News / Middle East

Sunni Muslim Refugees Fear Airstrikes

A boy, who fled from the violence in Mosul, stands near tents in a camp for internally displaced people on the outskirts of Erbil in Iraq's Kurdistan region, June 14, 2014.
A boy, who fled from the violence in Mosul, stands near tents in a camp for internally displaced people on the outskirts of Erbil in Iraq's Kurdistan region, June 14, 2014.
‪Sunni refugees from northern Iraqi towns overrun by jihadists and other militants say they are afraid to return because of Iraqi air force bombing runs and the threat of U.S. airstrikes.

Hundreds of thousands of Sunni Muslims have fled Mosul and other northern Iraq towns captured by fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and other militants.

Seeking some relief from the scorching sun baking a refugee camp an hour from Irbil in Iraqi Kurdistan, Shatha, a grandmother of four, explains why she is not ready to return to Mosul - and it has nothing to do with the jihadists.

Sitting in a blue U.N. refugee tent she is sharing with family members, she says she has already lost one son to an aerial bombardment.  She worries about airstrikes and what  Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki will do to retake Mosul.  She says she will not risk any other family members by going home too hastily.

On Wednesday, Iraq’s military claimed it had driven back Islamist militants from some towns and Prime Minister al-Maliki struck a confident note in his weekly televised address, saying the fight-back had begun.  

Much of the fight is being led by airstrikes and there have been reports of bombing raids on Tikrit, the hometown of the late dictator Saddam Hussein.

But Sunni refugees are not alone in worrying about the consequences of aerial bombardment.  Turkey’s Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan warned Thursday against air strikes.  He said air raids would inevitably lead to high civilian casualties because ISIL fighters and their Sunni militant allies are mixed in with civilians.

A refugee with seven children says the family left because they feared shelling and airstrikes.

 
ISIL Attacks in Iraq
 
  • June 10: Mosul captured
  • June 11: Tikrit and parts of Beiji captured
  • June 12: Samarra and Dhuluiya captured
  • June 13: Jalawla and Saadiyah captured
  • June 14: Clashes in Ishaki and Dujail
  • June 16: Tal Afar captured
Others in the camp say it was the immediate fighting that prompted them to flee.

Eighteen-year-old Masoud left Mosul with a sister and brother because of fighting and explosions.  He says the situation was getting worse and bodies were laying in the street.  He says they have no plans to return because of the jihadists and their fear of being bombed by Iraqi warplanes.

The Iraqi government has formally asked the United States for help and is requesting tactical airstrikes.  But Obama administration officials have signaled their reluctance to use air power to assist the Iraqi military as it tries to reclaim territory seized in recent weeks by ISIL fighters and other insurgents, arguing such an action would be filled with complications.

 
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Martin Dempsey speaks next to U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel during the defense subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, June 18, 2014.Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Martin Dempsey speaks next to U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel during the defense subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, June 18, 2014.
x
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Martin Dempsey speaks next to U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel during the defense subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, June 18, 2014.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Martin Dempsey speaks next to U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel during the defense subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, June 18, 2014.
Army General Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a U.S. Senate committee identifying clear targets would be difficult with Sunni insurgents living close by local populations.

But the United States has been helping with intelligence and surveillance.  Kurdish commanders, who are determined to keep jihadists from invading any of Iraqi Kurdistan, say U.S. drones have been flying and that information is being shared.
 
  • Members of the Iraqi Special Operations Forces take their positions during clashes with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in Ramadi, Iraq, June 19, 2014.
  • Members of the Iraqi Special Operations Forces take their positions during clashes with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in Ramadi, Iraq, June 19, 2014.
  • A general view shows damaged houses after fighting in the city of Ramadi, Iraq, June 19, 2014.
  • A member from the oil police force stands guard at Zubair oilfield in Basra, southeast of Baghdad, June 18, 2014.
  • This June 17, 2014 image taken from video uploaded to a militant social media account shows Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant militants arriving at the oil refinery in Beiji, Iraq.
  • This June 17, 2014 image taken from video uploaded to a militant social media account shows Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant militants arriving at the oil refinery in Beiji, Iraq.
  • This June 17, 2014 image taken from video uploaded to a militant social media account shows Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant militants arriving at the oil refinery in Beiji, Iraq.
  • Iraqi Shi'ite Turkmen families fleeing the violence in Tal Afar arrive in Shangal, a town in Nineveh province, Iraq, June 17, 2014.
  • Mehdi Army fighters loyal to Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr march during training in the holy city of Najaf, Iraq, June 16, 2014.
  • Residents gather at governorate building of Nineveh province after the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant took control in the city of Mosul, Iraq, June 16, 2014.
  • This image posted on a militant website on June 14, 2014 appears to show militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant with captured Iraqi soldiers wearing plain clothes after taking over a base in Tikrit, Iraq.
  • This image posted on a militant website on June 14, 2014 appears to show militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant moving captured Iraqi soldiers after taking over a base near Tikrit, Iraq.

