• July 18, 2018
  • Iraq Solidarity News (Al-Thawra)
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I would like to applaud Iraq’s Yezidi’s, for their plans to establish a museum in Iraq, that documents the crimes of ISIS. 

The Islamic State in Iraq, was made up of Jihadists from around the world and included a known 800 people, from across the UK. 

The first organisation, to begin documenting the crimes of ISIS, was the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2014 - alongside the Iraqi and Kurdish authorities. 

As Vian Dakhil, Member of Parliament in Iraq, stated at the USHMM: “This is not just terrorism. This is genocide.” The US based Museum also stated, “along with (persecuting) Yazidis and Christians, ISIS has also targeted Shiite Muslims, Shabaks, and Turkmen." The Museum also called upon the international community to "protect” them from ISIS “genocide”. 

Within Great Britain, the only organisation to include actions of “genocide” in Iraq, within a UK based educational setting, are the Anne Frank Trust UK; which includes Iraq in the exhibition Anne Frank +You, that tours British schools, colleges, universities and community spaces. 

Hussein Al-alak is the editor of Iraq Solidarity News (Al-Thawra)

  • July 18, 2018
  • Iraq Solidarity News (Al-Thawra)
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Shortfalls in funding are threating to close critical health facilities in the war-torn country of Iraq, leaving nearly one million people without access to basic medicines and health care, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned on Tuesday. 

“Support for health services in Iraq has drastically declined since the end of the Mosul campaign just over one year ago,” the agency said in a statement. 

“Four health partners have already shut down 22 health service delivery points in 2018 due to a shortage of funds, leaving critical gaps in the provision of health care for children, women and men who are still displaced from their homes, and those who have returned to areas with heavily damaged infrastructure.” 

Despite the final victory in the fight against the Islamic State (IS) announced by Iraq in December, millions of Iraqis remain displaced and reside in various camps across the country. “In total, 38% of health facilities supported by nine health cluster partners are at risk of closure by the end of July, resulting in increased risk of communicable diseases outbreaks and roll back recovery efforts in areas devastated by conflict,” the WHO added. 

According to the organization, these facilities currently offer health services to more than 900,000 displaced Iraqis and residents of host communities, including the treatment of common diseases, gynecological services, vaccinations for children, nutrition screening and referral of complicated medical cases for advanced treatment. 

“So far, only US$ 8.4 (12.5%) of the US$ 67.4 million required by health cluster partners for the Iraq Humanitarian Response Plan for 2018 has been funded.” The statement noted that $54 million is urgently required by health partners under the United Nation's (UN) Humanitarian Response Plan to ensure the continuation of health services in newly-accessible provinces of Iraq. 

“Health cluster partners play a crucial role in providing health care for displaced people and host communities in Iraq. Since 2018, health partners have treated more than 1.2 million Iraqis,” the organization concluded. Instability, insecurity, and lack of basic services remain the key factors that cause internally displaced persons (IDPs) to remain in camps instead of returning to their places of origin. 

After years of receiving people fleeing from the conflict with IS, the Kurdistan Region continues to remain a safe haven for over 1.3 million Iraqi IDPs and Syrian refugees, according to the latest figures released by the region’s Joint Coordination Crisis Center.

by Sangar Ali

  • July 18, 2018
  • Iraq Solidarity News (Al-Thawra)
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When the Islamic State (IS) was finally driven from Iraq in July 2017, it left material ruin in its wake. It also left behind a legacy of abandoned children and orphans, many afflicted with psychological and social scars and many with no registration papers or trace of their parentage. 

Under Iraqi law, for these children to become registered and granted Iraqi nationality there must be an official marriage certificate to prove they were born under a legal union. This has led the Iraqi Foreign Ministry to call on the international community to adopt children who are known to be non-Iraqi. But what about those offspring whose lineage remains unknown, including those who lost their parents in the war? 

Kazem al-Haj, a political and social researcher at al-Hadaf Network for Political and Media Analysis, argued that it's critical to address the situation of children with unknown parentage to avoid the social problems caused by a generation brought up in extreme conditions. He told Al-Monitor, “Children with unknown parentage are distributed in large percentages in the areas that were under the control of the Islamic State." 

