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

Syrian Rebels Poised for Anti-Russia Collaboration

Forty-one insurgent groups issue joint statement vowing retaliation for Russian air offensives More

Political Maneuver Revives Export-Import Bank's Chances

Parliamentary tactic gets bill out of committee, but it faces opposition in the Senate More

Beijing Warns US on S. China Sea Patrols

Warning follows news reports Thursday that US military is planning to sail warships close to artificial islands Beijing has been aggressively building More

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.
House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdrawsi
Jim Malone
October 09, 2015 12:32 AM
The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

VOA Blogs