News / Middle East

Iraq's Displaced Top One Million

  • The United States began to drop relief supplies to beleaguered Yazidi refugees fleeing Islamist militants in Iraq. Here displaced people, who fled from the violence in the province of Nineveh, arrive at Sulaimaniya province, Aug. 8, 2014.
  • Shi'ite Muslims listen to Sheikh Abdul Mehdi Al-Karbala'i speak as he delivers the text of a sermon by Iraq's top Shi'ite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, during Friday prayers at the Imam Hussein shrine in the holy city of Karbala, Aug. 8, 2014.
  • U.S. President Barack Obama talks about the humanitarian relief situation in Iraq inside the State Dining Room of the White House, in Washington, DC, Aug. 7, 2014.
  • Demonstrators ask for help for Yazidi people who are stranded by violence in northern Iraq, across from the White House in Washington, DC, Aug. 7, 2014.
  • Displaced people from the minority Yazidi sect take refuge at Dohuk province, Aug. 7, 2014.
  • Displaced Iraqis take refuge at Dohuk province, Aug. 7, 2014.
  • Displaced Iraqi Christians settle at St. Joseph Church in Irbil, northern Iraq, Aug. 7, 2014.
  • Kurdish peshmerga troops patrol in a tank during an operation against Islamic State militants in Makhmur, on the outskirts of the province of Nineveh, Aug. 7, 2014.
  • Displaced families from the minority Yazidi sect, fleeing the violence, walk on the outskirts of Sinjar, west of Mosul, Aug. 5, 2014.
Lisa Schlein

The International Organization for Migration reports fighting in Iraq between Islamic State rebels and Kurdish Peshmerga military has pushed the number of internally displaced people in Iraq to over one million. IOM says this is the highest number of IDPs in Iraq since the Islamist advance began in January. 

According to IOM, more than 54 percent of Iraq's displaced have fled their homes since June. That is when Islamic State, formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, began an accelerated push for territory in northern Iraq.

Click to enlargeClick to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

The militants have seized control of large swathes of territory from the Iraqi government, including the important city of Mosul. While the current displacement numbers are dramatic, IOM spokesman Chris Lom says they are probably grossly underestimated.
“All these numbers are extremely fluid," said Lom. "They clearly do not include people who are actually on the move and particularly these people in the mountains who, up to now, we have been unable to access.”
Mass exodus

Attacks by Islamic State against Iraq’s Yazidi religious group have triggered a mass exodus from Nineveh’s Sinjar region. About 140,000 reportedly have fled this week, most to Kurdish-controlled areas. The U.N. reports some 50,000 people, half of them children, have escaped to the Sinjar Mountains on the border with Syria.

A spokeswoman for the World Food Program, Elizabeth Byrs, says the Yazidi remain trapped in the mountains, unable to reach safe areas and humanitarian aid.

"Many of he families who fled violence in Nineveh’s Sinjar region in recent weeks are in urgent need of water, food and shelter," she said. "You know that there are very high temperatures. It is very difficult to live in this type of conditions and people are looking for water and food and WFP is very concerned.”
US air drops

Aid agencies report the humanitarian situation of the Yazidi is dire. The United States has begun airdrops of food and water to help the desperate men, women and children survive.

The U.N. Human Rights Office says it is deeply alarmed by the situation in northern Iraq, particularly the situation of vulnerable minority groups, including the Yazidi, Christian and Turkomen communities.

Spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani says her office continues to receive worrying reports of atrocities being committed by the Islamic State against the groups.

“We do have very worrying information of children dying of the recruitment of child soldiers," she said. "And, we also have very disturbing reports of the treatment of women - women being sold as sex slaves and, you know, being punished for not adhering to the misinterpretations of Islamic law as well.  We have very worrying reports of these.”

Shamdasani says widespread or systematic attacks directed against any civilian population because of their ethnic background, religion or belief might constitute a crime against humanity. She says all armed groups, including the Islamic State, must abide by international humanitarian law, including that of protecting civilians.

You May Like

Isolation, Despair Weigh on Refugees in Remote German Camp

Refugees resettled near village of Holzdorf deep in German forestland say there is limited interaction with public, mutual feelings of distrust

Britons Divided Over Bombing IS

Surveys show Europeans generally support more military action against Islamic State militants, but sizable opposition exists in Britain

Russia Blacklists Soros Foundations as 'Undesirable'

Russian officials add Soros groups to a list of foreign and international organizations banned from giving grants to Russian partners

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?i
Carol Pearson
November 29, 2015 1:23 PM
The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?

The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video Political Motives Seen Behind Cancelled Cambodian Water Festival

For the fourth time in the five years since more than 350 people were killed in a stampede at Cambodia’s annual water festival, authorities canceled the event this year. Officials blamed environmental reasons as the cause, but many see it as fallout from rising political tensions with a fresh wave of ruling party intimidation against the opposition. David Boyle reports from Phnom Penh.

Video African Circus Gives At-Risk Youth a 2nd Chance

Ethiopia hosted the first African Circus Arts Festival this past weekend with performers from seven different African countries. Most of the performers are youngsters coming form challenging backgrounds who say the circus gave them a second chance.

Video US Lawmakers Brace for End-of-Year Battles

U.S. lawmakers are returning to Washington for Congress’ final working weeks of the year. And, as VOA's Michael Bowman reports, a full slate of legislative business awaits them, from keeping the federal government open to resolving a battle with the White House over the admittance of Syrian refugees.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video After Terrorist Attacks, Support for Refugees Fades

The terrorists who killed and injured almost 500 people around Paris this month are mostly French or Belgian nationals. But at least two apparently took advantage of Europe’s migrant crisis to sneak into the region. The discovery has hardened views about legitimate refugees, including those fleeing the same extremist violence that hit the French capital. Lisa Bryant has this report for VOA from the Paris suburb of Cergy-Pontoise

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

As Thailand takes in the annual Loy Krathong festival, many ponder the country’s future and security. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs