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No Way Home: Iraq’s Minorities on the Verge of Disappearance

On 4 July 2016, IILHR, the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO), Minority Rights Group International (MRG), and No Peace Without Justice (NPWJ) launched a second joint report documenting the state of Iraq’s minority components since the advance of ISIS in 2014. The report, titled “No Way Home: Iraq’s Minorities on the Verge of Disappearance,” is a follow-up report to “Between the Millstones: The State of Iraq’s Minorities since the Fall of Mosul,” published in February 2015.

“No Way Home: Iraq’s Minorities on the Verge of Disappearance” documents how many thousands of persons belonging to Iraq’s ethnic and religious minorities have been murdered, maimed, or abducted, including unknown numbers of women and girls forced into marriage or sexual enslavement, after the fall of Mosul in June 2014.

Iraq’s Christian population, which before 2003 numbered as many as 1.4 million, is now fewer than 250,000. Most of the Yezidi and Kaka’i have been forced from their traditional lands and are now internally displaced or have fled the country altogether, while Shi’a Turkmen and Shabak have been driven to the south. As of June 2016 there were as many as 3.4 million displaced persons, making Iraq the country with the highest number and fastest growing rate of people displaced in the world in 2015. Overall, the UN estimates that 10 million people have now been affected by displacement and are in need of humanitarian assistance. Minority communities have taken the brunt of this mass movement of people.

“Families are destroyed. Homes, businesses, and farms have been looted. Heritage is either demolished or sold. Survivors will have nothing to return to, unless Iraq and the international community take more robust action to address the crushing needs of minorities,” said William Spencer, of IILHR.

Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) forces and commanders have committed war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide, including the use of chemical weapons, summary executions, killing, mutilation, rape, sexual violence, torture, cruel treatment, the use and recruitment of children, and outrages on personal dignity, says the report. Iraqi Security Forces, Popular Mobilization Units, and Peshmerga have also committed war crimes prohibited under international law.

Many uprooted by the violence within Iraq hoped they would be able to return home within a relatively short timeframe. However, internally displaced persons (IDPs) interviewed said that the lack of basic services and security in many locations mean that as many as one in five of them feel that they have no choice but to flee the country. The anticipated displacement from a possible effort to retake Mosul could total as many as 1 million over the next year and the international community could witness the flight of hundreds of thousands of further refugees in 2016 alone.

The report makes 54 key recommendations to alleviate the humanitarian crisis and prevent future human rights abuses, as well as making proposals on justice, reconciliation, and asylum issues and improving institutions and legislation.