photo: Eddy van Wessel

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Wednesday, September 27, 2017

'IS' members face controversial Iraqi court trials


Iraqi courts are fast-tracking cases in court against "Islamic State" (IS) members, but there is concern about the diligence of the speedy process. Judit Neurink reports from Qaraqosh. 

"I am looking for my son," says a woman dressed in black outside the high walls of the Iraqi court where those accused of membership of "Islamic State" (IS) are on trial. Her son was picked up eight months ago, together with the rest of their village, some 275 men in total. "Some were released, but he was not. But I know he is innocent."

Sariah Yahya tells DW that she searched for him everywhere. But her son Luay, a farmer with two children, is not listed in any of the informal prisons where Iraqi army units are holding their IS prisoners. Now she has come to check for his name at the court of investigation based in the Christian city of Qaraqosh. "No mother of a Daeshi would dare ask for her son," she points out as proof of his innocence, using the group's Arabic name.

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Iraqi Kurds split over Kurdish independence vote

Iraqi Kurds are slated to vote on an independent Kurdistan on September 25. Even though most are in favor of getting their own state, many are still considering to vote 'no' as Judit Neurink reports from Sulaimaniya.

"It's hard to say 'no'," said 27-year-old Ali Faraj, a journalist working in Sulaimaniya, the second city of the Kurdistan region of Iraq.
Every Kurd wants an independent Kurdish state, he added - so, when they vote in today's referendum for independence, he said most Kurds will vote 'yes'.

But like many people here in Sulaimaniya, a bastion of opposition to Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani who initiated the poll, Faraj said he wants the referendum to be delayed.
"Perhaps even till 2019, so there's time to prepare it really well," he told DW.

Even though independence is his dream, too, Faraj says "it is too dangerous now."
He points to the poor state of the economy, which could influence the outcome of the poll, but also to negative reactions from Iraq and abroad: from neighboring Iran and Turkey, in particular, who have threatened to close the borders through which the Kurds in Iraq get most of their goods.

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In Iraq, minorities pin hopes on a Kurdish state

Iraqi minorities have been voting for an independent Kurdish state in a bid for stability and peace. A Kurdish passport and nationality could improve their situation, they believe. Judit Neurink reports from Irbil, Iraq.

Disappointment with the Iraqi government and loyalty to the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, which took them in when the terror group "Islamic State" deprived them of their homes and livelihoods, has led many Iraqi minorities to support the Kurdish push for independence. When the Kurds voted on Monday on secession from Iraq, they included not only the minorities in their own region, but also those in the lands beyond it which they are claiming for their new state.

"This is now our community," says Inaam Tomea, 45, showing her blue inked finger after voting. She is from the Christian city of Qaraqosh, on the Nineveh Plains, which IS took over in August 2014 and which the Kurdistan Region wants to be part of its future state. Most of its inhabitants fled to Kurdistan and to camps set up in Ainkawa, the Christian enclave of the Kurdish capital, Irbil.

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Monday, July 31, 2017

War in Iraq: Why looting should be treated as a crime

It is possible that the gold jewellery you bought from a shop, or via the internet, was once a wedding present given to a Yazidi women, kidnapped by Islamic State (IS) when it captured the Iraqi province of Sinjar in August 2014; just like that painting you found in a market that used to belong to an Iraqi, whose house was looted by IS in Mosul.

Looting has always been a problem during Iraq’s many wars - but it has been especially prevalent during the past three years of IS rule.

The group didn’t just seize all the gold and valuables of the 6,000-plus Yazidis that it captured.
 
When I drove into the ruined town of Sinjar soon after it was liberated in late 2015, I noticed that every door of every house had been left wide open by looters. More recently, Iraqis who returned to check on their homes after IS had been driven out found that most of their valuables and furniture had gone.

Inside the occupied cities, IS gave its fighters the houses of those who fled its rule. When the time came for the fighters themselves to escape, they stripped the houses bare. The furniture eventually turned up in second-hand markets across Iraq.

It wasn’t only private possessions that were taken; heritage sites in Iraq and Syria were looted and antiquities smuggled out and sold on the black market. Some of these artefacts have been recovered from safe houses in Mosul - but most have disappeared.

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Children survive 'Islamic State' hungry and traumatized

Children have been among those worst hit by "Islamic State" occupation and the battle to liberate Mosul. They suffer malnutrition for lack of food, and toxic stress from the violence they witnessed, Judit Neurink reports.
"Look, he is walking again!" Hanan Mohammed, 43, smiles, setting her two-year-old down on his skinny legs. The family of three recently escaped the Old City of Mosul, where fighting had been going on for weeks, and food and water had been scarce for months.

"Daesh left us hungry," she says, using the local abbreviation for the self-styled "Islamic State" (IS) militant group. "There was nothing to buy, and what was there was very expensive." That's why she could not feed her children and lost a six-month-old baby to malnutrition. Her son had started walking, but stopped again for the same reason.

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Iraqi refugees seek family reunion in Germany

The German consulate in Irbil is helping Iraqi refugees overcome bureaucratic obstacles on their way to rejoining family members in Germany. Judit Neurink reports from Irbil.
"I miss him so," Mahdia, 17, says, as tears roll down her face. Her twin brother Mehdi fled to Germany a while ago and she is now with their family in the office of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in the Iraqi Kurdistan capital of Irbil to prepare the paperwork needed to join him there.

Her father, Abas Khalil Elias, wipes his eyes too. He looks haggard after living in a camp for the past three years, trying to feed his eight remaining children by working on the fields. Before the "Islamic State" (IS) group entered their village of Khanasur in the Yazidi province of Sinjar in August 2014, he was a driver. The Yazidi family fled to the Sinjar mountains where a corridor was created to keep them out of IS' hands. Thousands of other Yazidis were not so lucky; IS captured at least 6,000 women and children and killed thousands of men.

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Fallujah still bears scars of 'Islamic State' occupation

A year ago the Iraqi town of Fallujah - captured by IS in 2014 - was liberated. When Judit Neurink visited the town, she found the scars of occupation still prevalent.

The scenes in the town are depressing. Dead bodies are still being found under the rubble of destroyed buildings. And at least once a week, injured children are being brought into the only partly operational hospital after playing with or stepping on explosives left behind by the "Islamic State" (IS).

"Only about half of the town has been cleared," Hamid Abud Fahd, assistant director of a local health center, told DW. "The government has no money, but the rest needs to be cleared urgently, and the city has to be rebuilt."

Only those who can afford it have left the camps around the city, where thousands of Fallujah's inhabitants still live a year on, to rebuild or repair their homes. And even if the government has started paying its civil servants again, there's no money on its way from Baghdad to help rebuild the many government buildings that have been destroyed.

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