Joint NGO Statement: Humanitarian and Security Implications of the COVID-19 crisis in northern Iraq
16 April 2020 An impending humanitarian and security disaster looms large in Iraq. The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbates an ongoing crisis that affects displaced communities across the country, including the survivors of atrocities perpetrated by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). These already traumatized communities now face restrictions of movement that will exacerbate underlying psychological distress that may lead to increased suicide rates. Furthermore, Iraq’s recent economic collapse aggravates social instability and causes a security vacuum, which in turn heightens the risk of further ISIS attacks and sows the seeds for future atrocities. The Government of Iraq and the United Nations (UN), including the World Health Organization (WHO), can take simple and effective action now by following the steps outlined below: The public health system in Sinjar and the wider Nineveh Governorate was decimated by ISIS during its brutal occupation and genocidal campaign in Iraq, beginning in 2014. According to the UN, 1.8 million people remain displaced, living in internally displaced persons (IDP) camps across Iraq due to persistent insecurity and a lack of reconstruction work. Globally promoted hand-washing practices are simply insufficient to arrest the spread of a respiratory disease like COVID-19 in such conditions, while social distancing will prove impossible in high- density camps where scores of families live in direct proximity to each other. At present, it is impossible to apprehend the extent of the spread of the virus because no testing for the disease is taking place in the camps, while restrictions of movement impede the work of humanitarian actors who provide basic essentials such as food, water, and medicine. Many Yazidis (Ezidis/Yezidis) want to return to Sinjar, but security, reconstruction, and basic services are still lacking to allow a dignified return. There are currently only two hospitals and just one ventilator to assist the current population of around 160,000 people in the region. The WHO must undertake an urgent assessment mission to Sinjar, Tel Afar and the Nineveh Plain, and provide testing capacities for all IDP camps. Another alarming corollary of the COVID-19 pandemic in Iraq is the psychological impact on at-risk communities, including Yazidis, Turkmen, and Christians, such as Assyrians. Prior to the outbreak, Médecins Sans Frontières reported on a debilitating mental health crisis among Yazidis in Iraq, including a rising number of suicides. The entire Yazidi population is experiencing mental trauma caused by the acts of genocide, and some are displaying severe psychological difficulties. Among those at heightened risk are the women and girls who experienced systemic sexual violence, and the boys who were forcibly recruited by ISIS. No effective trauma treatment is currently being provided to children that were held in captivity or were born out of the war. COVID-19 has also resulted in the suspension of the limited psychosocial therapy support that was being provided. Mental health professionals have identified hundreds of civilians at high risk for suicide, and two suicides by self- immolation have already been reported. Many more attempted suicides continue to go unreported due to stigma. The WHO must immediately address this acute mental health crisis and implement enhanced suicide prevention awareness campaigns. COVID-19 and the precipitous drop in oil prices have caused the Iraqi economy to collapse, leaving a dangerous security vacuum for ISIS to exploit. Indeed, the resultant political turmoil and social strife recall the very conditions that earlier incarnations of ISIS and its supporters capitalized on during its initial surge almost a decade ago. According to the International Crisis Group, ISIS in its weekly newsletter Al-Naba called on its fighters to attack and weaken its enemies while they are distracted by the pandemic. COVID-19 has also hastened the departure of some coalition forces from Iraq, weakening counter-terrorism operations, while some ISIS detainees have recently escaped prison in Syria. There is an urgent need for reform in the civilian security sector, in order to integrate regional militias into a unified Federal Police that upholds the rule of law and protects all citizens, regardless of religion or clan affiliation. To counteract the continued ISIS threat, the Government of Iraq must work with the United Nations and expedite efforts to bring ISIS fighters to justice for the genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes and to incorporate the aforementioned international crimes into its penal code.
COVID-19 is a pandemic the likes of which we have not seen before. Survivors of genocide and other mass atrocity crimes are now waiting for this silent death to pass through the camps and their homes, unable to fight back. There is a significant attendant threat to global security if ISIS uses this opportunity to regroup and return, but it does not have to be this way. Iraqi authorities and the United Nations must act now by means of:
– An urgent WHO assessment mission to Sinjar, Tel Afar and the Nineveh Plain in addition to the provision of testing for COVID-19 in all IDP camps.
