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
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
After the last tension in Kirkuk about raising the Kurdish flag over the government buildings, which received local rejection by Turkmen and , Arabs, by Iraqi government in Baghdad, and by regional and international actors, where everyone condemned this step, which may be a key for Daesh to enter Kirkuk.
Today, after the failure of this policy of Kurdish parties, they are using the alternate policy of the gangs that was already used against Turkmen in Kirkuk, Tuz Khurmatoo and other areas, but it was undeclared and hidden. On April 10, 2017, a Kurdish gang kidnapped a Turkmen citizen “Ali Mohammed Ali”, who lives in the Al Quds neighborhood of Kirkuk and works as an employee of one of the Turkmen parties after a fight with him over the flag raising issue.
On April 27, the gang sent a video showing how the kidnappers are torturing the citizen and asking him to demand his family to pay a ransom for his release. He asks them to do the opposite. The gangs showing him again, while he has been tortured and his face full of blood . This is the policy of the Kurdish parties, which have stepped up and took power and authority under the title of oppressive and under the title of democracy.
We appeal to all official bodies in Iraq and international and regional actors to intervene and protect the Turkmen from what is happening. These gangs are more dangerous than Daesh because they operate under the guise of the state and the government.
T.R.F/ Media office
29 April 2017
Under the slogan: Al Rafidein Region is a definite guarantee for the stability of minorities in Iraq.
The Turkmen, Assyrians, Yazidis, Shabak, and other minorities are considered to be among the original Iraqi societies, as evidenced by the various civilizations of Iraq for thousands of years, as they lived, built, and constructed this area of the land between the two rivers, or the land of the valley of the two rivers, and they paid for it with the blood of their children and did not leave this good land despite the genocide campaigns against them throughout history and the disregard for their rights by the successive Iraqi governments to this day. Their share of international terrorism since 2003 has been the largest, the worst of which was the attack by the criminal takfiri ISIL gangs after June 10, 2014, which caused the emigration of hundreds of thousands of them, destroyed their religious and societal heritage, killed, raped, and kidnapped their women and children, burned their bodies, and made dozens of mass graves for them, out of hatred, malice, and reprisal against them.
After all of the genocide, ethnic cleansing, persecution, abuse, and injustice that has happened and is happening, we, the organizations, working in the name of the persecuted national societies in Iraq decided to join in a coalition that brings everyone together in order to defend our presence in Iraq, the land of our forefathers, to strive to achieve stability in our region through all democratic and civilized means, to protect the unity of Iraq, and to regain our rights by virtue of the Iraqi constitution through legal means.
As such, we announce a coalition that brings together each of the following: the Turkmen Rescue Foundation, representing the Turkmen, Al Rafedin Organization, representing the Assyrians and Christians, and the Yazidi Independent Supreme Council, representing the Yazidis. Considering that it is a strategic national coalition, it is titled as the National Coalition for Al Rafidein Region.
We shall make an effort to cooperate and come together in order to achieve the following goals:
1. Working to provide the most important requirements of “Al Rafidein Region,” which shall include three provinces (Sinjar, Talafar, and Nineveh Plain) as a region of multiple Iraqi nationalities, religions, and cultures, free from any racial or sectarian entrenchment, and give a new face to the practice of democracy in Iraq after the failure of the Iraqi regimes to protect the smaller nationalities and societies living together within the borders of the new region.
2. Acting based on the foundations of the Iraqi constitution which allows the formation of new regions and provinces and gives the right to all nationalities coexisting in Iraq to self-administration, the protection of heritage, culture, and civilization, according to Section Five / Chapter One / Articles 112, 115, and 116 of the permanent Iraqi constitution of 2005.
3. Obtaining national, international, and regional support in order to establish the Rafidein region, and to send messages of peace and security to all that the goal of the project is to practice constitutional, administrative, and humanitarian rights, and to protect the smaller original societies in Iraq, using the principle of openness in relations with everyone.
4. Using the principle of dialogue with all entities in Iraq and to adhere to good neighborliness with all neighboring parties.
5. The doors of the coalition shall be open to all political and societal organizations and formations that belong to the nationalities and societies that live within the map of the new region for the purpose of joining this coalition.
6. Confirming the unity of Iraq in its lands, people, and heritage, and strengthening the national-social fabric. The call for the region is the confirmation of the practice of the constitutional rights granted to all, to prevent the recurrence of calamities, genocide campaigns, and slaughters against smaller societies, and to protect them; it is not for the purpose of dividing Iraq.
We pray for Almighty God to bless this effort to eradicate the persecution and injustice that we have suffered for centuries and to this day, and to grant us success in achieving our higher goals, as success is from God.
Dr. Ali Akram al Bayati
President of the Turkmen Rescue Foundation
Prįñčė Naif Dawoud
President of the Yazidi Independent Supreme Council
Mr. David William Lazar
Chairman of the Mesopotamain Organization
Despite the vicious attack perpetrated against the Iraqi people by gangs of crimes and terrors for more than a decade, and in spite of the accusations directed against the security and military Iraqi forces who are fighting the fiercest organization on earth and resisting such criminals by the blood of Iraqis to prevent further crimes, and in spite of the mass protest movement in Iraq during the past few months to reform the political system in the Iraqi state and to eliminate the quota system and the division of privileges and positions in the Iraqi state on the basis of sectarian or partisan rules, and in spite of the promises given by institutions of iraqi state to reform the political system that brought the country to the abyss because of the corruption of political parties and quotas abhorrent and in spite of the technocrats’ logo raised to repair the system and combat corruption by positioning them in authority places to convince the international community to help Iraq and get out of the hard economic and security situations, in spite of all mentioned facts one can see today how one of the most important institution in Iraqi state that are supposed to be independent and used for non political issues and its main function is to defend the human rights and Iraqis rights and resist all kinds of fierce attacks against Iraq by the civilian ways, media and all democratic tools, it is the Human Rights Commission which unfortunately, will turn into parties’ Rights Commission because of political pressure exerted against the committee supervising the selection of the new members of human rights commission, and unfortunately, it will be subjected to the authority and control of the ruling parties and also will not issue any humanitarian report related to the rights of Iraqis or to defend Iraq in a professional manner. It is also observed despite the fact that minorities in Iraq are more affected by terrorism and they have been abandoned, slaughtered, burnt and their women abducted and became captive by the terrorist gangs and the the criminal groups committed numerous mass graves and massacres against them, we can see how this commission will be free from any name that will represent the minorities with all their diversity, which is an injustice and another kind of terrorism against the oppressed communities in Iraq.
We demand and call the religious authority in Najaf ( Marajaaia ), UN mission in Iraq, the presidency of republic of Iraq, parliament and ministers to intervene to keep these institutions away from the political quota system and make such independent bodies to defend Iraq and the rights of Iraqis, through selection of a group of dedicated professionals to the issue of human rights.
Turkmen rescue Foundation
January 15, 2017