Aug 28, 2014

Now is the time we say ‘No More Stolen Sisters’”*



by Kathy Moorhead Thiessen

"Stop ISIS Brutalizing Against Yazidi Girls"
Today as I sit in Quito, Ecuador, a participant in the Christian Peacemaker Teams biennial gathering, messages are coming from both of my communities on two sides of the world. The calls have similar themes: sisters are being stolen; governments must investigate their disappearances and their murders; violence against women must stop.

From Suleimani, Iraqi Kurdistan, where my Christian Peacemaker team has been working with partners who have sought to help thousands of displaced minority groups, came a call from the Kurdish women’s group, Jian (Life).  They proclaimed Sunday, 24 August a day for a civil demonstration on behalf of the Yazidi women whom members of the militant group known as IS (Islamic State) have captured and enslaved in the city of Mosul.  Clandestine phone calls from a few of these women described desperate conditions and horrific abusive treatment.  They told of women and girls forced to become wives of fighters and others sold into slavery.

Sixty activists from several women’s organisations and other civil society groups gathered in front of the United Nations office in the capital city of Hawler/Erbil. They demanded that the U.N. do more to help the Yazidi women and girls enslaved by the militant group. At the end of the march, several activists were able to take their message into the U.N. building to ask the representatives and the Kurdish Regional Government to act on this emergency and to take urgent measures to help the vulnerable women.

 
  
At the same time, in Winnipeg, Canada a group of Anishinaabe women have created a protest camp on a strip of land outside the Manitoba provincial government legislature. They are saying to the Canadian government that they have waited long enough for an investigation regarding the 1,200 missing and murdered indigenous women in Canada.

The impetus for this protest is the murder of fifteen-year-old Tina Fontaine, whose body was found wrapped in a plastic bag in the Red River two weeks ago. The Canadian federal government still refuses to acknowledge that the numbers of missing and murdered indigenous women are important enough to declare a national inquiry.  As Justice Minister Peter MacKay rejected calls for an inquiry, he said, "The government is addressing the issue of missing and murdered aboriginal women in other ways." Yet, the indigenous women of Canada are still disappearing and many are turning up murdered.

These are messages from and about women of two minority cultures. They echo each other across the world—women are being treated like rubbish, something to be used and thrown away. This violence must stop.  The Yazidi women of Northern Iraq and the Aboriginal women of Canada deserve to live in homelands where their lives are safe and considered precious.  Their governments and the rest of the world are under obligation to make that happen.

 
 Participants in the protest encampment at the Manitoba legislature

*“Is now the time to make that change? Is now the time we say no sisters more stolen? We say that violence against women must stop. And if we go home and do nothing about this it’s a missed opportunity,” Wab Kinew. (Canadian Indigenous musician)

Aug 26, 2014

Kurdish activists call on U.N. and KRG to take action for kidnapped Yazidi women.


On Sunday, 24 August 2014, over sixty activists from a Kurdish woman’s organization marched to the U.N. Consulate in Erbil (Hawler in Kurdish) to demand that the U.N. do more to help Yazidi women and girls kidnapped by the militant group that calls itself the Islamic State (IS). They carried banners reading, “U.N., Take Action, Our Women and Girls are Enslaved,” and “Committing Genocide Against the Minorities is a Stark Violation of International Humanitarian Law.” Protesters, who chanted slogans as they walked, then read a statement in front of the consulate before several organizers went inside to speak with representatives from the U.N. Two members of Christian Peacemaker Teams, Peggy Gish and John Bergen, accompanied the protest.

One protester, who wished to remain anonymous, said, “I'm Kurdish. It's my duty to come out here and support my country and encourage other teenagers to demonstrate and support Yazidi girls and their human rights.”
Those organizing the campaign want to pressure the U.N. and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to treat the kidnappings of Yazidi women as more of an emergency, and take more urgent measures to help them.  The IS forces (also called ISIS, ISIL and DAASH) have forced some of these women to become wives of fighters and sold others into slavery. Militants also threaten Yazidi women with death, and have killed Yazidi men who refused to convert to the group’s version of Islam.