– A WHO mental health crisis plan, including suicide prevention awareness campaigns.
– Expediting efforts to bring ISIS fighters to justice for the crime of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes and to incorporate the aforementioned international crimes into its penal code.
– The UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights should, where present, monitor and report on the impact of measures taken by the authority to stem COVID-19 on human rights.
1. Aegis Trust (Rwanda/United Kingdom)
2. Air Bridge Iraq – Luftbrücke Irak (Germany)
3. Asia-Pacific Centre for the Responsibility to Protect (Australia)
4. Assyrian Policy Institute (United States of America)
5. Center for Justice and Accountability (United States of America)
6. Central Council of Yazidi in Germany – Zentralrats der Êzîden in Deutschland (Germany)
7. Free Yezidi Foundation (The Netherlands)
8. Genocide Alert (Germany)
9. International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect (United States of America)
10. International Council for Diplomacy and Dialogue (France)
11. Iraqi Christian Relief Council (United States of America)
12. Jiyan Foundation for Human Rights (Iraq)
13. Minority Rights Group International (United Kingdom)
14. Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies (Canada)
15. Nadia’s Initiative (United States of America)
16. Nobody’s Listening (United Kingdom)
17. Religious Freedom Institute (United States of America)
18. Sanabel Al-Mostaqbal Organization for Civil Society Development (Iraq)
19. Society for Threatened Peoples – Gesellschaft für bedrohte Völker-International (Germany)
20. Trauma Treatment International (United Kingdom)
21. Turkmen Rescue Foundation (Iraq)
22. Voice of Ezidis (France)
23. Women’s Refugee Commission (United States of America)
24. World Federalist Movement – Institute for Global Policy (United States of America)
25. Yazda (United States of America)
Through our following up the report of UNAMI to the Security Council on 28 August 2019 in its meeting No. (8606), presented by Ms. Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert the Special Representative of the Secretary General of United Nations, we appreciate her statements about valuing the efforts made by Iraqi security forces through all of the units in their fight against terrorism, memorizing the sacrifices of these forces.
At the same time, we commend her call for the adoption of human rights standards in trials, investigative and judicial hearings.
We also appreciate her interest to support Iraqi woman and her reference to the absence of the Iraqi ministerial cabinet of a female figure despite the almost complete.
At the same time, we are surprised about her non reference to the marginalization of the third component in Iraq, namely, Turkmen in the same cabinet, despite the repeated demands by the representatives of Turkmen in the parliament and various events and meetings with representatives of the United Nations Mission in Iraq.
We would like to remind Ms. Jeanine Plasschaert about Iraq’s international obligations and the recommendations of the International Committee against Discrimination issued on January 11, 2019, Article 26, which called on Iraqi government to the need for equitable representation of all components in Iraq in public positions, bodies and functions.
Turkmen Rescue Foundation
30 August 2019
UNITAD advertised through the UN portal 9 National Professional Officers (NPOs) posts. The job descriptions are attached for your ease of reference.
Under the supervision of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), TRF started the first training course on the management of small projects for women and ladies in Tal Afar.
This course comes within an ongoing efforts for staff of TRF to rehabilitate Turkmen areas that have been affected by the capture of Da’esh, and within a series of ongoing activities for the Foundation in these areas.
The course will involve a group of women and girls from Tal Afar where they will be trained to write and manage small projects that will be marketed later by the Foundation’s staff to the governmental and international bodies.
The course will also include a psychological rehabilitation program by a trained and specialized cadre.
The activity is part of a program sponsored by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), where the organization has trained TRF staff on advanced programs to prepare trainers and project management in areas that have been subjected to terrorism.
TRF participated on Thursday, 6/12/2018, through its cadres from Tal Afar in the course organized by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Dohuk governorate on psychological support for the victims of Da’ash and helping in resolving disputes.
