressive supporters of the Syrian Revolution. He instead examines the actual political context for the emergence of ISIS, and argues for solidarity with the pro-democratic forces on the ground in Syria that are actually fighting the "Islamic State"—especially the Rojava Kurds. This YouTube video is a second entry in the rebooted version of the Moorish Orthodox Radio Crusade vlog. We again ask viewers to please forgive the imperfections (e.g. the low volume on vocal track), we are still working out the bugs! Watch this website for the next episode, coming soon...
Officials in the Iraqi governorate of Dhiqar on Aug. 21 carried out the hanging of 36 men convicted for their participation in the Camp Speicher massacre of June 2014. The event infamously involved the kidnapping and killing of 1,700 military recruits by presumed ISIS militants after the fall of the base outside Tikrit. The massacre has since been known as one of the greatest ISIS atrocities in the country. The executions were performed in Dhiqar's Nasiriyah prison and overseen by governor Yahya al-Nasseri and the justice minister. Al-Nasseri has recently fast-tracked the execution of convicted terrorists following last month's suicide bombing in Baghdad. These executions have drawn heavy criticism from advocacy groups for ignoring international judicial standards.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed his concern for the human rights violations faced by the Yazidi minority in Northern Iraq on Aug. 3, stating that actions of the Islamic State (IS) may amount to genocide. Two years ago the IS attacked the Sinjar area in Iraq killing nearly 5,000 individuals. The statement claims that 3,200 Yazidi women and children remain in captivity and are subjected to nearly unimaginable violence. The Secretary-General proclaimed these acts may constitute war crimes, crimes against humanity and even genocide. The UN encouraged the Iraqi government to bring perpetrators of these crimes to justice, with a fair trials and due process, while supporting the survivors.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) on July 31 urged Iraqi military commanders to prevent historically abusive militias from participating in the campaign to retake the city of Mosul from the Islamic State (IS). Last March the Iraqi army began working with Kurdish Peshmerga and affiliates of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) to launch a ground offensive against the IS, which has been holding Mosul since June 2014. Hadi al-Amiri, leader of the Badr Brigades, officially stated in late June that the PMF would be taking part in the liberation of the city. HRW has stressed, however, that the PMF has a long reported history of abuses, including summary killings, enforced disappearances, torture, and the destruction of homes. In the May campaign to retake Fallujah, there were numerous reports of PMF members abusing civilians, performing executions, and mutilating corpses despite Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's prior declaration that the PMF would not enter the city. In light of the PMF's various reported offenses, HRW stated that the Iraqi army has a duty to protect the civilian population and hold militia fighters accountable for past war crimes.
The US will send an additional 560 troops to Iraq to help secure a newly retaken air-base as a staging hub for the long-awaited offensive to retake Mosul from ISIS, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said during an unannounced visit to the country July 11. Most of the new troops will be devoted to the perparing the Qayara airbase, some 64 kilometers south of Mosul. They will help Iraqi forces planning the drive on Mosul, Iraq's second largest city. The increase brings the total US force in Iraq to 4,647. Unofficially, that figure is probably closer to 6,000, as troops who deploy on temporary assignments are not included in the Pentagon's official tally. Taqqadum, a base in Anbar governorate where US troops train Iraqis., served a key role in the taking of Ramadi late last year, and more recently Fallujah. (Al Jazeera, WP)