The Yazidis are a small ethnic and religious community in Iraqi Kurdistan, whom IS militants falsely label “devil worshippers.” Since the militants invaded earlier this year they have targeted Christians and other religious minorities, but have attacked the Yazidis with particular viciousness.

 After marching roughly two kilometers from the Noble Hotel to the U.N. Consulate, several organizers met U.N. representatives inside. When the organizers emerged, they said that the U.N. supported many of their suggestions and encouraged them to continue pressuring the Kurdish Regional Government to rescue the women.

 Christian Peacemaker Teams-Iraqi Kurdistan encourages our friends and supporters to help create a nonviolent alternative to the terror of the IS. We urge international governments to step up their humanitarian aid donations to agencies desperately trying to help the hundreds of thousands Iraqis fleeing the IS onslaught and to open their borders to refugees.

Aug 24, 2014

Walking Through Fire describes history of CPT’s work in Kurdistan

Gish’s 

As the militant group that calls itself the Islamic State terrorizes, kills and forces minority ethnic groups out of their villages in northern Iraq, countries of the world have begun deploying a new round of military strikes and supplying weapons to the Kurdish Peshmerga and Iraqi government forces. In the midst of this violence, Peggy Gish has been working with the Christian Peacemaker Teams on the ground in the Kurdish region of Iraq. With local individuals and groups, the Iraqi Kurdistan team has been able to listen to, share the stories of, and advocate for the needs of the people whose lives have been under threat.
In her book, Walking Through Fire: Iraqis’ Struggle for Justice and Reconciliation (Cascade Books, 2013) Gish calls on us not only to open our hearts to victims the violence, but also to understand these events in light of the past decades of war, occupation, and internal strife.  

 We are invited to step into the streets of war-torn Iraq with her and meet those who live every day with the consequences of military “solutions.” Through Iraqis’ eyes—through their stories—Walking Through Fire “tells the truth” about what war and the U.S. government’s antiterrorism policies have really meant. Iraqis recount the abuses they experienced in detention systems, the excessive violence of the U.S.-led occupying forces as well as tensions between Kurds and Arab Iraqis—tensions rooted in Saddam Hussein’s genocide against the Kurds.

Also highlighted are the efforts of courageous and creative Iraqis speaking out against injustices and building movements of nonviolence and reconciliation. We get a glimpse of how the author, a peace-worker, immersed in the chaos of war, dealt with the suffering of those around her, as well as her own personal losses and kidnapping ordeal. Her experiences strengthened her belief that the power of nonviolent suffering love is stronger than that of violence and force, and can break down barriers and be transformative in threatening situations. She counters the myths of the superiority of violent force to root out evil in places such as Iraq, and challenges us to do all we can to prevent the tragedy of future war.   
Gish's book is available for purchase from Wipf & Stock Publishers.  

