As Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) terrorists continue to overrun areas of northern Iraq, the United Nations has begun coordinating humanitarian assistance for displaced vulnerable ethnic and religious minorities, while Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is calling on the international community to support Iraq and help the Government alleviate the suffering of all those impacted by the spiralling violence.
“The Secretary-General 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,” said Mr. Ban said in a statement issued by his spokesperson in New York today.
“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,” it added.
While the Secretary-General in his statement welcomed the successful humanitarian airdrop that has taken place so far, he expressed his “continuing and deep concern” for the safety of those civilians.
As such, Mr. Ban called 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.
The UN Security Council condemned the attacks by ISIL and again expressed its “deep outrage” about the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis — many of them from vulnerable minority communities, especially Yezidis and Christians — displaced by ISIL's attacks and in urgent need of humanitarian assistance.
“The members of the Security Council condemn in the strongest terms the systematic persecution of individuals from minority populations and those who refuse the extremist ideology of ISIL and associated armed groups,” declared the 15-nation body in a statement to the press, reiterating that widespread or systematic attacks directed against any civilian populations because of their ethnic background, political grounds, religion or belief may constitute a crime against humanity, for which those responsible must be held accountable.
Echoing the Secretary-General, the Council members called on the international community 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.
The Council further called on all political entities to overcome divisions and work together “in an inclusive and urgent political process” to strengthen Iraq's national unity, sovereignty and independence. Iraq's leaders were also called on to engage, “as quickly as possible”, to form a Government that represents all segments of the Iraqi population and that contributes to finding a viable and sustainable solution to the country's current challenges.
Meanwhile, The UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) also issued a press statement expressing grave concern at the serious deterioration in the security and humanitarian situation in northern Iraq.
According to the Mission, ISIL and associated armed groups have overrun areas in the Ninewa plains and Shirkhan districts of Ninewa, with fighting continuing between ISIL and the Kurdish forces along border areas of the Kurdistan Region in the vicinity of Makhmour.
Media reports suggest that ISIL militants are also battling to seize the country's largest dam, located in Mosul.
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, said UNAMI.
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,” says the Mission, explaining 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.
“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,” said Deputy Special Representative of the for Iraq, Gyorgy Busztin, who noted 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.
The UN has also received reports of 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.”
Mr. Busztin further stated that the Organization 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.
“Without the delivery of urgent life-saving items, including water, food, shelter and medicines, the lives of thousands of these civilians are now at serious risk,” he said, emphasizing that the numbers of displaced in the Kurdistan Region have risen at an alarming rate and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) is unable to meet their needs.
Mr. 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.
Calling urgently on the Iraqi Government and the Kurdistan Regional Government to coordinate a security and humanitarian response to the current crisis, he also urged both Governments 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,” he added.