The program will last six weeks with different programs to help the organization’s staff to provide psychosocial support to victims of ISIS and rehabilitating them to be integrated into social life as well as support to resolve the city’s conflicts to restore stability.
According to a local source in th district of Tuzhurmato( 180 km north of Baghdad ) , a mortar shell landed on the house of a Turkmen citizen one hour ago behind the Tuz sport forum’s building. According to the source, a woman and two children injured with material damage in the house,as well, the people in the city are scarred fear of a rapid development of the situation in the absence of intervention by the central government.
We call for the central government to hold its responsiblty to protect the civilians in the city, the UN representation in Iraq should have a real and seriiod role in keeping safety of the innocent people and stabilty in the city.
TRF/ Media office
17 September 2017
“There are heroes and makers for each victory, sons of Tal Afar an example for Iraqi victory”
“They sacrifice for Iraqis to give them the joy of victory and safety, while their families are deprived of it”
People of Tel Afer were the first who have fired the revolution of the 1920s, the first who have resisted al-Qaeda terrorism and have tested the bitterness of their crimes in 2005 and 2006 and sacrificed by more than 2,000 martyrs in ongoing battles with al-Qaeda gangs.
In the war with Daesh, their blood, which have dropped on the land of Tharthar, Beiji, Mosul and other lands of Iraq is a witness to their patriotism and their sacrifice for the homeland.
The published statistics of the number of martyrs during the last three years in the war against Daesh, talks that the number of martyrs in the province of Basra reached (1000) martyrs, and the province of Nasiriyah (1200), while the martyrs of Iraqi Turkmen city of Tal Afar, exceeded (1300) martyrs, all of them are displaced with their families, and they are suffering and facing bitterness And the harshness of living in exile.
In the battles to liberate the right coast of Mosul, the number of martyrs of Tal Afar so far (66) martyrs.
On 1st of June 2015 in the district of Tharthar 48 fighters killed from the sons of Tal Afar.
On 9th of February 2017 and during their response to the attack south of Tel Abtah (11) fighters from Tal Afar have been killed.
Its sons have contributed to the liberation of dozens of cities and the return of their people to them and are still waiting for the liberation of their city , to return and live in it again. They are contributing to give the people the joy of returning home and safety, and they are deprived of this feeling.
Dr Ali Akram
Chairman of TRF
13 July 2017
Karatepe, 112 km northeast of the city of Baquba in the province of Diyala, has a mixed population of Arabs, Kurds and Turkmen majority. It is also located within the disputed areas. It suffers from the same suffering as other Turkmen cities, neglected by both central and regional government, and in the middle of the conflict by both central government and the regional government. Although the city is outside the borders of the Kurdistan region which was decided upon on 2003, it is officially under the control of the Peshmerga forces which failed (or did not intend) to protect the Turkmen as in the rest of the Turkmen regions of Kerkuk, Salah al-Din and Mosul.
Mortars and Katyusha rockets from nearby villages and towns, especially from the south and west, where the Hamrin Mountains and Zarjeh villages located and which are still embracing Daesh, are constantly targeting the city of Karatepe. According to a local source (his name preferred not to be mentioned), Daesh’s leaders in Diyala who were at Hawija has came from some parts of the province of Salah al-Din, which is still not entirely under the control of the state. They took the mountains of Hamrin as a location to attack the city of Karatepe from time to time. “The same source,” mentioned “a week after a failed attempt” of a young man form a villages near Karatepe, riding a bicycle was trying to blow himself up on the members of police personnel in the middle of the city. The gangs targeted the city on Saturday night 24 June 2017 with Katyusha rockets that led to the death of a 20-year-old Turkmen woman and a six-year-old child and the wounding of others with the demolition and damage of many houses. This incident was also confirmed by the Iraqi agencies.
According to the same source, “A while ago, we, the people of the city, collected donations to buy night glasses and equipment for Al hashid Al shabi (local people forces) because of their limited capabilities of the existing local force, a regiment of the Al hashid Al shabi holding the security file in the south of the city with the army in the east, while Kurdish Peshmerga forces control the Northeast of the city. “.
