In a few weeks, over one million internally displaced Iraqis could be fleeing for their lives from the occupied city of Mosul in Iraq. Hundreds of US troops have now stationed themselves at Qayyarah air base, 30 km south from ISIS-held Mosul ready to attack. The UN warns that the aftermath of the attempt to liberate Mosul will likely be the world's most complex humanitarian crisis. 90,000 Iraqis have already been displaced in preliminary attacks through the Mosul corridor adding to a total of 3.4 million internally displaced people in the country, putting Iraq as the highest contributor globally to refugees in 2016.
US troops and Iraqi security forces along with externally funded militias will participate in liberating the city from the remaining 3000 ISIS fighters. Can this operation really be a force for liberation? The US administration, once again cannot keep its hands out of Iraq, and the complex plethora of ethnic and religious militias involved will undoubtedly lead to further suffering inflicted upon innocent Iraqis who have endured two years under ISIS. The US is quick to intervene militarily, as it was in 2003, but fails to provide adequate assistance for reconstruction. Mosul will likely be a repeat. The involvement of self interested ethno-sectarian militants, international allied forces and a domestically distrusted Iraqi security force will only create a poisonous trap of cyclical violence. The increase in political rivalry will be at the expense of protecting and safeguarding Mosul's residents.
The supposed liberation of Fallujah earlier this year in June was a catastrophe which led to refugees facing obstacle after obstacle in the struggle to survive. After withstanding sniper bullets from ISIS militants whilst fleeing the city, refugees faced a dire lack of humanitarian support on the other side. Many died in the 40 degree heat dessert due to a lack of water, sanitation, food and tents. Shia militias are also reported to have participated in the separation of 1500 men and boys from their families which led to torture, execution and the ultimate disappearance of 900 of them. As a result, senior figures and human rights groups have called for externally funded militias to be excluded from the operation due to their conduct in Fallujah, however Shiite generals have insisted they will be on the front lines against Sunni affiliated ISIS, which is a recipe for further internal violence.
Iraq today is a country of internally displaced people. Up to two million minorities such as Yazidi's, Christians, Kakai's, Shabaks and Sunni Iraqi's have sought refuge in the Kurdish region of Iraq. With a further one million estimated refugees fleeing Mosul next month, and only 38% of UNHCR's original appeal funded, it begs the question of the importance of Iraqi human rights and genuine protected liberation regardless of ethnic or political sect. With a lack of a contingency plan from all parties, inadequate humanitarian resources and the fatal mix of ethno-sectarian militias battling for Mosul, it seems that the loss of lives will be inevitable and accountability, intangible. This is not the liberation that the people of Iraq hoped for.
If you want to help with the humanitarian effort to support and save Iraqi's in Mosul, please donate to Volunteers for Iraq. They are an organisation of volunteers on the ground who are non-sectarian and not affiliated to any political party. They spread awareness of Iraq's cultural history and work on youth projects to help those who are struggling to survive.