ISHM 38: November 5 – 12, 2015

ISHM_Logo_2016Key Takeaways:

  • An Iraqi Kurdish-led offensive aimed at retaking the city of Sinjar has begun. The majority of the offensive is comprised of Peshmerga forces, with thousands of Yazidi fighters supported by International Coalition forces. In August 2014, Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) captured the city of Sinjar, the historic home of Iraq’s Yazidi community. ISIS massacred hundreds of residents in cold blood and kidnapped thousands of women and children. As some 50,000 residents fled, many became trapped on Mount Sinjar, prompting the U.S. and the international community to respond.
  • Basra’s Provincial Council threatened to export oil independently if the central government of Baghdad does not uphold its commitment to pay Basra its petrodollar dues. Meanwhile, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) announced that representatives from the province of Kirkuk will abstain from voting on any oil deals between Baghdad and Erbil until they are included in these proceedings. According to officials in Kirkuk, Baghdad owes Kirkuk nearly two trillion Iraqi dinars (about $1,700,000,000)
  • The Supreme Judicial Council sentenced the former Minister of Environment to two years in prison on charges of corruption while several highly visible provincial and local officials were dismissed from their posts. Concurrently, hundreds of citizens protested across the country demanding the application of PM Haider al-Abadi’s reform plans and holding criminals and corrupt officials accountable.
  • With winter fast approaching, the Iraqi Central Government and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) are cooperating with international aid agencies to provide emergency humanitarian assistance to displaced Iraqis and Syrian refugees in Iraq. The UNHCR announced a winter assistance program that will provide nearly 420,000 vulnerable people with winter essentials, such as thermal blankets, better insulated tents, and heating fuel.
  • 58 citizens died of electrocution due to electrical networks damaged by the floodings. The heavy rains caused 45 houses to collapse in Diyala, and displaced families in the province continue to struggle with harsh weather conditions.
  • The spread of the cholera epidemic slows down in Iraq, as both national and international health organizations work effortlessly to stop the disease from advancing. The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have launched a major campaign to tackle the cholera outbreak that has infected nearly 2,400 Iraqis around the country.

Kurdish Offensive to Retake Sinjar Begins

On November 12, a Kurdish military operation involving as many as 7,500 Peshmerga soldiers began. The Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) Peshmerga, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) Peshmerga, fighters from the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK), as well as thousands of Yazidi militiamen, are all said to be involved. The operation is focused on clearing the town of Sinjar from the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). The town is strategically located on the main road known as Highway 47 between ISIS’ capital in Iraq, Mosul, and ISIS’ capital in Syria, Raqqa. The operation has allegedly seized control of the main road running through Sinjar, as well as on either side of the town, the cement plant, and the Qaimmqamah district. Five surrounding villages have also reportedly been seized. International Coalition air forces are backing the operation. The operation, which has been planned for quite some time, has been delayed previously due to tensions between the PKK/Yazidis and the KDP Peshmerga over who would control the cleared territory; these tensions do not seem to have been resolved. ISIS has apparently heavily mined the town with IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices), and is reportedly extensively utilizing SVBIEDs (Suicide Vehicle-Borne Improvised Explosive Devices) and snipers in an attempt to bog down the attacking forces.

Oil Conflicts Between the Provinces and Baghdad Light up

On November 7, the National Alliance MP for Basra, Faleh al-Khazali, called for its deputy governors to resign en masse to protest “the non-granting of Basra’s entitlements in the [2016] budget,” noting that the government has not upheld “its commitment to the province of Basra, even after the Supreme Court judge’s decision to pay the province its petrodollar dues.” The MP is also calling for the Council of Ministers to convene a meeting in Basra to discuss the province’s deteriorating environmental situation and the lack of access to services.

On November 8, the Basra Provincial Council called for “the granting of…financial entitlements, including imports of petro-dollar, for the years 2013 [to] 2015, amounting to nearly 12 trillion dinars,” and the inclusion of allocations to the province in the 2016 general budget. The council threatened to independently export oil from the oil fields not subject to licensing rounds and “take advantage of its imports in favor of the province” if financial dues are not received and the budget not amended. Basra produces more than two thirds of Iraq’s crude.

On November 8, a Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) MP Shwan Daoudi announced that representatives from the province of Kirkuk will abstain from voting on any oil deals between Baghdad and Erbil until they are included in these proceedings. According to the Chairman of the Commission on Oil and Gas in Kirkuk, Ahmed al-Askari, “the Iraqi government did not send the financial dues to the province of Kirkuk of petro dollars two years ago;” another official stated, the “government is required to pay two trillion Iraqi dinars to the province of Kirkuk.”

Anti-Corruption Protests and Investigations Continue

On November 5, the Supreme Judicial Council announced that the Criminal Integrity Court in Rusafa had sentenced the former Minister of Environment, Sargon Lazar Slewa, to two years in prison on charges of corruption. The former minister must also pay $338 million to the state treasury as part of his punishment.

