photo: Eddy van Wessel


Saturday, October 3, 2015

Eid under hardship for IDPs in Kurdistan

The annual Islamic celebration of Eid al-Adha finds many Iraqis who fled from Sunni areas to the Kurdistan region in a situation of hardship.

Not only have civil servants from Mosul not received any government wages for months, for some, UN food coupons were cut too.

"Just before Eid I finally received two months of my salary from Baghdad. Before that nothing for six months,” said Raed, a former policeman from Mosul. The 30-year-old now works as a barber. His shop in the Harsham refugee camp outside the Kurdistan region capital of Erbil is busy, even though it is Eid, one of the most important Islamic holidays.

His customers are mainly young men he attracted with his skills using the barber’s razor, as they are boasting partly shaved heads. They all originate from Iraq’s second city Mosul and the Shingal Region, both areas now in the hands of the Islamic State.

Read the story here

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Erbil’s celebrated carpet museum struggles to remain open due to war

More than a year after the festive reopening of the Kurdistan Textile and Cultural Museum at the Erbil Citadel in the Kurdistan Region, owner Lolan Sipan is struggling to keep its doors open.

Due to the impact of Kurdistan’s war with the Islamic State group (ISIS) – which has continued since August last year -- he has been forced to send almost all of his staff away and close the museum tea house.

In April 2014 the museum that Sipan had set up 10 years before in a corner of the Citadel reopened its doors after an extensive renovation, paid jointly with German and local funding.

It was part of the revitalization of the Erbil Citadel, which has since been added to the World Heritage list of UNESCO.

The museum suffers from the threat from ISIS and fighting that is raging only miles from the capital. The war has halted the development of the Kurdistan Region into a popular tourist destination and kept most tourists away.

Read the whole story here

Saturday, September 19, 2015

So-called rescuer of Yezidis under fire

The scandal surrounding the claims of a Canadian businessman that he has rescued over a hundred Yezidi and Christian women and children who were kidnapped by the Islamic State has broadened. The families of the victims he claims to have helped had already been repaid by the Kurdistan government for the money spent freeing them.

Last week, 20 prominent Yezidis sent the Canadian businessman Steve Maman a letter requesting proof that he and his organization, Liberation of Christian and Yazidi Children of Iraq (CYCI), had rescued 128 people from the caliphate ISIS runs by paying a mere $80,000 in total.

In the letter they spoke of their doubts that this amount could serve to free so many people, as the sums paid per individual are much higher, and mentioned they had not found anyone who had actually been helped by Maman or CYCI.

Read the whole story here

Yezidis doubt ‘Jewish Schindler’ bought their women’s freedom

A group of 20 prominent Yezidis have demanded proof from Canadian Jewish businessman Steve Maman of his claims that he has bought the freedom of 128 Yezidi women and children from the Islamist terror group ISIS. Amongst the signatories are the Yezidis’ religious leader, the Baba Sheikh, and Vian Dakhil, a Yezidi member of the Iraqi Parliament.

Maman has recently been branded the “Jewish Schindler” after his organization, The Liberation of Christian and Yazidi Children in Iraq (CYCI) claimed on its website to have “singlehandedly helped save over 120 Yezidi and Christian women and children from ISIS-controlled territories in Iraq.”

The businessman says he works with local volunteers to locate the women, then pay their “owners” in territory controlled by ISIS in parts of Iraq and Syria, and get them out. Around 3,000 women and children are believed to still be with ISIS.

Read the whole story here

Syrian refugees lured to Europe by a cheaper route and false stories

Europe is caught in a crisis it cannot contain. After years of discouraging and strict asylum laws, refugees are now traveling there by the thousands.

They want to get away from war, but at the same time they are misinformed. When I spoke to Syrians wanting to leave the relative safety of Iraqi Kurdistan, I found out they had misconceptions about the rules and regulations awaiting refugees in the EU. They had been told by those who had reached Europe that it will be easy, and that they will be provided with a house and a job.

I spoke to a Syrian mother who had taken her 6-year-old daughter with her on a boat from Bodrum in Turkey to the Greek Island of Kos, before stepping for fear of drowning. I asked her how she could risk splitting the family by leaving her husband and son behind. She was convinced that they would be allowed to join her in a couple of months and that the authorities would even pay for their ticket.

Migrants have for decades been lured by stories of an easy ride to permanent residence. But these stories omit the hardship, the camps, the long wait, the bureaucracy, the animosity, the prohibition to work whilst still in process, the negative decisions on their case to be appealed and often lost.

Yet again refugees take the same bait. Facebook is playing a major role in making this trip attractive and telling people of the possibilities, the routes and costs.

Read the whole story here

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Departing Dutch ambassador: Make Iraq a country where people want to stay

Iraq is responsible for the safety and protection of its civilians, and the outside world should stimulate both Baghdad and the Kurdish government to take that responsibility, says Jeannette Seppen, until very recently ambassador for the Netherlands in Iraq. After two years in Baghdad, she has left for the same position in Pakistan.

After ISIS entered the arena halfway through her term in Iraq, Seppen’s work changed enormously, with more emphasis on humanitarian aid. She spoke in admiration about victims of ISIS for the resilience they have shown.

In this exclusive interview, Rudaw spoke to Seppen about her years in Iraq, where she visited the Kurdistan region often as the Netherlands upgraded its embassy office in Erbil into a consulate.

Read the interview here

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Europe: paradise lost for refugees

“Send us only the Christians, we do not want Moslems,” the Slovak government has told the European Union in reaction to the influx of thousands of refugees from Iraq, Syria, Libya and Africa who want to start a new life in Europe.

This statement speaks to the scene of migrants drowning in the Mediterranean Sea when smugglers sink their dinghies and European coast guards and commercial ships rush to save them.

The Greek island of Kos is struggling to register them, Macedonian riot police are using tear gas to hold them back, and in Calais thousands storm the Channel tunnel to reach Britain and the message from Germany is that by the end of the year the number of asylum seekers there could reach 800,000.

It all makes good stories, and good pictures. Fathers with small children crying from desperation after making it safely to Greek soil, children getting caught up between riot police and refugees, people pulling down fences that keep them from reaching their destination.

Read the whole story here