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Iraqis flee Mosul under threat from ISIS

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Checkpoint, Mosul, by Peggy Gish

Checkpoint, Mosul, by Peggy Gish

24 July 2014

“It is dangerous in Mosul. The Iraqi government is randomly bombing civilian areas and civilians are killed or injured. We civilians are the victims–in the middle between the Iraqi government and ISIS fighters,” one of the men fleeing Mosul told us. “One of the main problems there is that we have little services. The hospitals have little medicines or anesthesia for doing surgeries. The only benefit of having ISIS there is that there are no more checkpoints inside the city. ISIS took down all the barriers separating neighborhoods.”

Along with other members of the Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT), on 23 July 2014, I stood at the first checkpoint for those leaving Mosul to enter the Erbil Governorates. Though only about 20 km east of ISIS controlled territory, the people coming through were now in a relatively safe area, protected by the Peshmerga (Kurdish soldiers). We observed the situation and spoke to many people who were traveling through.

Children and teenagers sat in the back of pick-up trucks, amidst bundles of clothing and household items. Parents, holding babies, looked worried and tired. Other families sat on blankets in temporary shelters out of the hot sun, waiting for their papers to be processed or for a person to come to the checkpoint to sponsor them so they can enter the area of Iraq controlled by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). They had all fled they homes because of ISIS’ threats and takeover of their communities.

A student from Mosul, traveling to Erbil to take his final national examinations told us, “ISIS is present in the area of the city where I live, but is not harming the people. There is no fighting going on there.” He planned to return to Mosul tomorrow.

On Friday 19 July, ISIS gave Christians in Mosul an ultimatum that by noon Saturday they must convert to Islam, pay a fine of about $470 per person, or face “death by the Sword.” They were to leave with only the clothes they were wearing. We heard that 52 Christian families left Mosul early Saturday morning and headed either for nearby Christian villages, or in the KRG governorates of Duhok or Erbil. Christian leaders, we contacted, told us the Bishop of the Catholic Churches of Mosul is sponsoring these families, and churches throughout the KRG area are helping them resettle.

But it’s not just the Christians. Other minorities such as the Shabak, Yesidis, Turkmen and other Shia Muslims were also being threatened by ISIS and are coming into the KRG areas. One of the Peshmerga crossing at the checkpoint explained to us that the large bus-loads of people coming through were mostly Shia Muslim Turkmen from Tal Afar. From here, they would be driven to Suleimani, then to Baghdad and Shia areas in southern Iraq.

Today, major news sources report a new threat to women in their controlled areas. ISIS issued a fatwa that all women in and around Mosul between the ages of 11 and 46 undergo female genital mutilation (FGM).

Currently, there are not the number of deaths and concentrated degree of destruction here in Iraq as in Gaza, but the tragedy, terror, and threat to life and human rights continues for the Iraqi people. I can only imagine the heartbreak and fear each new wave of people must feel as they are wrenched from their homes, leaving their hopes and dreams, and what little stability they had left behind.

I am always heartened to see in the midst of this, acts of compassion. At the checkpoint yesterday, we watched members of a family lovingly help their elderly grandfather hobble to their car once they were ready to leave. Checkpoint crossing guards asked the students, since they are young and healthy to wait for the families, with women and children, to cross. And people in other parts of the country, also knowing the pain of war, are helping them as they can.





Peggy Gish
About Peggy Faw Gish

Peggy Faw Gish has been working in Iraq with Christian Peacemaker Teams since October 2002, and was in Iraq before, during, and after the 2003 war. Gish is a grandmother, farmer, community mediator, and conflict management trainer. Her latest book is Walking Through Fire: Iraqis' Struggle for Justice and Reconciliation

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9 Responses

  1. just
    just on July 25, 2014, 3:50 pm

    This ongoing humanitarian disaster and bloodbath is our fault– ALL of it. ISIS is also our fault.

    (Thanks Billy Kristol and your PNAC fellows! And thanks to every single American who went along with the criminal Iraq war, starting with Bushco and including too many of my neighbors.)

    • a blah chick
      a blah chick on July 25, 2014, 3:53 pm

      Those folks have moved on, they never clean up their own messes.

      • ritzl
        ritzl on July 25, 2014, 4:08 pm


    • rpickar
      rpickar on July 26, 2014, 3:02 am

      Don’t forget that ISIS is a CIA/Mossad entity. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that it’s some kind of home-grown, truthful threat.

      This is 4th Generation Warfare, where insurgent groups are artificially created to get other groups to fight each other and accomplish US/Israel’s geopolitical goals.

    • aiman
      aiman on July 26, 2014, 7:54 am

      The following countries’ policies are directly responsible for the rise of the ISS by funding and prolonging the “rebels” in Syria: the United States, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the Gulf states. The following country is directly responsibly for shamelessly aiding ISS by bombing Assad’s military facilities: Israel. All of these governments are allied to the zombie takfiris of the ISS even though they may take out propaganda pieces on how big a threat ISS is to them. They are responsible for the mutation of ISS and the immediate threat it poses to the Christians and other minorities and naysayers.

      Israel’s apologists, in the ultimate show of irony, continue to deflect the genocide in Gaza by bringing up ISS, without telling anyone that Israeli fascists are partly responsible for these fascists. The ISS is doing what ethnic nationalists like them have always done: worship the tribe, state, screech about God and stamp all over the meek. Meanwhile, Libya continues to go up in flames.

  2. michelle
    michelle on July 25, 2014, 4:05 pm

    this life is so hard to understand
    G-d Bless

  3. annie
    annie on July 25, 2014, 4:15 pm

    i always find it so heartwarming to see “enemies” of the US/neocons doing the yeoman’s work for them, accomplishing what years of war wasn’t able to do. divide iraq into separate ethnic regions and drive out the christians.

    so am i surprised by this? no. i remember when the “insurgents” were blowing up bridges in iraq, exactly on the lines of the neighborhoods where the US war profiteers were placing the walls dividing the neighborhoods in baghdad.

    isn’t that such an amazing coincidence.

  4. ritzl
    ritzl on July 25, 2014, 4:17 pm

    Yes, yes. Please let’s destabilize Syria some more, Mr. President. Keep them occupied with rebels in the south and west while ISIS runs amok, gains oil resources (sells it to Israel, per Walid), mutilates women, blows up churches, forces us to send troops BACK into Iraq, and generally remains the proud recipient of US advanced weapons and Saudi largesse.

    What could make more sense than that? I mean when the “moderate” rebels take over Syria they will undoubtedly be more aggressive in fighting ISIS. Won’t they?

    Nuts. Guaranteed perpetual war and death. Is that another facet of the Israelification of the US?

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