The Iraqi Constitution defines Iraqi nationality. Haj said three provisions apply to children with unknown parentage, relating to their Sharia, legal and social status. He noted, “The Sharia prohibited insulting and hurting children with unknown parentage, allowed their adoption and gave them the right to inherit.” 

Haj continued, “There are several legal remedies to address the situation of these children. Registers and official documents may be issued to them. This is the main procedure aimed to ensure their integration into society according to … the constitution."  

Retired Iraqi Judge Tariq Harb told Al-Monitor the marriages of foreign fighters were performed under procedures put in place by IS. Therefore, "It is necessary to find a legal remedy for their [children's] situation.” Al-Monitor also spoke with Judge Noaman Thabit Hassan, the head of public prosecution in Ninevah. 

He said, “Since the liberation of Ninevah [from IS], public prosecution authorities have turned care centers into orphanages for children with unknown parentage. These centers are hosting around 70 children.” But terrorist groups like IS have left more than 800 young children and minors of different nationalities in Iraq, Joint Operations spokesman Brig. Gen. Yahya Rasool told Al-Monitor. 

IS encouraged members to marry and have children, to foster a new generation that would embrace its ideology and grow up to fight in its ranks. But even within the group, there were children of unknown parentage or whose parents were killed in battle. So in 2016, IS established centers called "sons of the caliphate homes" to accommodate these children, both boys and girls. 

Another measure is employed when the father's nationality can be established. Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Ahmad Mahjoub told Al-Monitor, 

“Once the ministry is sure of the children’s identity and origin based on official documents and judicial rulings, it works on repatriating them to their country of origin after communicating with their embassies in Baghdad — provided that they aren't involved in a crime or terrorist act, or that they have served their sentence.” 

Commenting on another measure, legal expert and former Judge Ali Tamimi told Al-Monitor, "Should their country of origin refuse to receive them, they would be placed in the state’s centers for orphans after being tried [if necessary]. It should be noted that under Iraqi law, children are excluded from liability for their parents’ crimes.” 

He added, “Iraqi families could be encouraged to [foster] children of unknown parentage, which is possible under Iraqi law.” 

But children of uncertain parentage aren't easily accepted in Iraq, and their lineage isn't the only issue for these children. They were born and raised in an extremist environment. Many attended classes to instill in them the ideas and ideologies of terrorist organizations and were trained to use arms. This makes their repatriation an urgent matter, so they can be rehabilitated and become accustomed to a normal life. 

Human rights activist Mona Shemri, a founding member of Al-Warth Charitable Society for Social Solidarity, said, “Children of IS and foreign fighters are being taken good care of in orphanages and nurseries in Iraq. [Also], all services are made available for the juveniles who are placed in detention centers at the Justice Ministry, in coordination with the Interior Ministry. 

A good number of [children have been fostered] by Iraqi families who were not notified that they might be the offspring of IS militants to prevent them from being rejected.” She added, "Last month, three children were sent to live temporarily with families in France.” 

Adnan Abu Zeed is an Iraqi author and journalist. He holds a degree in engineering technology from Iraq and a degree in media techniques from the Netherlands.

  • July 17, 2018
  • Iraq Solidarity News (Al-Thawra)
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Yezidi activists have successfully lobbied the Iraqi government to convert a school in the village of Kocho near Sinjar – known to Kurds as Shingal – into a museum dedicated to the ISIS genocide. 

The Iraqi government has given the proposal the go-ahead and even dedicated a budget. 

Artists in Duhok and Erbil have been invited to design and build a statue portraying the genocide that befell the Yezidis to display in the school. In the 2014 attack launched by ISIS on Shingal and its surrounding areas, militants kidnapped more than 6,500 Yezidis, many of them from Kocho. 

ISIS gathered 1,202 Kocho residents in the village school. They separated the women and children from the men. The men were taken away to be murdered and the women sold into sexual slavery. Yezidi community leaders and supporters wrote to the Iraqi government last month requesting permission to create the museum.

