Lack Of Coordination Leaves Nineveh IDPs Stranded In Makhmour
Yalla hears the stories of those that have escaped the fighting in villages east of the Tigris.
Aid workers have told Yalla they fear they will not be able to manage an increased influx of people displaced by fighting between Iraqi Security Forces and ISIL in villages east of the Tigris in Nineveh Province.
Speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, one member of the considerable NGO presence in Makhmour warned that agencies were at their limit providing food, shelter, health care and other core items to the 1,900 IDPs from Karbandan, Karmadi and Kidaila that are being processed in a youth centre, which has been repurposed as a transit camp. The aid worker blames a lack of coordination between military and civilian authorities for failing to ensure an adequate humanitarian response was in place, and an assumption that numbers would be more manageable.
Those numbers are likely to swell as the Nineveh operations intensify. Razgar Aubed, manager of the Barzani Charity Foundation’s presence in the Debaga Camp in Erbil Province, explained that progress by authorities is still too slow, and that as up to 30 more villages are liberated from ISIL, thousands more IDPs will arrive in Makhmour. “The biggest problem is that we don’t have the space for them. We are talking with the KRG [Kurdistan Regional Government] and UN to make new refugee camps,” he said. “We are dealing with the KRG to get space, and then all NGOs will come in and make a new camp. But we don’t have the land yet. We need to make several camps for 30,000 people.” The largest refugee camps in the Kurdistan Region have room for no more than 10,000 people.
Aubed said that so far aid agencies have been able to take care of the basic needs of the hundreds of people that have arrived in the last five days. 80% of those with medical problems have been effectively treated on site, and there are sufficient supplies for now. “We have enough food and supplies for these people, but if they keep coming we don’t have enough. If 30,000 people turn up in the next week, there will be problems.”
Yalla spoke to several people that had fled the fighting. Ahmed*, a lecturer at Mosul University who commuted from his village, worries that the poor living conditions could lead to an outbreak of infectious diseases. “There is no ventilation. There is a large problem of distribution of disease – scabies, colds – the place is very crowded with people, it is not big enough.” Yalla asked him about life in Iraq’s second largest city. “Mosul,” he sighed, pausing. “There is violence, there is violence, violence. Violence, violence. Yeah.” Ahmed’s face twitched as he trailed off, looking at the ground. “Help these people go to a better place, better than here.
“There with Daesh [ISIL] we had no freedom. Here there is no freedom, but only for the security process. The people hope to be free,” he said, explaining that he expects the necessary checks to be completed quickly. “As I hear [from] the Kurd government, there is a security process. They tell us that after this process finishes, to differentiate between good men and bad men, we will go to tents or houses, living better than here. This situation is temporary Insha’Allah.”
Like the vast majority of men at the transit centre, Ahmed has changed his appearance since arriving. “In [Mosul] your beard must stay long. I shaved here!” He claimed to have seen British, Chinese and Taiwanese members of ISIL in the city.
Yalla also spoke to a tribal leader from one of the villages, who escaped with eight members of his family. Mohammed* explained the economic hardship he had faced, and a final slap in the face as he left his home. “I worked in the directorate of education, we used to get salaries from Baghdad, but it stopped in June last year,” he told Yalla before saying that as he left the village he saw his $11,000 car hit by bullets from a Dushka machine gun, and set alight.
Mohammed also told of the hardships of living under ISIL. “It is very difficult to live with Daesh, but they don’t speak to you if you don’t do anything wrong. For example, if a woman leaves the house without her face covered, they would tell her to fetch her husband, and when he went he would be beaten or have to pay a fine. Education stopped in the village, because ISIL hid themselves in the schools, so we didn’t send our children to school. ISIL changed all the books to Islamic books, so nobody went to school. My son taught maths, but ISIL didn’t allow it to be taught.” When asked about the make up of the Iraqi Security Forces that liberated his village, Mohammed dismissed the question. “We are all Iraqi: not Christian, Sunni, Shia, Yazidi. Our religion is with God, and our country is for everyone.”
Finally, Mohammed directed Yalla to speak with Hussein*, whose brother was killed during the operation to liberate Karbandan. The 33-year-old related his story, holding back tears. “Our home is on a hill and in the middle of the fighting we weren’t safe so we moved to our family’s house. The fighting intensified, and was in the street. ISIL came and were shooting close to our house.
“My daughter was looking at them out of the window. My brother went to save her, and he was shot in his kidney. I put gauze over the wound, but it was a big injury and he began to bleed out, turn white. I was carrying his body and the Iraqi army saw me. My cousin works with Hashd al Shaabi and he helped to get a pick up to bring us here, where the government is helping us. They took my brother to the hospital, gave us the papers and took him to the cemetery.
“They gave us some dinars and fresh clothes because all my clothes were covered in blood. Every day the Asayish come to ask after us and see if we need anything. I am tired and I cry. Everyone else in my family is here, thank God.”
Later Hussein found Yalla’s reporter and introduced him to his 2-year-old daughter as she laughed while eating a plate of rice and beans, unaware of the pain her father has suffered.
*Names have been changed to protect family members still living in ISIL controlled areas.