A local source said that the Governor of Diyala visited the city to observe the situation, and confirmed in his statement that “The local security forces have failed to provide protection to civilians and soon we will announce a new security plan to free the areas of the city and secure the area,”
The MP Furat al-Tamimi, who is from Diyala province told Alsumaria News this morning that “the Turkmen are exposed to a programmed targeting in the area of Karatepe, stressing that they are the indigenous people of the city and there is an attempt to displace them and create a demographic change in the city, warning of continuous waves of displacement in the city because of continuous targeting. He asked the Security forces to protect the unarmed civilians, especially the Turkmen as the biggest target of the terrorists in the city. He stressed that the city suffers from government’s neglecting services and security and the constant targeting from Daesh.
The local and central governments must take full responsibility for the protection of the Turkmen in this city and withdraw the security file from the hands of the Peshmerga forces, which failed to protect unarmed civilians from the Turkmens for 14 years. They are only for the protection of the Kurdish areas, and it is very necessary to support the local forces of the Turkmen and increase their numbers and equip them to protect themselves.
Turkmen Rescue Foundation
Human Rights Section
28 June 2017
Translated by: gülşen beyatli
Again and in the broad daylight and in front of the local government and the security forces in the province of Kerkuk, gangs and militias belonging to the Kurdish parties are attacking unarmed Turkmen civilians and for reasons that have become obvious and clear.
At 3 pm on Friday, June 23, 2017, a gang robbed a Turkmen citizen’s car, in the old Saydeen Street of Wasiti neighborhood in the center of the province. An eyewitness (who declined to be identified) said “This was a gang consisting of four Gunmen were riding a Merzi pickup car with a white color. Two of them were wearing Kurdish uniforms and others wearing green uniforms similar to Asayish (security forces) of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) clothes. They stole a Toyota 2017 GXR belonging to a Turkmen citizen (Salam Koprli). According to the same witness, “the gunmen tried to oblige the citizen to hand over the keys of his car by force. The owner tried to get rid of them; he threw the key to the house adjacent to the location. One of the gunmen stormed the house and attacked the owner of the house with a back of the gun caused wound to his head, and blood was covering his face, according to a source witnessed the incident. The other gunman threw two shots at the head of the driver of the car where he was lying on the street, but he survived by miracle, after that the gang stole the car and fled.
It is worth mentioning that the site of the incident is located in the middle of several security points. Only 300 meters away, and towards the neighborhood of (Wahid Huzayran). There is an emergency police station for the first regiment, but they completely did not move, although the incident’s duration was about half an hour. Also the headquarters of the Asayish (Kurdish Security Force) is located in the other side of Al Wasiti neighborhood, but they did not move a foot also, although the gunmen used the same main street (Al Saydeen) during the attack and withdrawal.
These criminal operations, which occurs daily, target the Turkmen citizens in the province of Kirkuk, in the face of the failure or involvement of the local security services, require a courageous and brave stand from the commander-in-chief of the armed forces as the country’s top security official and his serious move to bring federal forces to protect the people of the city. Or arm the people of the city to protect themselves from the brutality of criminal gangs. Also it is required from the Iraqi parliament to form a committee to investigate these crimes and to find out the details and purposes.
Turkmen Rescue Foundation
Human Rights Section
24 June 2017
Translated by: gülşen beyatli
Despite the direct, and various forms of targeting of Turkmen ethnicity in all the cities and areas of their existence, including kidnapping, extortion, bombing and abuse of their lands and property. We see that one of the malicious methods adopted by those who fear the strength and unity of Turkmen society as an original, national component of historical dimensions, and with a civilization can not be bypassed in Iraq and the region, is the use of sectarian and regional division of Turkmen and create internal strife among them. The Turkmen despite of a rich diversity they have, they are under a big tent that brings them together with all Iraqis, is their affiliation within Iraq, their citizenship. The strong association that brings them together with their son of kin and ethnicity inside Iraq and the whole world is the national factor and language with the existence of religious and sectarian diversity and external and internal boundaries separating them.