You May Like

Brutality Eroding IS Financial Support

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper says IS's penchant for publicizing beheadings, other brutal forms of punishment hurts group’s bottom line More

Studies: Climate Change a Factor in Disasters in Syria, California

The studies point to the possibility of clear and present dangers from a threat often considered to be far in the future More

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials and human rights organizations assert that Pakistani authorities are using deadly attack at school in Peshawar as pretext to push out Afghan refugees More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Kerry Seeks Assurances of Russian Non-Interference in Ukrainei
X
March 03, 2015 3:11 AM
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has told his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, that his country could face further consequences to what he called its “already strained economy” if Moscow does not fully comply with a cease-fire in Ukraine. The two met, on Monday, on the sidelines of a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, where Kerry outlined human rights violations in Russian-annexed Crimea and eastern Ukraine. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports from Geneva.
Video

Video Kerry Seeks Assurances of Russian Non-Interference in Ukraine

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has told his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, that his country could face further consequences to what he called its “already strained economy” if Moscow does not fully comply with a cease-fire in Ukraine. The two met, on Monday, on the sidelines of a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, where Kerry outlined human rights violations in Russian-annexed Crimea and eastern Ukraine. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports from Geneva.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Prepare to Defend Mariupol

Despite the ongoing ceasefire in Ukraine, soldiers in the city of Mariupol fear that pro-Russian separatists may be getting ready to attack. The separatists must take or encircle the city if they wish to gain land access to Crimea, which was annexed by Russia early last year. But Ukrainian forces, many of them volunteers, say they are determined to defend it. Patrick Wells reports from Mariupol.
Video

Video Moscow Restaurants Suffer in Bad Economy, Look for Opportunity

As low oil prices and Western sanctions force Russia's economy into recession, thousands of Moscow restaurants are expected to close their doors. Restaurant owners face rents tied to foreign currency, while rising food prices mean Russians are spending less when they dine out. One entrepreneur in Moscow has started a dinner kit delivery service for those who want to cook at home to save money but not skimp on quality. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video US, Cuba Report Progress in Latest Talks to Restore Ties

The United States and Cuba say they have made progress in the second round of talks on restoring diplomatic relations more than 50 years after breaking off ties. Delegations from both sides met in Washington on Friday to work on opening embassies in Havana and Washington and iron out key obstacles to historic change. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas reports from the State Department.
Video

Video Presidential Hopefuls Battle for Conservative Hearts and Minds

One after another, presumptive Republican presidential contenders auditioned for conservative support this week at the Conservative Political Action Conference held outside Washington. The rhetoric was tough as a large field of potential candidates tried to woo conservative support with red-meat attacks on President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress. VOA Political Columnist Jim Malone takes a look.
Video

Video NYC's Restaurant Week: An Economic Boom in Fine Dining

New Yorkers take pride in setting world trends — in fashion, the arts and fine dining. The city’s famous biannual Restaurant Week plays a significant role in a booming tourism industry that sustains 359,000 jobs and generates $61 billion in yearly revenue. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports.
Video

Video Brookhaven at Cutting Edge of US Energy Research

Issues like the Keystone XL pipeline, fracking and instability in the Middle East are driving debate in the U.S. about making America energy independent. Recently, the American Energy Innovation Council urged Congress and the White House to make expanded energy research a priority. One beneficiary of increased energy spending would be the Brookhaven National Lab, where clean, renewable, efficient energy is the goal. VOA's Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Southern US Cities Preserve Civil Rights Heritage to Boost Tourism

There has been a surge of interest in the American civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s, thanks in part to the Hollywood motion picture "Selma." Five decades later, communities in the South are embracing the dark chapters of their past with hopes of luring tourism dollars. VOA's Chris Simkins reports.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More