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Iraq

    April 10, 2017

    By Razaw Salihy, Iraq Campaigner at Amnesty International

    Civilians caught in the crossfire are paying the ultimate price, as Iraqi forces aided by US-led coalition airstrikes continue to push west into the city of Mosul in an effort to drive the armed group calling itself the Islamic State (IS) out of neighbourhoods west of the Tigris River. The military operation to retake the city, which began on 17 October 2016, has already left hundreds of civilians dead and more than 300,000 displaced.

    During a fact-finding mission to northern Iraq in mid-March 2017, Amnesty International met with a number of families who made it to safety in camps for internally displaced persons (IDP) in the Ninewa governorate and in nearby areas under the control of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). They told tales of unimaginable fear and suffering.

    April 03, 2017

    Senior Crisis Adviser Donatella Rovera blogs from Mosul, Iraq. Follow Donatella on Twitter @ DRovera.

    When they heard that there would be airstrikes on their neighborhood in eastern Mosul, Wa’ad Ahmad al-Tai and his family did exactly as they were told.

    “We followed the instructions of the government, which told us, ‘Stay in your homes and avoid displacement,’” he said. “We heard these instructions on the radio. … Also leaflets were dropped by planes. This is why we stayed in our homes.”

    Shortly afterward, the bombs came raining down. As the terrified al-Tai family huddled together, the house next door collapsed on them. Six people were killed there on the morning of Nov. 7, 2016, including Wa’ad’s 3-year-old daughter and 9-year-old son.

    As I traveled through eastern Mosul earlier this month, I heard versions of this story again and again from families who had lost relatives in airstrikes carried out by the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State. Filled with rage and grief, Mosul residents described how they were expressly told to stay in their homes and were then bombed inside them.

    January 28, 2015

    By Francesca Pizzutelli, Refugees and Migrants’ Rights Researcher/Advisor at Amnesty International

    From the plane, the change of seasons is evident: what three months ago was a large expanse of arid, dusty yellow land, now is dark brown and punctuated by moist green patches. After a first visit in September, my colleague Khairun and I are back in Iraqi Kurdistan (officially known as Kurdistan Region of Iraq, or KRI) to assess the human rights situation of Syrian refugees and displaced Iraqis alike.

    November 03, 2014

    By Donatella Rovera, Amnesty International’s Senior Crisis Response Adviser, in northern Iraq

    Unlike in nearby villages recently captured by the Peshmerga forces of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) from the armed group calling itself Islamic State (IS), not a single villager has returned to Barzanke.

    As I go from house to house, it becomes clear why. There is nothing for the residents to return to; virtually all the houses have been destroyed or damaged beyond repair.

    Some were seemingly bombed from the air by US forces, others may have been struck by the Peshmerga as they tried to dislodge the IS fighters who had seized the area last August, but most were evidently blown up from inside.

    Some Peshmerga had previously told me and another human rights investigator that it was their own colleagues who had blown up the houses because the villagers supported IS.

    September 15, 2014

    by Donatella Rovera, Amnesty International's Senior Crisis Response Adviser in Iraq

    These days there are no visitors heading to the ancient Iraqi city of Samarra, 120km north of Baghdad, to admire its archaeological treasures.

    The city, once the capital of the powerful Abbasid Empire, which spread from Tunisia to Central Asia, is also home to the iconic golden-domed al-Askari shrine, a Shi’a holy site that was bombed by Sunni militants in 2006, unleashing a vicious cycle of sectarian attacks and counter-attacks across Iraq.

    September 08, 2014

    by By James Lynch, Refugee and Migrants’ Rights researcher, in northern Iraq.

    Everywhere in northern Iraq thousands of people driven from their homes by the conflict are now struggling to survive in grim conditions. As winter approaches it can only get worse.

    Near Derabon, close to the Turkish and Syrian borders, a group of displaced families have simply found a patch of open ground beside roads and built the most basic shelters out of wood and straw. They get water – which they say is barely drinkable – from a spring about half a mile away and they are without any kind of power.

    August 20, 2014
    By Donatella Rovera, Senior Crisis Response Advisor at Amnesty International, in northern Iraq

    After a harrowing escape, first from their hometown of Qahtanya and then from Sinjar Mountain – where they were stuck for eight days with very little food or water – Suleiman Shaibo Sido, his wife and their eight children, all members of the Yezidi minority, are now sheltering under a bridge in the northern Iraqi city of Dohuk, along with more than 20 other families.

    The place is dusty, noisy and dangerous. Vehicles race by day and night on the main road under the bridge. “We have to be on alert every minute, to stop the children running to the road”, he tells me. “The cars and lorries drive by very fast”, he says. There is no electricity, water or sanitation. “We go get water from the nearby mosque and people bring us food. We are very grateful to the people of Dohuk, they are real brothers”, says Suleiman. “We arrived with nothing other than the clothes we were wearing. People, and also an organization, brought us some blankets and other things. This is enough for now. The most important thing is that we are safe.”

    August 18, 2014
      By Donatella Rovera, Senior Crisis Response Advisor at Amnesty International, in northern Iraq

    Just as the dire humanitarian situation on north-western Iraq’s Sinjar Mountain was beginning to improve, news broke on Friday about one of the worst reported attacks in the weeks since fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS or IS) had started their assault on the towns and villages in the surrounding areas. Scores of people were killed and hundreds abducted by ISIS fighters in Kocho, a small village about 15 km south of the town of Sinjar.

    This fresh atrocity was a bitter reminder of the ferocity of ISIS’s advance. Since 3 August, when the armed group began its march to take control of the territory surrounding Sinjar, they have forced tens of thousands of Yezidis from their homes, killed hundreds and abducted thousands.

    July 29, 2014
    By Donatella Rovera, Senior Crisis Response Adviser at Amnesty International.

    Marvin is a 27-year-old accountant. His life and that of his family were turned upside down last week, when members of the Islamic State (ISIS) turned up at their home in Mosul, northern Iraq.

    The ISIS militants who now control the city gave Marvin, his elderly parents and his brother and sister four stark choices: convert to Islam, pay jizya (a tax for non-Muslims), leave the city … or have their heads cut off. The militants then painted the Arabic letter “N” (for nasrani or Christian) on the house.

    For Marvin’s family, like many other Christian residents of Mosul, there was no choice. They took a few belongings and left the city early the following morning. “On our way out of Mosul, ISIS took our money and jewellery. Now we have no means to get out of Iraq and nothing to go back to in Mosul because our lives there have been destroyed,” Marvin told Amnesty International.

    In recent weeks, Marvin’s story has become tragically common among Christians and other civilians in Mosul.

    July 07, 2014
    Thousands of IDPs fleeing conflict stranded at the Kalak checkpoint ©Amnesty International.

    By Donatella Rovera
    Amnesty International’s Senior Crisis Response Adviser

    Thousands of Iraqi civilians displaced by the current conflict are stranded at checkpoints separating the areas controlled by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the rest of Iraq. At first civilians, who fled after the Islamic State (formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant – ISIL) captured large areas of northwestern Iraq, were being allowed to enter Iraqi Kurdistan, but in recent weeks and days, access has been severely restricted by the KRG.

    July 02, 2014
    By Donatella Rovera, Senior Crisis Response Adviser at Amnesty International from Mosul, Iraq

    Long lines of cars full of terrified families jammed the road as I left Mosul on 25 June. The mass exodus is testament to the impact on civilians since fighters from the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) took control of the city.

    As we headed east towards Erbil militants from ISIS were indiscriminately shelling Hamdanyah, home to some of Iraq’s religious and ethnic minorities.

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