Now with the government’s approval, preparations are underway. Dawd Murad Khatari, a researcher of the Yezidis, told Rudaw: “The Iraqi government has given its consent for Kocho school to be turned into a museum and has dedicated some money to build a hall in the school to receive guests visiting the museum. A monument will be built in the school yard too.” 

“After the village of Kocho was liberated from ISIS, the village school was viewed as a symbol for the victims of the disaster. A week later, Nadia Murad, who is from Kocho and is currently UN’s good will ambassador, returned to the village and visited the school. 

Relatives of the victims later returned to the village and visited the school, and put pictures of their victims on the school walls. Recently, some Yezidi personalities submitted the Kocho museum proposal to the Iraqi government which has now given its consent to it.” 

Kocho is 22 kilometers from southern Shingal and is the most distant Yezidi village from the center of Shingal. Of the 1,202 people from kidnapped from Kocho, 395 were shot and buried in 22 mass graves. According to figures, 600 people from Kocho remain missing. 

Idris Kocho, along with 30 of his close relatives, was kidnapped by ISIS. He told Rudaw: “I will never forget the misery and hardship I suffered in Kocho school. We were gathered in the school. Later, I along with 45 other people were taken to be shot." 

"I was lucky that I was only injured while we were shot at. I then could escape.” Only Idris survived out of a family of 13. “It is a good thing if the school in Kocho is turned into a museum because it is a symbol of the disaster that befell the Yazidi Kurds,” he said. 

By Nasr Ali

  • July 16, 2018
  • Iraq Solidarity News (Al-Thawra)
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Christians in the West have played a crucial role in reviving communities in Iraq ravaged by extremists in the ancient Nineveh Plains – according to a Church leader who has helped pioneer their resettlement in towns and villages which have been their home for thousands of years. 

With latest reports stating that about half of the inhabitants have gone back to the Christian-majority town of Qaraqosh (Baghdeda), Father George Jahola said “a lot” of people were now returning there from Lebanon and Turkey as well as from Erbil and other displacement centres in Iraq. 

The Syriac Catholic priest, who has led the resettlement of about 25,650 Christians back to Qaraqosh, said the support by Christians in the West for a massive house-repair project in Nineveh had been vital to the survival of the community. 

In an interview with Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, one of the Christian organisations backing the house-repair scheme, Father Jahola said: “If it weren’t for the houses, there would already be no one left.” With 2,187 of the 6,826 damaged houses in Qaraqosh now repaired, Father Jahola said: “We would be lost without our fellow Christians in the West.” 

Since Daesh (ISIS) was forced out of Nineveh almost two years ago, more than 8,700 families have returned to Nineveh, according to ACN’s latest figures, with 4,300 houses now made habitable again in Christian towns and villages across the region. Father Jahola said that, while security and jobs were vital for people looking to return to Nineveh, the importance of the house-repairs was critical. 

Stressing the community’s dependence on aid from Christian organisations, he said: “The [Iraqi] government has no money and other priorities. No one shows their face here.” Meantime, Archbishop Timotheos Moussa Al-Shamani, Abbot of the Syriac Orthodox Mar Matti Monastery near Bartella town in the Nineveh Plains, said the international community have largely failed to provide much-needed help. 

He said: “We don’t need words. I can’t even begin to tell you just how many western ambassadors and politicians I have already spoken with. “What we Christians in Iraq need is action.” Such concerns about the lack of international aid echo comments by Stephen Rasche, the Archdiocese of Erbil’s programme coordinator for the displaced Christians from Nineveh and nearby Mosul. 

Speaking at Aid to the Church in Need UK’s national Westminster Event in London last October, Mr Rasche highlighted the importance of aid, saying: “I can tell you in northern Iraq, it’s everything – everything. 

“Without the Christian charities – with ACN far, far in the lead – the displaced Christians of northern Iraq would not have survived these last three years.” Mr Rasche added: “We had no help coming to us from the institutional bodies – despite whatever protestations they make… ACN made the difference… so thank you for it.” 

by Murcadha O Flaherty

  • July 15, 2018
  • Iraq Solidarity News (Al-Thawra)
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From a lack of hospital beds and emergency rooms, to shortages of maternal, paediatric and post-traumatic care, thousands of Mosul inhabitants have returned to their war-torn homeland. 