Aug 18, 2014

Help de displaced Yazidi people from Shangal


CIVIL SOCIETY ORGANIZATIONS CALL TO THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY
by CPT, Wadi, Alind 
Representatives of three human rights non-governmental organizations (NGOs), a German-Kurdish organization Wadi, a U.S. based international organization Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT), and Duhok based Alind Organization, conducted a two day visit on 15 and 16 August, 2014, to areas in the Duhok Governorate of Iraqi Kurdistan where Yazidi Iraqis who fled the violence of the Islamic State (IS) forces from the Shangal (Sinjar) area are now staying. The representatives spoke with an official at the Peshabur (Faysh Khabur) Iraqi-Syrian border crossing, who estimated that since 5 August more than 100,000 people came in seeking refuge.
The representatives observed Yazidi families camping out under make-shift tents along the roads throughout the area, under highway overpass bridges, or in the open sided concrete buildings being constructed. They visited the displacement camp for estimated 2,000 (no official numbers are known) people in the Khanke municipality near the town of Semel, and the Bajet Kandala Refugee Camp, near the Peshabur crossing. At these camps they spoke with over 50 displaced persons and observed the current living conditions. The interviewed people shared many common experiences. Families reported men in their family killed and women raped or kidnapped by IS forces, escaping to Mount Shangal, watching relatives die for lack of food and water and suffering extreme heat exposure. Most of them arrived in the Duhok Governorate, after a combination of walking and being transported in trucks or wagons through the Kurdish controlled parts of Syria. They appeared deeply traumatized, and spoke of shame and despair about their future. The majority of the interviewees said they feared to stay in Iraq and wanted to emigrate to Europe, the U.S.A. or Canada.
Khanke camp has been set up on a field next to a small town to care for the rapid influx of the displaced Yazidis. More than 100 white UNHCR tents are spread around a large field. People sat in the shade of the tents on cardboard or dusty mats. A local organization has delivered mattresses to a small portion of the residents. There were no water systems for consumption or bathing near the tents. Residents hauled water in buckets from a local school, but had bottles of water for drinking. According to the residents there were only two latrines. Local people of the town served the residents of the camp a warm meal about 5 PM, consisting of rice and bulgur. Apart from one police car, there appeared to be no security system for the camp, which might put especially women and Children in risk of abuse. People are in dire need of sufficient sanitation system, food, vitamins, medical attention as well as administration and security.
Bajet Kandala Refugee Camp, situated just several kilometers from the Peshabur border crossing was meant to serve as a reception/transit camp for the Syrian refugees. In an older portion of the camp the visiting human rights workers saw canvas shelters, electricity, latrines, and water spigots. The other part, filled with several hundred white tents, has not been finished yet and the representatives have seen the ongoing enlargement. Residents of the new part, mostly families, had to cross a highly trafficked road to the rest of the camp to haul buckets of water and get a tray of what appeared to be subsistence amounts of cooked food, consisting mainly of rice.
According to the administrator of the camp, a representative of the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG), around 20,000 people resided there as of 16 August. The camp is run by a KRG related agency that appeared to be overloaded and overwhelmed with the amounts of people present and still arriving to the camp daily. A 15-member family sitting under a make-shift shelter at the side of the camp told the NGO's representative that they had not eaten for three days. No international aid agencies were present at the camp.
CALL TO ACTION
Wadi, Christian Peacemaker Teams and Alind, as international and Kurdish civil society organizations, call on the United Nations and all international aid agencies, government and non-governmental bodies to:
Help the Yazidi people of Shangal!
The Kurdistan Regional authorities along with local communities are doing much to provide help for those in need, but the region is overwhelmed by the enormity of the influx of the hundreds of thousands displaced Yazidis, Christians, Shabaks, Turkmen, Arabs and others fleeing the horrific violence perpetuated by the Islamic State forces.
We ask the Iraqi government to act quickly and provide financial support from the central budget and try to find and release the missing persons, especially the women, remembering that Iraq signed resolution 1325 UNSCR in 2013 which calls on governments to protect women and children in conflict.
We urge the UN and other aid agencies to act quickly to provide necessary infrastructure and basic needs and services, such as food, sufficient sanitation systems, medical care, and protection to people in the camps as well as to people needing shelter and housing outside of the camps.
We urge nations of the world to open their borders for those displaced by violence and to provide a process for them to immigrate and the financial and legal assistance needed.


Online PDF version of the call to action

Aug 14, 2014

United Nations declares highest level of emergency regarding crisis in Iraqi-Kurdistan



Please circulate widely on Facebook,  E-mail, Twitter, and other social networks.

The United Nations has declared its highest level of emergency regarding the humanitarian crisis in Iraqi-Kurdistan.

