“There is no more pain that we can suffer,” a displaced widow said when describing the situation of Iraqi families that are being forced to leave the school buildings where they have taken refuge.
The school year, delayed for almost two months because school buildings were occupied by tens of thousands of displaced families, is beginning, and the families will have to leave, in many cases they know not where.
Umm Savash, who lost her husband on the night the Islamic State (IS) attacked Tel Afer in the north-west of Iraq and is the mother of five children, said that “I have no more tears to cry and no more heart to suffer.”
With another Turkmen family from Tel Afer, Umm Savash and her children had settled in a classroom in Kirkuk. She had formerly lived in an old house in Tel Afer, which, though far from perfect, had at least been home.
“When it rained my husband and I used to open our hands to collect the rain drops to protect our kids from the cold,” she said. “We sold everything we had to repair the roof, but as soon as we had finished dreaming that for once we would have a warm winter, we were forced out” by the IS forces.
They took refuge in the school building. “We are heading to nowhere,” she commented. “Every place is nowhere as long as it is not our house. Some people have let displaced families use their properties, while others have greedily rented out spaces in unfinished houses.”
The hundreds of thousands of displaced families suffer from the heavy rain that falls every day.
They have no money, and they suffer from ongoing violence. Meanwhile, the Iraqi parliament has recommended that the government dissolve the Supreme Committee for the Displaced headed by Deputy Prime Minister Saleh Mutlak.
Media reports say that the reason is alleged corruption, adding that the sum of 250 billion Iraqi dinars, about $220 million, intended to help displaced families, has disappeared. “Corruption is another kind of terror that is targeting us,” said Suleiman Jumaili, a displaced person from Mosul, adding “and not only us, but all Iraqis”.
According to Iraqi and international NGOs, 1,400 displaced children have thus far died. While there are no black banners for these children, black banners have once again become a feature of public walls.
According to the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), violence killed 1,273 people in Iraq in October, among them 856 civilians, and wounded 2,010 others. Plus there were hundreds who were martyred from the military and security forces and popular mobilisation forces.
The families of the more than 1,000 missing soldiers believed killed in the Spiker Massacre at an Iraqi army base in June have been drawing attention to their plight.
Umm Hayder, who lost her only son whom she had raised alone after his father was killed in the wars, has become an activist leading the family protest groups and uses every opportunity to demand news of the missing soldiers.
According to the Iraqi Human Rights Ministry, the total figure of soldiers killed in the Massacre was 1,997. However, the victory achieved by the joint Iraqi military, security and popular mobilisation forces in Jurf Al-Sakhar 50 km south of Baghdad has raised morale.
Jurf Al-Sakhar, once the stronghold of Al-Qaeda that the American occupation forces could not dislodge, has now been the site of an Iraqi victory. Since it was liberated from IS forces its name has been changed to Jurf Al-Nasr (with nasr meaning victory).
Iraqi forces are now preparing to enter Jalawla in the Diyala province 90 km east of Baghdad, according to various sources. Qaratepe, a Turkmen town in the same province, is defending itself against IS forces, as is Haditha 260 km west of Baghdad.
by Nermeen Al-Mufti in Baghdad