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Crossroads: The Future of Iraq’s Minorities after ISIS

Brussels, 7 June 2017 — IILHR, in partnership with three other human rights organizations, released its third annual assessment of the state of Iraq’s minorities after the fall of Mosul in June 2014. The document is meant to complement other reporting on Iraq’s ethnic and religious minorities; it also offers 63 specific recommendations that can help to relieve the existential pressure on these long-suffering groups.

On the third anniversary of the fall of Mosul, the focus is on the future. Minority communities in Iraq fear their ancestral lands will be stolen by government-backed forces as ISIS is pushed back, the new report finds. Territories “liberated” from ISIS months ago remain occupied by militias, Peshmerga, and Iraqi Security Forces while Yezidis, Christians, Shabak, and Turkmen have yet to return.

Based on extensive fieldwork in conflict-affected Ninewa and other parts of Iraq, “Crossroads: The Future of Iraq’s Minorities after ISIS” is the third in a series of definitive annual reports on the state of Iraq’s minorities, published by Minority Rights Group International (MRG), IILHR, No Peace Without Justice (NPWJ) and the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO). Financial support for the project was provided by the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung.

“ISIS is not yet defeated, but the rush to grab their former territory is already well underway,” says Mark Lattimer, MRG’s Executive Director. “East of Mosul, the Ninewa plains formerly home to Iraq’s minorities are now one ghost town after another, inhabited only by militias.” The last year has seen continued high rates of refugee flight from Iraq, particularly by minority Christians and Yezidis. With insecure conditions for internally displaced persons, many more plan to flee.

“With the impending liberation of Iraqi territory from ISIS forces, minority populations continue to diminish. All indications point to a post-ISIS phase that could be just as — or even more —dangerous to minority groups than the ISIS occupation. Many leaders fear that the “peace” could be more perilous for their survival as communities than the “war,” says William Spencer, Executive Director of IILHR.

This report makes 63 specific recommendations to the Government of Iraq, the Kurdistan Regional Government, and the international community tackling the humanitarian, legal, asylum, and other needs of minorities. The report warns that if their concerns are not addressed, there will be a continuing and lasting legacy of inter-communal animosity in conflict affected areas and the ultimate departure of ethnic and religious minority populations from many parts of Iraq.