Friday 23 March 2018

'We have no food, no water – why did army leave us?'

Children, who fled Mosul, at a camp in the Kurdistan region of Iraq. Reuters
Children, who fled Mosul, at a camp in the Kurdistan region of Iraq. Reuters
Children, who fled from violence in Mosul, stand inside a camp on the outskirts of Arbil in Iraq's Kurdistan region, June 20, 2014.

"THERE is no food, no water, no gas or electricity since ISIS took control. I saw around 30 four-wheel drives belonging to Isis come in to town – many of them with number plates from Qatar – and I took my family and ran," said Abbas Ali (45) at the Al-Khazar IDP (Internally Displaced People) camp In Erbil.

"They are not even Iraqi, why do they want to make decisions about the future of Iraq?

"The people from Mosul can't trust the army, or Isis; there were 35,000 Iraqi soldiers – most of them are Shia.

"Yes, they were afraid of Isis but they could have fought for us – there were just 2,500 Isis. Why did they leave us?"

Despite being a day-of-rest for Muslims, the dramatic fallout from Isis' power grab continued apace yesterday. Thousands of Iraqis from Mosul – the country's second largest city – are still fleeing their homes following a dramatic capitulation by the state's army that has left civilians in the hands of the Middle East's most radical and merciless force.

"People who are Sunni from Mosul have no loyalty to Maliki; Sunni people from Mosul could never trust the army if it is run by a man like Maliki. He doesn't care about the Sunni in Iraq, and now we have Isis because of that," says Abbas.

While ISIS's medieval cruelty is seen as utterly repugnant by the vast majority of Iraqis, there is a wide acceptance that its ferocious advances would not have been so successful were it not for the sectarian manner in which the US-backed Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki has ruled Iraq for the last eight years.

"There are several Sunnis that support Isis because of Maliki," says Swara Abdullah, general manager with REACH-Iraq, an NGO supporting all Iraqi IDP's in need of shelter and food, and funded in part, by Irish Aid though Christian Aid, Dublin.

"If you turn back 12 years ago, Saddam's government was loyal only to the Sunni people; now the government is Shia, whose leader, Maliki, does the same thing," says Abbas.

"There is no relation with what Isis is doing and Islam; this is a political problem".

One senior political observer in Erbil (commenting on the basis on anonymity) admits: "There is an element of schadenfreude in all of this – how the Shia are falling at the hands of the Sunni."

"It comes from some of those left out in the cold after Saddam was killed, but also among disaffected Sunnis who have had hell since Maliki was empowered."

"Is is maybe 10-20,000, but there is at least 100,000 people supporting them because they feel such disloyalty from Maliki," he insists.

Isis– the Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham (or the Levant, hence, ISIL) refers, geographically, to the region in the eastern Mediterranean and, ideologically, to the group's objective in establishing an Islamic caliphate, or Islamic empire, in the Syria, Iraq and further afield.

A posting on Thursday showing five foreign Isis fighters with British and Australian accents calling for more recruits from Britain and elsewhere "in these golden times" has triggered deeper concern about the infiltration of jihadist groups in the UK and Europe.

Ahmed and his wife and three sons left Mosul and travelled 45km to Erbil on Friday, arriving at Al Khazer, where as many as three families are living in one tent, such is the demand for shelter.

Under Isis, "we were told that men are not allowed to wear normal clothes, they have to be traditional," he says.

"Cigarettes are haram (forbidden) and all men have to have a full beard. It is forbidden for women to work; they have to stay in the home and all women have to cover themselves fully. They flog men and women for disobeying these rules; they tell women they will flog them for going out of the house or to the office."

"I don't understand these people; they say women should be covered from their head to their toe along with Islamic belief, and then they go kill and murder people. They are not even all Iraqi; some are even from France and Spain. Muslims don't do these things – we just want peace"

Shona Murray is a journalist and presenter of 'World in Motion' on Newstalk radio.

Irish Independent

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