Since Iraqi forces liberated the second largest city in Iraq one year ago, Iraqi authorities have yet to rebuild most of the devastated parts of the city, not to mention the badly deteriorated health institutions amid wrecked infrastructure. 

In a post-operative facility run by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in east Mosul, Saqar Badir was lying on bed, waiting for a decisive operation to fix his right heavily-deformed leg, as he has suffered from two failed operations in private clinics. 

Saqar, a 26-year-old auto mechanic, was shot by an Islamic State sniper while fleeing his home in an IS-controlled neighbourhood in Mosul last June, and was rescued by other family members. Saqar wishes that he could resume work to support his family, who suffer abject poverty like most of the city residents. 

"Now I only live with the financial help of people. I came here to do the operation because I don't have any money," Saqar said. However, if the fixture failed again, he could encounter the risk of amputation, in a country which has no welfare support for disabled citizens.

"At the moment Mosul has a population of 1.8 million people and 9 of the 13 hospitals were destroyed. There used to be a capacity of 3,500 beds and now only less than 1,000 are left," Heman Nagarathnam, MSF's Head of Mission in Iraq told Xinhua. "Basic health care is not there, but there are huge health needs. A total of 70 percent of actual capacity in terms of health is no longer existing," he said. 

Catastrophic destruction was widespread in the old city of Mosul, where daily temperatures in summer can also reach up to 50 degree Celsius. Falling rubble, un-exploded ordinance, acute shortages of electricity, water, sanitation and a lack of other basic services, pose health threats to those who have returned home. 

"We have a hospital in the western part of Mosul. Approximately 95 percent of emergency cases are due to mines and ISIS booby-traps left in homes," Nagarathnam said. Talking about the far-reaching health impact, Nagarathnam indicated "a disastrous situation" could occur - given the fact that both primary and secondary care is absent in Mosul. 

Accessing health care services is a daily challenge for thousands of children and adults in Mosul, as the city's population is increasing as more displaced people are returning home. In May alone, more than 45,000 returned to their homes in Mosul, but the health system is not recovering and there is a huge gap between available services and the needs of the growing population. 

"We need to rebuild the health facilities here and also make sure they are available and affordable," said Nagarathnam, who called for national and international efforts to rebuild the health infrastructure in the city. 

Countless children, who were deprived of three years of education in Mosul under IS control, also require urgent mental health care to cure psychological wounds. 12-year-old Anas will never play soccer again, after a mortar shell left him paralysed. His mother also has severe psychological problems as a result of war. 

Gao Zhichang, a Hong Kong surgeon, was helping an Iraqi boy with severely burned hands and assured him both hands would function well after surgery. "Iraq is a war-torn country, there is a big health demand for the community here. That's why I am here," said Gao, who is on his 11th field mission with MSF. 

There also exists a massive demand for prosthetic limbs, rehabilitation care and training. In a physical rehabilitation centre established by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Erbil, around 100 km east of Mosul, Mohammad Abullah was struggling to walk again with an artificial limb. 

"I had quarrels with ISIS members because of smoking, then they started to beat me." Abdullah was forced to amputate his leg without appropriate treatment, after the beating at the hands of the terror group. "The number of amputee's increased during the fight against IS," Srood Suad Nafie, manager of the ICRC physical rehabilitation centre said. 

"A lot of patients with disabilities have reached out to our centre, in order to receive services after the liberation of Mosul and some from before then." Last year alone, more than 1,000 wounded people from the Nineveh province received rehabilitation assistance. Srood noted the trend continues, with more patients seeking help from the centre on a daily basis. 

by Zhang Miao and Jamal Hashim

  • July 14, 2018
  • Iraq Solidarity News (Al-Thawra)
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Many Iraqi families are still living in limbo over the fate of their beloved members, who went missing during the ruthless rule of the Islamic State (IS) militant group over Mosul, second largest city in Iraq. 