On November 8, Minister of Parliament Mohamed Karbouli announced the formation of an investigative committee to follow up on corruption files opened by Ahmed Chalabi, as well as to investigate the events surrounding Chalabi’s death on Tuesday, November 3. Karbouli noted, “Chalabi had a good health and that there are [signs that] indicate the involvement of [a criminal organization] to assassinate him.” A day later, on November 9, Fakri Karim, President of the al-Mada Foundation for Media, Culture, and Arts, presented Supreme Judicial Council Judge Medhat al-Mahmoud with the “Chalabi Files,” pertaining to money laundering and the smuggling of foreign currency from the central bank within various government agencies.

On November 6, hundreds of demonstrators, including students, mobilized in Samawah, Basra, demanding the abolition of the new salary ladder law, which institutes a pay scale for university professors. They also protested for the application of reforms, and “the appointment of university graduates in government.” Similar protests against the new salary law were also seen in Maysan province and in Karbala province, with thousands in Karbala also calling for the reopening of the corruption file against Karbala Governor Aqil al-Turaihi and the dismissal of Chief Justice Medhat al-Mahmoud.

On November 5, the Najaf Provincial Council dismissed its leader, President Khudair al-Jubouri, on charges of corruption and the “mishandling” of resources. Vice President of the Council, Mjeed Zinni, is to take over presidential duties until a new president is elected.

On November 6, hundreds mobilized in Najaf renewing their demands for the application of reforms and greater accountability. Similar protests were seen in Basra, with demonstrators also calling for reform of the oil agreement and threatening “to withdraw the popular mandate given to the Prime Minister…in the event of failure of reform measures.”

On November 9, the Karbala Provincial Council stated that the local government is unable to achieve “the demands of the demonstrators coming out every week” due to “a weakness in government performance and services and the spread of financial and administrative corruption.” A member of the Council, Bushra Hassan Ashour, revealed that “claims and files submitted to the provincial council and the Integrity Commission” have been overlooked, and there is a “lack of funds…and sometimes lack of real will on the part of the local government to provide services.” Council member Mohammed Talqani proclaimed that the demand of the demonstrators calling for “the reopening of the interrogation of Karbala Governor [Aqil al-Turaihi]…needs the support of a sufficient number of members of the provincial council and this is not available at this time.”

Iraq begins to deal with long-term issues of IDPs, while Returnees increase

On November 5, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) launched a winter assistance program to help displaced and refugee families cope with freezing temperatures. In the next four months, UNHCR is expected to distribute winter items to 360,000 Iraqi IDPs and 60,000 Syrian refugees countrywide. In total, 420,000 people are expected to receive thermal blankets, a stove, a plastic sheet to improve insulation, and a kerosene jerry can. 13,000 vulnerable displaced families living in camps will be provided with tent insulation kits. To complement the Iraqi Government’s provision of heating fuel to IDPs, the UNHCR will distribute kerosene to the most vulnerable IDPs and refugees. However, due to inadequate funding, only 43,000 of the 60,000 identified vulnerable IDP families and 12,500 of the total 33,000 vulnerable Syrian refugees will receive enough kerosene to warm their tents. UNHCR Iraq Representative Bruno Geddo articulated, “we are unable to cover all the needs in kerosene and are appealing to the Government to distribute enough kerosene to cover the entire displaced population in Iraq.”

On November 7, General Director of the Department of Branches Affairs in the Ministry of Migration and Displacement, Sattar Nowruz, shared that in response to the destruction from the rain, “the Ministry’s emergency teams replaced 400 damaged tents with 400 rain resistant tents in Ikram Zob.” Nowruz stated that the IDP camp houses 427 families from Anbar and “the Ministry…set up an emergency relief team during the first days of rain to aid and assist the affected IDP camps and to control the crisis.”

On November 7, the Diyala Municipal Council announced that, “100 displaced families from the villages of Mansouria, (northeast of Baquba)” returned to their homes. The Council confirmed that the returns were coordinated with the Tigris Operations, the military operation in charge of local IDPs. This is the second round of returns to the village of Mansouria.

On November 7, the Kuwait Red Crescent Society (KRCS) announced plans to build a camp with 500 housing units for IDPs in the Kurdistan region. The Director of Kuwaiti Disaster Management and Emergency Association of Red Crescent, Yosef Fahd al-Maraj, said, “we are planning to build the largest camp building to house the displaced Iraqis in the Kurdistan region.” Al-Meraj also stated that Kuwait has allocated $200 million to help the displaced in Iraq.

On November 8, Ali Ghazi Agha, the Director of the Department of Migration and Displacement in the district of Khanaqin (Diyala Province), stated that the number of displaced families in Alyawah IDP camp, the largest IDP camp in Diyala, has fallen by 15% in recent weeks. This is attributed to “the return of hundreds of displaced families to their areas.” Director Agha states that 1,150 displaced families remain at the Alyawah camp in Diyala.