The city of Dohuk, north of Mosul, after the arrival of over 150,000 refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) has surpassed its ability to feed and shelter all the people who are in grave need.  We hope the U.N.’s declaration will increase the money and resources available to provide for the needs of such people as the Yazdis and other displaced people. 

The photos below were taken today by the team at the Arbat Refugee Camp.  One displays the agencies that are working within the camp.  The other, if you look closely at the receding utility poles, shows the scale of the camp.

Places accepting donations:
Mennonite Central Committee,
http://mcc.org/get-involved/kits/relief.
Save the Children
http://www.ksc-kcf.org/
UNICEF
http://www.unicef.org/infobycountry/iraq.html
CPT’s Kurdish partner organization WADI:
Donations WADI e.V.
Reference “Emergency aid”
Account number: 612 305 602
Bank: Postbank Frankfurt
BLZ: 500 100 60
IBAN: DE43500100600612305602
BIC: PBNKDEFF
or PAYPAL

Syrian refugees donate their relief supplies to newly displaced

have received reduction in rations 



Please circulate widely on Facebook,  E-mail, Twitter, and other social networks.  

Syrian refugees in the Basirma Camp near Erbil (Hawler in Kurdish), in the Kurdish Regional Governate (KRG), have donated some of their relief supplies to the newly displaced refugees fleeing Islamic State militants.  They took up this collection from their own rations and paid from their own money to have it transported to people camping in parks and churches. 

CPT’s Iraqi Kurdistan team went out to the Arbat Camp yesterday near Suleimani and heard from Syrian refugees there that they no longer receive flour, just oil, rice, sugar, tea, and some spices.  They must now buy the rest of their food. 

Residents of the camp get a monthly subsistence-level monetary and food allotment, which, those who can, supplement by doing day labor or using money they brought with them when they fled.  The camp currently houses about 500 families, all from Syria, but the authorities are expanding the camp to include 150 more families from the old camp.  The old camp will then receive the influx of people from northern Iraq displaced recently by violence.


 

Organizations accepting donations for the refugees

Mennonite Central Committee,
 http://mcc.org/get-involved/kits/relief.


Save the Children
http://www.ksc-kcf.org/


UNICEF
http://www.unicef.org/infobycountry/iraq.html

CPT’s Kurdish partner organization WADI:
Donations WADI e.V.
Reference “Emergency aid”
Account number: 612 305 602
Bank: Postbank Frankfurt
BLZ: 500 100 60
IBAN: DE43500100600612305602
BIC: PBNKDEFF
troubador
or PAYPAL CPTnet

Aug 13, 2014

Support WADI’S relief efforts among the displaced refugees in Iraqi Kurdistan



CPT’s Iraqi Kurdistan team has partnered with WADI on several occasions in its work to end violence against women, including honor killings and female genital mutilation.  More information about its programs is available here.  WADI, because of the overwhelming humanitarian catastrophe currently unfolding in Iraqi-Kurdistan is currently focusing on helping refugees, and we encourage our constituents to support its efforts.  Below is its appeal:

Please donate to the refugees in Kurdish Northern Iraq!

This time it is mainly Yazidis and Christians.  Hundreds of thousands of them are currently seeking refuge in the Iraqi Kurdish Region.  They narrowly escaped the butchers from the Islamic State, and the horror they must have gone through can still be read in their faces.
After all the Syrian refugees (approximately 225,000) and then the wave of IDPs (Internally Displaced Persons), this new wave of refugees is an immense challenge for the region which has a population of about five million and is now accommodating over a million refugees.
Local people are willing to help and share, but the supply situation is very tense.  With temperatures rising to almost 50 degrees Celsius/ 122 degrees Fahrenheit, there is a lack of the most basic supplies, especially food, medicine, clothes, tents, and lodging.  The municipal infrastructure is overloaded, and the regional government and UN Refugee Agency are simply overwhelmed by the sheer number of refugees.


