- In the midst of a record heat wave, the ongoing deterioration of essential services including electricity, water, and sanitation services led to massive protests throughout the country this week. The majority of demonstrations were peaceful and led to authorities seeking long-term solutions.
- The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) attacks on civilians continue, especially in the province of Ninewa. In Mosul, ISIS published a list of the names of 2,000 residents that the group has executed since capturing the city a year ago.
- The Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) continue to progress slowly with clearing operations in Anbar. This week, the ISF cleared the Eastern Husaybah region and are working to clear the remainder of Ramadi. As a result of the operations, there has been a mass exodus of ISIS fighters out of Ramadi and Fallujah.
- Many primary and secondary schools throughout Iraq are not meeting academic standards due to overpopulation, lack of resources, and the destruction of schools in conflict areas.
- This week local officials reported the return of more than 500 Internally Displaced Person (IDP) families to Diyala and more than 1,000 IDP families to Anbar. Although encouraging, an estimated 3.1 million Iraqis remain displaced by violence since January 2014.
- As a debilitating heat wave hits the region, contributing to widespread disease and heat-related illnesses, 84% of Iraq’s donor-funded health programs have shut down, leaving nearly 3 million people without access to healthcare. Among those affected are thousands of children in IDP camps suffering from an outbreak of skin diseases, diarrhea, and respiratory problems. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry took a step in the right direction, announcing that the U.S. will contribute an additional $62 million to the international humanitarian response in Iraq.
Protests over Electricity Crisis
Beginning on July 30, dozens of citizens demonstrated peacefully in Najaf, demanding the government find a solution for the country’s electricity crisis and accused the Najaf Provincial Council of corruption. Similar protests occurred in the following days in Babil, Baghdad, Basra, Dhi Qar, Karbala, and Maysan, to protest not only the electricity crisis but also the deterioration of other services including water, hygiene, and education. The protesters in Baghdad demanded that the Electricity Minister, Qassim Fahdawi, resign. The electricity crisis has exacerbated to the point that on August 4, the Mayor of Badra in Wasit province, Jaafar Mohammed Abdul Jabbar, reported that about 5,000 Iraqis have been fleeing Iraq per day in an attempt to escape the severe high temperatures recently experienced by the country, accompanied by the lack of electricity. Iraqis have been fleeing to Iran via the Zurbatiyah port, located east of Wasit.
On July 31, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi thanked protesters for respecting public order and expressing their views of the electricity services in a “civilized” manner. Al-Abadi also called on officials to investigate the problems, and held an emergency meeting with Minister Fahdawi to “follow up with the electricity problems and the weakening of the system,” as well as “the need to do more efforts to increase the hours of processing power…fight against corruption.”
On August 3, the Deputy Governor of Dhi Qar announced the formation of a committee to examine the demands of demonstrators in the province.
On August 5, Baghdad Provincial Council member Ghaleb Zamili revealed the intention to install more than 10,600 power-generating stations and establish investments to address the power crisis.
Protests in Sulaimani were more violent than the other regions. On August 5, dozens of citizens and shopkeepers in Sulaimani protested in the center of Sulaimani, on Mawlawi Street. The demonstration turned violent when protesters threw stones at police after their attempt to break up the demonstration with electric batons. Security forces shut down Mawlawi Street.
ISIS Attacks on Civilians Continue
On August 3, a source from Hawija in Kirkuk reported that ISIS hung a young man from an electricity pole on the charges of collaborating with the ISF.
On July 31, a source from the Journalistic Freedoms Observatory stated that ISIS kidnapped four journalism students of Mosul University for disclosing information from the militants’ stronghold.
On August 1, Abdul Aziz Hussein, chairman of the Security and Defense Committee in Parliament, stated that ISIS is preventing civilians from leaving Mosul and using them as human shields against security forces attacking the city. ISIS has also continued mass executions of employees of polling stations.
On August 5, a local source stated that ISIS arrested dozens of children and families on charges of “espionage” in Mosul and took them to an unknown location.
On the same day, a local source confirmed that ISIS published a list of a two thousand names of civilians that it has executed in Mosul since it gained control of the city last year.
Security Operations in Anbar Slowly Progress
On August 1, a source from the Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs) military cell said that the ISF and PMUs attacked the al-Sofiya area in eastern Ramadi from three sides, and that the ISF reached the Fountain Square. The same day, Commander of the Federal Police, Raed Shakir Jawdat, stated that the Federal Police cleared 600 meters into the eastern Husaybah area of Ramadi. On August 2, a source from the PMUs stated that the ISF stormed the Albu Ghanim area in Ramadi and gained control of half of the area.
On August 1, Commander of al-Jazeera and al-Badiya operations, Major General Ali Ibrahim, said that the ISF dismantled 200 improvised explosive devices in the al-Sakra region near Haditha. The same day, Ghassan Ithawi of the PMUs stated that the ISF of the Army, the PMUs, and the police launched a large-scale military operation that resulted in the clearing of the Azwaip and Alskrh areas in Haditha.