Many of the missing reportedly had been either killed by IS militants who used to shoot dead those trying to flee their homes in the battleground, or trapped in the IS-held areas in the densely-populated old city center and died as human shields. 

However, the uprooted families from Mosul, which have been circulating between military units and humanitarian organizations, keep asking the same question: "Where is my husband?" "Where is my son?" or "Where is my father?" The upshot is always the same: no answer. 

Most of these families are suffering severe poverty after a painful tragedy for the loss of a primary breadwinner. Among them is Firdous Mohammed who is waiting on the fate of her husband, her brother and her sister's husband. They were all captured by IS militants two years ago. 

"I've lived in a very difficult situation since IS militants arrested my husband, brother and brother-in-law two years ago in Mosul," said Mohammed, a mother of two. Mohammed, in her 40s, lives with two other women who also lost their family members, in a ruined small house in Mosul. 

"We depend on humanitarian aid that we get from time to time from the United Nations and other relief organizations, as well as the help of some residents," she said. The Iraqi woman said her husband was helping security members and government officials to flee Mosul after the extremist IS group seized the city. 

"I myself participated in two attempts to help people flee the city until one day in 2016, there was an ambush and my husband was captured by the terrorists," she recalled. Her husband was tortured in front of his eight-year-old son and six-year-old daughter, before she managed to flee the city with her two children for fear that IS militants would also persecute them. 

"After two years of losing my husband, I'm still thinking of his suffering and pain under those merciless gangs. All I want to know is his fate because life is difficult and I need him with me," she said, embracing her 8-year-old daughter with tearful eyes. 

Sami al-Faisal, head of Human Rights United Organization, who is working in Nineveh Province, said in an interview with Xinhua that IS militants kidnapped thousands of people, including security members, journalists, election candidates, government employees. 

Faisal's organization established a database in coordination with Mosul's municipality council to register those who went missing after being kidnapped by the terrorist group. "So far the database shows 2,178 have been registered as missing across the province, in addition to 3,111 others registered missing from Yazidi minority in the province," Faisal said. 

"There are more missing people who are not registered because they live in distant places, or they are not aware about our activity," he added. There are no accurate statistics from the Iraqi government about the number of missing people. 

Nevertheless, some unofficial reports estimated it at much higher than 11,000 since the fall of Mosul until its liberation. Um Qusai, a woman from Wadi Hajar neighborhood in the western side of Mosul, told Xinhua that she lost her son during the liberation battles while he was imprisoned by IS militants. 

"During the battles, the security forces captured him, and I have information that he was transferred to Baghdad," said Qusai, who also suffers abject poverty. "Sometimes I ask myself why I didn't just die like many other people in the airstrikes. I am completely alone and desperate because nobody can help me know his fate," said Um Qusai, crying bitterly. 

Faisal said his organization is keen to follow any information that could reveal the fate of those missing people. Meanwhile, he blamed the central and provincial governments for failing to provide enough assistance for the traumatized families of the missing people, as most of the remaining family members are women and children. 

"The problem is very serious, therefore I call on international community and the world's aid organizations to find a solution for these families and help them find their missing members first, and help them improve their living," Faisal said. "It is almost impossible for the Iraqi government to meet the needs and demands of those people," he added. 

A large part of Iraq's northern province of Nineveh, including its capital Mosul, came under IS control in June 2014, when government forces abandoned their weapons and fled, enabling IS militants to take control of parts of Iraq's northern and western regions. 

On July 10, 2017, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi formally declared Mosul's liberation from the IS, after nearly nine months of fierce fighting to dislodge the extremist militants from their last major stronghold in Iraq.

  • July 13, 2018
  • Iraq Solidarity News (Al-Thawra)
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“Who is even going to believe there were Jews in Iraq? Baghdad was the centre of the Jewish world for over 1,500 years. I can no longer carry on living as if nothing has happened.” 

These powerful, haunting words from north Londoner Edwin Shuker begin the documentary “Remember Baghdad: Iraq’s last Jews tell the story of their country.” 

Shuker decided to return to the country he loves. Filmmaker Fiona Murphy documented his journey to Baghdad, his visit to the family home and the synagogue where he once worshipped. Shuker bought a house in Erbil so he could say the Jews have not all gone. He wanted to plant a seed of hope for the future. 

“Maybe in 30, 40, 50, 60 years’ time Jews will reconnect with their birthplace. Iraq is in our bones,” Shuker said as he opened the door to his new residence. The realities suggest Shuker’s dream could one day come true. Iraq’s new emerging leader, Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, said he would welcome back Jews who were expelled from Iraq decades ago.  

Asked by one of his followers if Jews, who were forced out of the country due to the discriminatory policies of past regimes, could return under his leadership, al-Sadr responded in the affirmative. “If their loyalty was to Iraq, they are welcome,” he said, adding that Jews who wanted to return to the country could receive full citizenship rights. 

Murphy’s insightful documentary traces the history of Jews in Iraq. The focus is the 20th century and the experiences of several families. The story is told through vivid home movies, news footage and interviews, which provide a penetrating flash of insight into the lives of Iraqi Jews during both the good and bad times. The characters tell their stories with poignant regret and bitter clarity. 

The Dallals imported tyres, the Khalastchis sold cars, the Shamashes were property developers and politicians and the Dangoors imported Coca-Cola — all working in partnerships with Muslims. 

“Jews, Muslims and Christians, we were all Iraqis. It was a good time. I still miss Baghdad,” said Eileen Khalastchi. She was among the last few hundred Jews to flee Baghdad in 1974, leaving just 280 behind. She had seen the country through British rule, independence, revolutions, war with Israel and persecution under the Ba’ath Party. 

As a child, Khalastchi’s life in Baghdad was idyllic. She said she misses it still and stayed in Iraq as long as she could. The first sign of change was when the grand mufti of Jerusalem moved into the house next door to her home. 

In 1941 she was too young to understand the reason for the sudden acid attack on her on the riverbank of the Tigris, that the politics of Palestine/Israel and the influence of the Nazis were behind the frightening change of atmosphere in Baghdad. However, anger over the British reconquest of Iraq and the partition of Palestine was building and it led to violent attacks against the Jews in Baghdad. 

Khalastchi and her family ignored all opportunities to leave until it was almost too late. By the late 1960s, their lives were in danger, their passports withdrawn and two or three families were escaping every week. Nevertheless, today she remembers the good times, always smiling. She does not want to return to Baghdad. “I want to remember it as it was,” she says. 

“The families I filmed were ordinary but lived through an epic in their kitchens and living rooms, making life-and-death decisions before school in the morning,” Murphy said in a statement on the documentary’s website. “I hope people who watch the film will identify with them and recognise ethnic hatred for what it is and see that it is still with us.” 

Murphy was offered a job cataloguing an extraordinary archive of early home movies belonging to an Iraqi-Jewish family. “Bit by bit, I was also drawn into the turbulent history of Iraq before Saddam Hussein, infinitely more complex than I knew, and for which Britain and the US bear much of the responsibility,” she said. 

“I learned that the Jews once made up a third of the population of Baghdad. They spoke to me of idyllic times, picnics by the Tigris, fancy dress parties and beauty pageants. It was difficult at first to reconcile it all with the brutal place Iraq has become today. I wanted to know, step by step, how this happened.” 

“Their story opens onto everything that happened in the Middle East between the first world war and the Cold War 50 years later,” she said. 

“A mosaic emerged telling the story of a nation under intense pressure, descending into darkness. I was surprised by the light moments and unexpected paradoxes: the Arab friends and business partners, the ambivalence about Israel, the genuine affection for home. I pushed on and ended up going to Iraq at the peak of the ISIS insurgency with a man [Shuker] determined to rekindle the Jewish presence by returning to buy a home there himself.” 

by Karen Dabrowska 

Remember Baghdad is being shown on Wednesday, August 8th 2018, at Somerset House in London. This showing of Remember Baghdad is being organised by the AMAR Foundation and special guests will include Baroness Emma Nicholson and Edwin Shuker - whose story features in the film. Edwin Shuker will also be giving a talk about the making of the film. To purchase tickets please click here.


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