WADI, in cooperation with several local partners and activists, is providing relief on the ground.  Each donation will directly benefit the people in distress.
Donations WADI e.V.
Reference “Emergency aid”
Account number: 612 305 602
Bank: Postbank Frankfurt
BLZ: 500 100 60
IBAN: DE43500100600612305602
BIC: PBNKDEFF

Aug 11, 2014

“The last thing Mirdo Ali told me before his phone battery died”

—Conversations with Yazidis in the Shangal/Sinjar Mountains

[Note: Please share widely with friends on e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks.  Organizations accepting donations for the humanitarian crisis in Iraqi Kurdistan include Mennonite Central Committee, Save the Children, and Unicef.]

 
 CPT delegation visits Yazidi shrine at Lalish.
More photos of Lalish visit available here.
With all our hearts we wish that the Yazidi (Ezidi in Kurdish) people would have become known to the world through different circumstances.  Not as the ten thousand families or more whose children kept dying in the scorching heat of the Shangal mountains of thirst and hunger while surrounded by armed men who sought their death.  Not as the hundreds of people whom the Islamic State (IS) fighters buried alive.  Not as the women whom the IS raped and kidnapped to sell into slavery.  Not as the “devil worshipers”—a false label for which they have suffered much at the hands of Muslims and Christians. 

In the face of the present events the Yazidis—a unique ethno-religious group the majority of whom reside around their holy places and shrines— have become sisters and brothers to the diverse peoples who live in Iraqi Kurdistan and among whom they raised a powerful wave of support and willingness to help.

Three of CPT’s partners asked the team: What do you do in the face of this human tragedy?
 
In the moments when hours mattered, it took days for the international community to respond to the tragedy.  We on the CPT-Iraqi Kurdistan team have taken four days to ask our international supporters to mobilize.  We found it was impossible for non-armed people to pass through two front lines and reach the estimated forty thousand survivors. 

The Kurdistan Regional Government attempted to drop water and food but the IS shot at their helicopters.  It took a week of heavy military operations for various Kurdish military groups, including the PKK—labeled as a “terrorist” organization by the U.S., NATO and the European Union, to liberate the Yazidi people and accompany the survivors through the border areas of Syria to the safety and help of Kurdistan’s borders.  After the passionate outcry of Kurdistan’s people, Great Britain, France, and the USA, along with Iraq’s forces, became involved in delivering humanitarian assistance via military aircrafts to the Shingal (“Sinjar” in Arabic) mountains where the Yazidi people were stranded.  In addition, the USA began bombing some of the IS positions around Shingal and those near the Kurdistan's capital Erbil.  The U.S. aerial attacks eased the worries of many Kurds, Arabs, Christians, Yazidis, Turkmen, and people from other ethnic groups, as well as elevating new concerns regarding motives and effectiveness of the military actions.

As people who believe that “non-violence can move mountains,” we have failed this time.  The current Yazidi “mountain” is at this moment being moved by weapons and military powers.  However, the powers were moved by the outcry of the Yazidis and the people of Kurdistan, joined later by the media, organizations, and foreign politics.   

Many people were able to leave Shingal and are now in safety, however an unknown number of people still awaits rescue, food and water.  How do we respond?  
A friend of the CPT Iraqi Kurdistan team, Rezhiar Fakhir, had a chance to speak on the phone directly with several people who escaped from the city of Shangal to the mountain area out of IS's control.  We believe his conversation with the on the mountain is very important and would like to share a transcript of the phone interview with our friend's comments which he originally published on his blog. 
Risho Khwdeda and his son Alias Risho told me some really tragic stories about what ISIS is doing to the Ezidian people. 
 “At first, they bombed our temples, “said Alias.  They exploded two temples called Mahawia and Saida Zainab.  ISIS also tried to reach Sharfadin temple in order to destroy that too.

Alaias said, “People have left Shangal.  They are heading towards the Shangal Mountains.  They cannot come back because ISIS controls the area in and around the mountain.  Children are dying and they cannot take them to the cemetery.  They have to bury their children under stones.”