On November 8, the Director of the Department of Migration and Displacement in Kirkuk, Amar Sabah, denied reports that displaced people in Kirkuk IDP camps are experiencing a decrease in aid. Citing the distribution of 400 new tents after a wave of rain, Ammar added that a total of 60 new tents will be constructed in Yahyaoh and Paweh IDP camps. The director also announced, “all displaced persons have ration cards,” and that families have access to water, electricity, health centers and schools.

On November 8, the Department of Migration and Displacement in Kirkuk announced that Kirkuk had received more than 100,000 displaced families from Anbar, Salahuddin, Diyala, and Ninewa.

On November 8, the Governor of Anbar, Suhaib al-Rawi, announced that it will provide “1,600 housing units for displaced people of Anbar province in Baghdad.” Anbar’s provincial government will be paying for the construction of the housing units, which will be located in the Abu Ghraib neighborhood of Baghdad.

On November 9, a member of the Anbar Provincial Council, Amal Fahdawi, stated that “the German government donated [funds and materials for] the establishment of 6,000 housing units to the displaced people of Anbar.” The towns of Garma, Amirat al-Fallujah, and Habaniah will each receive 2,000 housing units.

On November 10, it was reported that the Ministry of Migration and Displacement is moving slowly in preparation to meet the needs of Iraqis as temperatures are expected to drop soon. A member of the Parliamentary Committee of Migration and Displacement, Mr. Qaddo states, “the displaced people will face a harsh winter and many difficulties because the financial grants have not been distributed due to lack of assets in the smart card [program] and many other problems.”

On November 10, the United Nations announced that it is preparing new IDP camps as large numbers of civilians are expected to flee Mosul once Iraqi forces attempt to clear the city from ISIS. While the date of the attack is unclear, Bruno Geddo, UNHCR representative in Iraq, said that sites for the new IDP camps have already been identified. However, there will not be enough room for all of the expected IDPs. It is estimated that more than one million civilians remain in Mosul.

On November 10, the Directorate-General for Education in Kirkuk, Farhan Hussein Saleh, expressed a need for schools, as they have received about 70,000 displaced students in the most recent term.

Flooding Continues to Swamp Iraq

On November 6, the Ministry of Health reported that 58 Iraqis died of electrocution during the floods. It warned citizens to “be careful with the electrical networks that include wires, poles and transformers.”

On November 7, President of the Mansouria Council, Raghib al-Anboki, stated that 50 families from farming villages in Mansouria (Diyala province) were displaced from their homes due to the rains. More than 20 mud houses collapsed causing many families to seek refuge in the homes of relatives.

On November 7, the Diyala Municipal Council announced that “more than 25 mud houses in the villages of Shawkaani and Kabibiat are completely destroyed due to heavy rains.”

On November 10, the Director of the Department of Migration and Displacement in the district of Khanaqin (Diyala Province), Ali Ghazi Agha, called on the government to help IDPs in Alyawah Camp. Director Agha shared that approximately 200 tents in Alyawah IDP camp, the largest displacement camp in Diyala, are experiencing leaking due to heavy rains. This has resulted in ruined mattresses, blankets, and food. Agha also shared that “the only way to save the affected families is to speed up the completion of the project for caravans under construction in Lalonde area.” The project consists of 1,000 caravans. Agha is confident that this will reduce human suffering for many in the camp.

On November 11, Diyala Provincial Council member Ammar al-Jubouri stated that “about 1,000 families from 15 farming villages in the northeast of Baquba have been evacuated to nearby villages” after heavy flow of water from Naryn River. He also announced the collapse of 15 homes in the village of Tal al-Naqqar. Al-Jubouri is calling on the local government to “apply the emergency relief plan to support the affected villages.”

Massive Humanitarian Effort to Slow Spread of Cholera

On November 6, Peter Hawking, Iraq Director for United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), stated that the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF are taking major steps to reduce the spread of cholera, efforts that include increasing access to clean water, oral rehydration salts, and vaccination. At least six people have died from cholera since September 15, and anywhere from 2,200 to 2,400 have become infected. One in five of the infected are children. The disease spreads mainly through contaminated water and poor sanitation.

On November 7, a representative for UNICEF, Christophe Boulierac, stated that, “alongside the WHO we are supporting the response laid [out] by the Iraqi Ministry of Health in three directions: delivering and securing clean water supplies, providing treatment for people showing cholera symptoms, and undertaking a national communication campaign to help people protect themselves against the disease.” To continue efforts to combat cholera, UNICEF urgently needs $12.7 million. The Ministry of Health also distributed 500 food baskets and 2,000 blankets and mattresses.

On November 8, Ahmed Rudaini, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Health, stated, “the epidemic of cholera had begun to subside in Iraq after a series of procedures followed by the Ministry of Health to reduce the spread of this disease.” Rudaini stated that reported cases of cholera have dropped from 100 to 40 per day in the last four weeks.

Taif Jany is EPIC’s Program Manager and Brian Nichols is the Research and Advocacy Intern. They would like to thank Alexsandra Canedo and Tanesha Singletary for their research support. ISHM’s research methodology was developed by Ahmed Ali.

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