photo: Eddy van Wessel


Sunday, August 28, 2016

What’s the future of Iraq with so many traumatized but untreated victims?

The barbarism of the Islamic group ISIS has made many victims. Directly and indirectly it has damaged entire communities and even a whole nation.

August is the time to remember that two years ago ISIS took Yezidi and Christian areas in Iraq, killing, kidnapping, looting and forcing people from their homes.

Since then, many thousands of members of these communities have been living in tents and caravans all over the Kurdistan Region. Only the lucky ones were able to find more proper housing.

Many of them did not only lose their homes and land, but their family members too, as the group killed probably thousands during its rampage in the Shingal region. Some of them witnessed the killing of their family members.

We focus on the victims when we report on these tragedies. The women and girls who returned from their ordeal, the kids being able to escape a future as ISIS fighters, the men killed. Or, the other scenario: the women still with ISIS and suffering every day, and their kids being indoctrinated to kill their own.

But we hardly talk about the family members; those still waiting for relatives that are most probably dead, or who might never be able to escape from ISIS territories.
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New market outside Erbil connects locals, refugees and IDPs

They stand proudly next to each other behind their stalls in the brand new Daratu Market place, one selling vegetables, the other cleaning materials. Soon the purple ribbon will be cut to officially open this covered market with its sixty places, and these two men have been working since early morning to fill their stalls for their first day of work.

Simmo Hussein Bero, 60, fled from the Yezidi region of Shingal (Sinjar) when the Islamic State (ISIS) invaded it two years ago. He was a vegetables seller there, too, and he thinks his clients will be mainly people from his own community who now live in the nearby Qushtapa camp.

Atta Mohammed, 36, is from Daratu itself, a small town on the outskirts of the Kurdistan capital Erbil, and he used to drive around town selling goods and household items in his van.

Hussein hopes to earn enough to finally move his wife and child from the camp to a rented home. He is already saving gas money not having to drive his van around town anymore.
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Dutch PM in Erbil: Our battle against ISIS further improves Kurdistan’s stability

“Together we fight ISIS”, was the motto of a short visit by the Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte to the Kurdish capital of Erbil on Tuesday. Rutte met his Kurdish counterpart Nechirvan Barzani for three quarters of an hour at the Erbil International Airport.

The Dutch Airforce flew Rutte mainly to Iraq to show his support to the Dutch military that is training Iraqi Special Forces in Baghdad and Peshmerga troops in the Kurdistan Region.

Following his meeting with his Kurdish hosts at the airport, Rutte told dozens of members of the Dutch force that he was there “to stress how crucial your task is. We have an enemy that we need to defeat, and this is a fight of the whole world against ISIS, not only of Iraq and Syria.”

He said he was impressed by the difference he saw between Baghdad and Erbil – even though he did not leave the airport during his two hour’s visit.

“Kurdistan is much more stable than a couple of years ago, and our battle against ISIS helps to improve the stability even further.”

His talks with Prime Minister Barzani are seen as “a strong message of support from the Netherlands,” said the Kurdish minister of foreign affairs Falah Mustafa to Rudaw.
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Too difficult and expensive: Rescuing Yezidi women from ISIS almost impossible

Two years after militants of the Islamic State (ISIS) kidnapped over 6,000 Yezidis from their towns and villages in the Shingal region, the chance to get them back is diminishing fast, says Yezidi activist and medical doctor Mirza Dinnayi. In the past two years around 3,000 people were rescued from the extremist group, but recently the number has declined. Some of the captives are so damaged and indoctrinated that they no longer think escape is possible, while rescuing missions in general have become too difficult and too expensive for many families to afford. Dinnayi who has helped many Yezidi victims reach Germany for treatment, says that as it becomes almost impossible to rescue more captives, his focus is on getting former ISIS victims, especially women and young girls out of refugee camps to Europe where they could recover and start a normal life again.

Rudaw: How many people are still captive in ISIS (Daesh) territories? Both 3,200 and 3,700 figures have been mentioned?

The correct figure is about 3,700 and the difference between the figures is the men, the rest are women and children.

What should be done to get them out?

I am afraid it is too late. I think most of the men could be dead. When in April 2015 we had the option to rescue 3,500 of them from Talafar, neither the Iraqis, Kurdish nor the allied forces did anything even though they knew their situation there. There was a possibility to make a quick attack because the distance with the Peshmerga troops was no more than ten kilometers. You could release them within days. I do not know why they did not do anything. ISIS, after this, divided all the people. We do not know what happened to the 500 men since then. There were some reports that they were killed. And ISIS separated the women from the children and distributed the women all over their territories. Now it is very difficult to get them back.
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Thursday, August 4, 2016

Keeping terrorist faces out of the papers does not prevent new attacks

The French paper Le Monde has decided to stop publishing pictures of terrorists so as to deprive them of a hero status. The idea being, terrorists gloat on getting exposure and to be known as martyrs after their departure to paradise.

