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

Afghanistan, Pakistan Leaders to Hold Icebreaking Talks in Paris

Two sides are expected to discuss ways to ease bilateral tensions and jointly work for resumption of stalled peace talks between Afghan government and Taliban officials

Corruption Busting Is Her Game

South African activist is building 'international online community of thousands of corruption fighters'

Former SAF Businessman Gives Books, Love of Reading to Students

Steve Tsakaris now involved in nonprofit Read to Rise, which distributes books in Soweto, encourages lower-grade primary school students to read

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.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
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 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 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 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 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 After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

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 Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

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.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs