Tags / Makhmur
NOTE: No audio from 3:30 to 4:17
In the evening of Feb. 21st, IS launched their second attack in three days on the Makhmour District 35 miles south of Erbil. The Makhmour District is important to the IS because it is their lifeline to Kirkuk and Mosul. Around 21.00 PM an estimated 200 IS fighters entered the village of Tel Rim. After 3 hours of fighting and 8 airstrikes 63 IS fighters died and IS retreated.
This footage shows Makhmour commander Najat Ali Salih arriving in Tel Rim on the morning of 22 Feb. He surveys the village and boasts about knowing about the attack beforehand because of his IS spies. After seeing many dead IS fighters he leaves the town. On the road back one of the Humvees in his convoy hits an IED and three wounded Peshmerga are driven off.
General Sirwan Barzani, Commander Najat Salih and Peshmerga soldier Rokan comment on the IS attack in Makhmour two nights ago.
September, 7, 2014
Despite the Kurdish Peshmerga reclaiming control over Makhmour, the city in the Kurdish controlled part of Iraq, is still reeling from the aftermath of ISIS' occupation. Over 60% of residents have fled to Erbil while those who cannot afford to do so have returned to find their houses pillaged and, in some cases, destroyed. Many are now sleeping outside on the sidewalk or on top of roofs to guard their homes from robbers. If you roam around the city, you will find empty streets and closed shops while the Kurdish flag flies on governmental buildings. There are also reports of some Arab families running away to join ISIS, but for the families that stayed or have returned, it will take some time to piece their lives back together.
SOUNDBITE 1: Ibrahim Sheikh Alla, Director of the District Officer (man, English)
SOUNDBITE 2: Ali Hasam, citizen (man, Kurdish): “We demand all citizens to return to the areas under the control of the Kurdish forces, to protect the homes from the robbing that is happening. People are afraid because they know that ISIS is very close to Makhmour now and because Arab families in the area, such as the citizens of Baqert, are supportive of ISIS.”
“We have extreme security measurements for protection at the moment, and the situation of the market is bad.”
SOUNDBITE 3: Mohamad Sultan, taxi driver (man, Kurdish)
“Many people are afraid now, they are sleeping outside their homes on the look out for any ISIS attack. You can no longer hear anybody speaking Arabic around the area now. ISIS took over my house for four days, they used my clothes, ate my food, and broke into my vault and stole everything, including my passport and my keys.”
Along the roads of the city, in buildings still under construction, you can see hundreds of groups of Yazidis looking for shelter, creating shelters inside the skeletons of buildings, awaiting humanitarian aid. This situation is especially difficult for children and the elderly.
One part of the Yazidi community has been able to pass through the border in northern Iraq with Turkey. The city of Diyarbakir, a Kurdish-majority city, has opened two schools to assist refugees with first aid provided by local associations. The number of refugees within this structure is about 700 people.
For the Iraqi woman who finds herself with dependent children and without a male figure at her side, security becomes a constant worry in addition to the emotional and psychological destruction visited on them by the Islamic State. Keeping in touch with friends and relatives helps distract them and maintain a sense of community.
The living conditions of minorities persecuted by the advance of Islamic State militants can be read on the faces of refugees no matter their age. Despite this extreme hardship, the hope that their children will be able to build a better future keeps them going.
Forced migration is in some cases synonymous with survival. These women were found after escaping from an armed group. Young and old, none of them are safe, they say.
During mealtime, volunteers bring sandwiches and water to refugees. Children play, running between the reinforced concrete pillars of the bridge, left to themselves. The refugees here are waiting for the Duhok municipality to place them in a refugee camp.
Yazidi refugees from the Sinjar area live under bridges along one of the main arteries in Duhok. Sulayman, 42, had a hard escape. He is the only one who speaks English and has managed to keep open relations with humanitarian organizations monitoring the situation where women have no privacy and the water is retrieved from a nearby mosque.
Yazidi refugees tend to move in groups according to their city of origin. Some hotels offer rooms at a fixed cost. In this Hotel refugees pay 600 Iraqi dinars per month no matter now many people reside in the room. Those with the means may even request air conditioning and fresh water.
A temple sacred to the Yazidi is used as a shelter by refugees arriving from Mount Sinjar. The checkpoints and militarization of the place does not calm their fears that future attacks by the Islamic State can take place. Every inch of the stone temple donning Yazidi symbols of worship is used to shelter a trembling people.