I was later able to talk to another member of the Ezidean community that has fled Shangal.  Bdal Mirdo Ali has also taken refuge in the mountains.

I called Badal Mirdo Ali and I asked him to tell me about their situation in the mountains.  Mirdo Ali said:  “The situation is really bad.  Lots of children have died.  We are in the desert; it is hot and we don’t have any place here to stay in or to seek shelter away from the sun.”

Badal Mirdo said, “There are nearly 20, 000 refugees in the Shangal Mountains.  Some have tried to go down the mountain to bring back food and clothing but ISIS arrested them.  They killed the men and took their women.  They have also tried to capture the young men.”

“I was there when ISIS arrested some people.  They killed the husbands and took the wives along with the young guys.  Three of my brothers and their wives were arrested by ISIS.  I do not have any news about them.  We do not have enough food and water and the situation is rapidly deteriorating.  If we stay here we will all die.”

“We can’t go down because ISIS controls all the areas around the mountain.  We are very scared of ISIS.  If someone does not come to help us, we will die here.  Already lots of children and women have died here and we hope more people do not die.  If we stay here under these conditions any longer, it won’t be good for us.  ISIS is near us.  We can feel and hear them.  We can see them.”

The last thing Mirdo Ali told me before his phone battery died: “I hope people hear my voice.  Thank you.”

Aug 9, 2014

Churches in Iraqi Kurdistan filled to overflowing with refugees


 
 Monastery in Suleimani

CPT’s Iraqi Kurdistan team spent all day yesterday at a monastery in Suleimani that has taken in sixty-five Christians from Qaraqosh who fled Islamic State militants with nothing but the clothes on their backs.  CPTers heard today that the monastery is expecting sixty more refugees to arrive tomorrow.  Below is a link to a CNN story about Christians filling St. Joseph’s Cathedral, the largest church in Suleimani.

ACTION: Those of you with Facebook accounts, please post this on your pages, but don’t stop there.  PLEASE ASK 10-20 OF YOUR FRIENDS TO POST this news item on their pages and to ask 10-20 of their friends to post this story, in order to alert people to the humanitarian disaster looming in Iraqi Kurdistan.  Please share via e-mail, Twitter, or other social media accounts as well.



Aug 8, 2014

Alert your networks to the humanitarian catastrophe facing Iraqi minorities



[Note: The Iraq team has spent all of today in a church with sixty-five Christian refugees from Qaraqosh, who fled with nothing but the clothes on their backs.  One man walked thirteen miles in his pajamas and slippers.  All churches in Suleimani are packed with refugees.  The UK government has ordered its citizens to leave Erbil.  The situation on the ground is changing by the hour, and the Iraqi Kurdistan team will attempt to provide a nonviolent perspective on what they see.  Check its Facebook page for updates.]
 

Refugees at the Erbil checkpoint

The humanitarian crisis unfolding in Iraqi Kurdistan and has reached catastrophic proportions.  Tens of thousands of Yazidi people (a religious minority in Iraq) are trapped by ISIS, which refers to itself as the, “the Islamic State” (IS) forces in the Sinjar Mountains without food or water.

According to reports, seventy children have died so far of heat and dehydration.  Hundreds more are likely to die in the coming days.  An estimated 100,000 Iraqis—Christians, Shabak, Yazidi, and other minorities—have fled their homes.  They are attempting to enter the area of northern Iraq controlled by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), a region already stretched beyond capacity with more than one million internally displaced persons from the conflict with IS and refugees from Syria.  Those who cannot leave their homes risk forced conversion, kidnapping, rape, torture, and gruesome death.