In spite of all the targeting and assaults, we never heard a formal statement from the local government about the crimes and dozens of operations that targeted the Turkmen in Kerkuk over the past 14 years, which were considered done by unknown persons and did not reveal any details about them. We mention hereby including but not limited to the assassination of the following Turkmen:
1- Brigadier Sabah Kara Al-Toun, director of internal affairs in Kerkuk.
2- Ibrahim Ismail/Director of Education of Tuz.
3- Brigadier Nazim Hussein Ahmed/director of citizenship and civil status in Kerkuk.
4- Consultant doctor Dr. Yildirm Abbas with his brother.
5- Munir Al-Qafli, Chairman of Kerkuk District Council and member of the administrative board of the Turkmen Front.
6- Lieutenant Colonel Aydin Rifaat/Director of the Kerkuk Intelligence Unit and its facilities.
7- Ibrahim Jihad Al-Beyati/Assistant Director of Integrity of Kerkuk.
8- Dr. Haider Zainalabdeen, ENT specialist doctor, whose fate unknown till today after he has been kidnapped in kirkuk.
9- Hayat Safa’ eldin, a young Turkmen woman, and a political activist from Beldroz, Diyala, was killed recently in May, by who they call unknown.
Despite the presence of dozens of groups, belonging to the gangs and mafia are originally Kurdish, they are in Kurdish prisons or at large, they are accused of dozens of crimes in Kerkuk now. We have never heard statements by a government or security in Kerkuk to disclose the details of their crimes or mentioning their ethnicity or from any area or religious sector.
Despite the existence of 60 files in the Iraqi courts in Kerkuk and charges of corruption and theft of public funds by the local government in Kerkuk, those cases were frozen and never dealt with because of the influence of the authority of the local government.
On the contrary, the media reported a few days ago a televised statement by the commander of the anti-terrorist forces of the Kurdish region of Kurdistan and then at a press conference of the governor of Kerkuk accusing the Turkmen and Shiites of the city of Tuz Khurmato of committing those crimes.
We would like to emphasize the following points:
1- it is very strange that the accused person is dealt with according to his ethnicity, sectarian or regional affiliations, and then the security or governmental authorities focus on that in the media and declare a confirmation of charges against him before he is presented to the judiciary court. This is a violation of the basic rights guaranteed by the international conventions and the Iraqi constitution; this certainly carries hidden objectives, some group worked on it, for years to divide the Turkmen.
2 – This clear selective step in dealing with a crime, the life and fate of civilians in Kerkuk for more than fourteen years and Turkmen are under the weight of terrorism and crimes openly. Who are responsible for them and where is capability of the Kurdish security forces to disclose the details of all these crimes, which killed hundreds of Turkmen and Arab civilians, their qualified individuals, and cost them very large amounts of money because of extortion.
3 – a clear distortion of the reputation of the Al Hashid Al Shaabi, their fighters and formations, which is an integral part of the cheap media to block their real role in their fight against terrorist “Da’ash” and secure the areas that fell under the control of terrorists after the withdrawal of the military forces, which Peshmerga was a part of it. The civilians were left without a protector and defendant in cities and provinces in northern Iraq.
4 – A clear and intentional silence and an attempt to evade the crimes of dozens of Kurdish groups accused of various criminal operations in the province of Kerkuk, some of them were arrested and others are at large and are not presented to the judicial and legal system for fear of detection of the parties behind those crimes.
5 – A clear cover-up by the provincial council and the judiciary system in Kerkuk on files of corruption accusing the local government, those are more than 60 cases of corruption and theft of public money.
The destructive acts and abuses of the civil and social peace by the local government in Kerkuk have become intolerable and warn of serious consequences for the future of this diverse city in its composition and population. It needs intervention by all state legislative, judicial and security institutions to put an end to these crimes and atrocities occurring in Kerkuk in the name of democracy.
Turkmen rescue foundation
Translated by: Gulsen Beyatli