The days become monotonous, as the women constantly prepare meals, clean dishes and wash clothes. The rest of the time the mind is free to worry about what might still happen and get lost in the melancholy of a sectarian war in progress.
Many Yazidi mothers have lost their children on the way to escape from Mount Sinjar during the advance of the Islamic State militia in the plain of Nineveh, but life must go on in spite of the constant pain and the uncertainty of their future.
After two hundred Yazidi women were kidnapped and converted to Islam to be sold by IS militants, the Yazidi community worries that it can happen again, visible scars on the community of the women who were persecuted.
Arsalam, 38, is the father of 5 children, including two newborn twins. His family comes from Bashiqua and hosts 24 people in 2 rooms of their hotel. Insecurity is always present on the faces of the guests who do not feel at home, even though they are certainly better off than those refugees who are forced to stay on the streets.
Duhok is estimated to host between 200 and 300 thousand refugees. Aid by the international community is slow to arrive, so local volunteers do their best to care for refugees. Women gather in front of an ambulance to have their children examined by doctors and receive treatment.
Inside one of the schools occupied by refugees, volunteers from a local association manage to bring aid to women and children. They ask women of the community every day for a list of products they need. Women collect lunches brought by the municipality and men distribute them to the entire community.
After attacks by the Islamic State on Mount Sinjar which is located between the north east of Iraq and Syria, minorities have tried to reach places of safety both in northern Iraq and in Turkey. About 120 thousand people managed to escape with the help of Syrian Kurds (YPG) and the air support of the United States.
A mother of three cares for a daughter who suffers from Down syndrome. She has many fears and many anxieties about the future, abandoning her old life, and how best to care for her daughter.
A Yazidi woman prepares water inside a tub to wash the younger children. Harsh conditions make caring for children difficult.
Refugee women and girls cooperate to best manage day to day life, sharing duties and caring for the younger children.
In this makeshift refuge, the little ones spend most of their hours stretched out on the floor in the corridors or in empty classrooms of the school.
A Yazidi woman walked for days to escape from Mount Sinjar and the threat of the militia of the Islamic State. When she arrived in Duhok, she gave birth to a son with the help of older women in the community. The child is at risk due to high temperatures, the shortage of medicines and an unhygienic place to live.
Yazidi refugees take shelter in a garage building. A woman, aided by her sons, tends to their makeshift house inside the garage.
Aid from local associations has not been enough to support the Shabak community living in Rovia's mosque. A woman needs to move for the night between the cars parked outside.
Recognized as an ethnic minority in 1952, the Shabak are now on the run from the militias of the Islamic State. They have already experienced persecution in the past, notably by the regime of Saddam Hussein. 70 families of them take refuge in this mosque from their latest threat.
A Shabak man is sick, lying on a rug while a woman tends to him, as the public hospital can only be reached in the morning. During the day, temperatures reach around 45 degrees.
An elderly woman prepares to cook dinner, shielding the fire with wooden panels. Inside the mosque there is no pavement, making hygiene a challenge.
Bardarash, 30 km from Mosul, has a Muslim majority. Here, the municipality helped Shabak families take shelter in schools. Young Shabak girls prepare food in one of the classrooms, temporarily used as a kitchen.
In the tiny village of Rovia a few miles from Mosul, a city currently under control of the Islamic State, the Shabak community has found refuge in a mosque under construction. Inside the community, the proportion of children to adults is very high. The adults hope to spare their children from the psychological trauma of war.
The temple Lalish is situated to the north of Mosul. It is a place of pilgrimage and an important sanctuary for Yazidis. After IS captured Bashiqua and other nearby villages, many people have sought refuge at the temple monitored by Peshmerga fighters who control the entire district of Sherkan. The Yazidi community has opened its doors to refugees allowing them to settle down within the sacred place, aided by NGOs providing tents and relief supplies.
Shabak women are preparing for the evening meal in a mosque along the road that leads to Mosul. With only moonlight available, people who sleep outside must cook, eat, and wash quickly.
August 10, 2014
Iraqi Kurdish militia members inspect the body of a man said to be an ISIS fighter. The man was reportedly killed during a five day battle in August, 2014 between the Peshmerga and ISIS in the Makhmur district, south of Erbil.