Other French papers are considering whether to follow the example, and elsewhere in the West the discussion has started on the subject too.

At the same time, people have for some time been warning each other not to share videos of the Islamic group ISIS on Twitter and Facebook, especially those of executions and of foreigners in the group's captivity.

This is to make sure the exposure is limited, and propaganda will not reach those who might be vulnerable to the message of radical Islamic groups like ISIS.

The question is whether it works that way. Can you really limit the exposure, when a group like ISIS and others too have an active PR policy?
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Departing British Consul: Kurdistan matters to Britain

The Kurdish economy will recover, partly with the help of Britain, says Angus McKee, who after two years as the British Consul General in Kurdistan has left for London. Just as the security of the Kurdistan Region matters for the security of Great Britain, so does its prosperity to the economic wellbeing, he believes. The collective interest of defeating ISIS, says McKee, has widened and deepened the relationship between Britain and Kurdistan Region. Looking back at his time in the Kurdish capital Erbil, he praises the developments of the past decade.

How do you look at your time in Kurdistan?

Angus McKee: I arrived in June 2014, at a difficult time, as Daesh (the Islamic State- ISIS) had just captured Mosul, and was threatening the Nineveh Plain and the Kurdistan Region. A time of conflict and atrocities. Daesh is still a threat, but my time here has been defined by the counter attack. We’ve seen the Peshmerga, the Iraqi security forces and the coalition forces pushing Daesh back. Daesh is a failing state, as it is losing territory. It is a terrorist threat whether you are in the streets of Baghdad, Erbil or London. We have a collective interest of defeating it. As a result of this, the relationship between Britain and Kurdistan Region has widened and deepened.
So you must have seen security measures being strengthened here too?

I was with Erbil governor Nawzad Hadi, who’s a good friend, remembering the attack on Ainkawa in April 2014. It’s to the credit of the security authorities across the Kurdistan Region that they have been largely successful in counterterrorism operations.

What are the main changes you saw during your time here?

History proves that resettling others in Kurdish land will not work

It is a policy used by dictators over the centuries: settling outsiders in areas where one ethnic group has a clear majority.

The Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein did it, and so did his neighbour Hafez al-Assad in Syria. And now the Turkish president Erdogan has decided to use the tool. And all employed it against their Kurdish minorities.

During his rule, Saddam offered Arabs from the south of Iraq all kinds of incentives to move to the disputed oil city of Kirkuk that the Kurds consider as their Jerusalem.

The prospect of a good job, with a good salary and a house attracted many, while at the same time Kurds were evicted from the city.

Assad also was able to send thousands from his Arab population to the Kurdish region, like Saddam did next door, in order to further marginalize the Kurds through Arabization.
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Banning the magic wand is not enough, heads must roll

Finally, the device that caused thousands of deaths in Iraq has been banned from the streets.

As Prime Minister Haider Abadi finally bans the device that Iraqi guards were using at checkpoints and was supposed to detect explosives, it will end up where it should have been long before: in the garbage.

The tragedy is that all of Iraq has known for years that the device, the ADE-651, which is shorthand for Advanced Detection Equipment, and that is internationally and cynically known as the ‘magic wand’, does not work.

British businessman James McCormick was convicted in Britain for fraud last year, after he sold for as much as $85 million of the devices to Iraq, receiving around $8,000 per piece, and now is serving a ten-year jail service.

Yet in 1996 the American security agency FBI had already ruled that the empty box with a short antenna was fake, and after a British Home Office scientist tested it in 2001, he issued a strong warning against its use.

But to no avail, as the BBC recently uncovered, that for years the device has been sold by different fraudsters for different purposes – to find golf balls, to find drugs, to detect explosives, and most recently even to detect HIV and hepatitis – and all are equally bogus. 
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Resilience in the face of adversity: Hardship brings out the strength of the Yezidi community

Through the ages the Kurds have been subject to attacks time and again. The Yezidi history counts over seventy attacks, some of them clear cases of genocides. The Kurds in general were the victim of dictatorships, persecution and genocide.

And through the times, often the victims of these atrocities, who survived, came out stronger. However terrible the suffering or the crimes committed, people have the talent to survive by holding on to the stick held out to them not to drown.

That goes in particular for the Yezidis and the Kurds. When their land was split over four nations, they put up a fight not to be crushed completely. When Arab regimes tried to Arabize them, their identity only became stronger.

The former Iraqi ruler Saddam Hussein tried to beat the resistance out of the Kurds, by gassing the Kurdish town of Halabja in 1988 which killed more than 5,000 people. And by destroying thousands of Kurdish villages and killing 180,000 in the Anfal campaign, he tried to destroy their urge for autonomy and independence.

Yet the opposite happened. The Kurds rose against Saddam when he was weak in 1991, and were able to turn the tables and get their autonomy.
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