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NPA partner fears the end of minorities in Iraq

The majority of Iraq’s Christian Yezidi population remains displaced by ISIS. Forced to live in streets and unfinished buildings, they will either die or leave the country, NPA partner organization fears.

This fall, the Muslim extremist group ISIS has taken over the majority of the area where Iraq’s minorities, like Christians and Yezidis, used to live. Having fled from ISIS, thousands of internally displaced persons are living in the Kurdish part of the country. A large number of them belong to the Christian and Yezidi minorities.

“They are living on the street or in unfinished buildings. It is a very unsafe environment, especially for women”, says Hussam Salim of NPA partner organization Yezidi Solidarity and Fraternity League. He had to flee himself, when ISIS took over the city of Bashiqa, where the Yezidi organization had their main office. The office was partially destroyed, and now has the ISIS flag on it.

The NPA partner is providing the displaced with shelter and food as well as they can. Many volunteers are helping, and the organization has been able to reach many families. But the needs are much greater than the response, and Salim is worried about the minority population of Iraq.

“The situation is very bad. Many children have become orphans because of ISIS, and with winter coming, tents are not enough to shelter them. We don’t even know how many children are displaced and orphaned, nobody is keeping track”, he says.

With the terrible conditions, many Christians and Yezidis are fleeing the country altogether.

“When ISIS took over large parts of Iraq this fall, the Shia population went to the south, the Sunni stayed, and the Kurdish fled to Kurdistan. The Yezidi and Christian minorities also fled to Kurdistan, but now they are starting to leave. They have no place on the Iraq map anymore”.

Salim explains that many Iraqi minorities have already fled to Turkey, Jordan and other countries in the region.

“They are trying to find a way to get to Europe, the US or Australia. We fear that many will try to get to Europe by boat. They think to themselves: What opportunity do I have here? If I stay, I will die. That is why they are willing to risk their life”, he says.

Salim thinks in order for the minorities to feel protected, there must be a change in policy in Baghdad.

“Minorities need to be protected by certain policies, but more importantly the discrimination against us needs to stop. Minorities in Iraq are not free to take any job, and have less property rights. There needs to be a political solution to this in Baghdad”, Salim says.

“Otherwise, it will be the end of religious diversity in Iraq”, he says.

23.01.2015 | Julie Offerdal