While Western media has covered some of the persecution of Iraqi Christians, IS persecution of Yazidi, Shabak, Turkmen and Shia Iraqis has largely gone unnoticed.  In the weeks to come, the Iraqi Kurdistan team will be putting out a daily piece of information about refugees the team is encountering, peacemakers who are working to alleviate the humanitarian crisis or other news the team thinks the public needs to know.  WE ARE ASKING OUR SUPPORTERS TO PUBLICIZE THIS INFORMATION WIDELY.  Doing so may mean not only posting it on your Facebook page, but specifically asking twenty friends to share it on their Facebook pages.  Putting it out on Twitter, e-mail and other social networks are also vitally important, if we want, our religious communities, the general public and our governments to be moved to action.

BEGINNING TOMORROW.

Aug 5, 2014

Questions about the Islamic State in Iraq, aka ISIS, IS, DAASH




by Peggy Faw Gish
[Note: This release has been adapted for CPTnet.   The original, more comprehensive piece is available on Gish’s blog.]


 
 CPT has been monitoring the checkpoint into the KRG
where tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians, Yazidi,
Turkmen, Shabak and Shia have been fleeing ISIS advances
.
Many analysts of the current situation in Iraq had predicted that the Islamic State of Iraq and SHAM (ISIS), renamed the “Islamic State” (IS) a month ago by the group (and also called “DAASH” by the Kurds in the KRG) would make a major offensive on Baghdad before the end of Ramadan.

Jessica Lewis, a former American military intelligence officer with several years of service in Iraq, describes IS as capable of both guerilla style warfare and conventional warfare, and predicts it will attack soon, first the bases around the city and important government buildings.

The Institute for the Study of War, a U.S.-based think tank, which has been analyzing IS activity in Iraq, reports that the coordinated suicide attacks conducted around Baghdad in predominantly Shia areas on 19 July, demonstrate that ISIS has infiltrated highly coordinated sleeper cells into the city. Their analysts predict that the coming attack will likely be in the form of guerrilla and terrorist offensive, rather than a huge conventional military assault. It would be intent on instilling chaos and fear and keeping the Iraqi government focused on defending the capital rather than mounting an offensive to retake Mosul and other captured territory.

Other journalists and local Kurdish Iraqis question IS’s ability to attack Baghdad now, seeing that recent IS advances in Iraq have slowed down but increased in Syria, where they are meeting stiff resistance, and that they are engaged in current battles with Iraqi forces north of Baghdad, trying to defend captured territory. Instilling fear and building a reputation of fear seems an important strategy.  A recent example is the video IS released (reported by Reuters on 29 July) warning Iraqi soldiers to leave their posts and join them, or face execution.
Kurdish and Iraqi news sources report almost daily skirmishes between Kurdish Peshmerga and IS fighters, somewhere along the front line between Kurdish controlled areas and IS-controlled areas. Deaths from these battles are usually no more than a handful or two. So far, IS has not taken any substantial areas held by the KRG, though they do control some of Iraq’s oilfields and dams.

Thankfully, some of the earlier claims made about IS’s demands and actions around the city of Mosul have proven to be false, such as reports that the Islamic State had issued a fatwa ordering women to undergo female genital mutilation (FGM) that the Islamic State had burned down the St. Ephrem's Cathedral in Mosul and that it had looted Mosul’s central bank. This false propaganda however, has been reported alongside real threats and atrocities.  Our team has seen the effects IS’s threats and presence has had on the daily life of the people of Iraq.  Last week human rights organizations in Iraq estimated that the number of people in Iraq displaced by the crisis, reached 1,250,000 and is likely to rise.

Kurdish people we talk to in Suleimani are fearful IS cells will infiltrate into the KRG with those displaced people coming in, and worry as well about the economic strain from Syrian refugees and refugees from other parts of Iraq pouring into the KRG.

“Of course, we are glad we may achieve an independent Kurdish state,” a Kurdish man, Hawar*, recently told our team, voicing some common sentiments held by Kurds in the KRG, “but we are also afraid. We hear horrible things about DAASH. What if after they attack Baghdad, they turn around and come up and attack us? Will we be able to fight them off? This is a frightening time for all of us.”