That same day, Colonel Mahmoud Jumali of the PMUs stated that many ISIS leaders fled Fallujah to Syria and Turkey after the ISF cleared areas around Karma and Saqlawiyah. Abdul Aziz Hussein, chairman of the Security and Defense Committee in Parliament, stated that there has been an exodus of ISIS members from Ramadi towards Hit and al-Jazeera due to security pressure from the PMUs.
On August 4, a source from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense stated that al-Jazeera and al-Badiya Command Operations foiled an ISIS attack attempting to take over the Majid checkpoint near Haditha. The same day, Rajah al-Issawi, of the Security Committee in Anbar, said that the process of clearing Ramadi is being delayed because of civilians trapped inside the city. Nonetheless, the ISF have surrounded Ramadi on four sides and are rapidly progressing on the northern side.
On August 5, a source from the military media cell stated that the PMUs cut off ISIS supplies travelling between Khalidiya and Fallujah.
On August 6, a source from the military media cell of the PMUs stated that the ISF completely cleared the East Husaybah region to the east of Ramadi.
Education Circumstances are Dire
On July 27, an anonymous source in Babil announced that 450 schools in the province do not meet the desired academic standard, mainly due to overcrowding.
On July 31, the Director of the Jalula administration, Anwar Hussain Michael, noted that ISIS had destroyed more than 25 schools in the area, leading to a loss of over 11 billion dinars in the education sector in Diyala.
On August 4, an Iraqi official announced that more than 1,500 schools in Anbar have been either “partially or totally” destroyed. The official noted that most of these schools were “directly targeted” by ISIS. A spokesman of Anbar Provincial Council, Eid Ammash, noted in a press conference that “after we retake Anbar from ISIS, we will need a lot of money…for the reconstruction and rehabilitation of these schools.”
According to UNOCHA’s Humanitarian Response Plan, almost 3 million Iraqi children are currently not in school. For children who are able to attend school in areas affected by the conflict, poor funding and overcrowding are negatively impacting the learning environment. A recent UNOCHA Iraq Crisis Situation Report stated: “Most schools in affected areas are overcrowded or operating in double and triple shifts to accommodate demand with limited basic classroom amenities. Lack of adequate number of good quality teachers further affects the quality of education provided. Low funding for the sector overall remains a major challenge.”
On August 5, the head of the Muthanna Provincial Council announced its inability to complete the construction of more than 100 schools that are needed in the province. The delay in construction of these schools in combination with the rising number of students has created a number of problems in the province’s school system, such as the need for teachers to work double shifts.
On August 6, the Educational Committee of Dhi Qar announced the submission of a draft resolution to reform the province’s educational process. The Chairman of the Committee, Shahid Ahmed Hassan Ghalibi, revealed that the Educational Committee had conducted a study examining the low success rates of middle and junior high schools in the province. The study investigated the causes behind the province’s educational degradation and led to the creation of a draft resolution to reform the educational process. Ghalibi stated that “the draft resolution [is] currently under study and we hope to put [it] to…vote during the next few days.”
On August 4, Diyala Provincial Council announced that about 500 displaced families returned to Saadia this week.
On August 6, the Anbar government confirmed that 1,000 displaced families have returned to the cleared areas of the province. At a meeting between the Governor of Anbar, Suhaib al-Rawi, the Leader of the Anbar Operations, Maj. Gen. Qassim Al-Muhammadi, and Maj. Gen. Ziad Tariq of the PMUs, Al-Rawi announced that there has been an agreement over the “problem” of the Bzeibz Bridge, and that a “clear and sustainable mechanism” will “be implemented over the next few days to end it,” adding that service ministries will “coordinate with the local government…to deliver…according to the budgets available, to re-provision of services to the liberated areas.”
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) estimates that more than 3.1 million individuals (518,819 families) remain displaced across Iraq as a result of violence since January 2014.
Growing Health Crisis due to Heat Wave and Cut Services
As a debilitating heat wave hits the region, contributing to the spread of disease and heat-related illnesses, 84% of Iraq’s donor-funded health programs have shut down, leaving nearly 3 million people without access to urgently needed health care.
On August 3, Iraq’s High Commission for Human Rights member, Fadel al-Gharawi, reported that thousands of displaced children in IDP camps are suffering from skin diseases (such as scabies), diarrhea, and respiratory diseases due to severely high temperatures, power outages and poor hygiene conditions. The same day, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced that the U.S. will be providing $62 million in additional humanitarian aid to Iraqis who are “in dire need of assistance by the international community… including more than three million internally displaced and 370,000 refugees who have been forced to flee their homes since January 2014.”
The current requirement for the UNOCHA Humanitarian Response Plan is $497.9 million. Prior to the U.S. announcement, the plan has only received $34.3 million in pledges, representing less than 7 percent of what is needed to reach 5.8 million Iraqis in need of aid. The UN estimates that by the end of this year, more than 10 million Iraqis will be in need of immediate humanitarian assistance.
Ahmed Ali is a Visiting Senior Fellow and Director of ISHM at EPIC and Sarah Walker is a Research Intern at EPIC. They would like to thank Tarai Zemba for her research support.
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