ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – The United Nations on Monday expressed “deep concern” for the safety and security of civilians in Iraq following Baghdad's sanctions on the Kurdistan Region as well as the recent liberation of Hawija from the Islamic State (IS).
Lise Grande, the Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, said aid groups describe the ongoing humanitarian crisis in the country as a “protection crisis.”
“Nothing is more important than protecting the civilians who have been impacted by the conflict,” Grande said in a press release.
“Humanitarians are deeply worried about incidents of collective punishment, restrictions on free movement, evictions, forced returns, and sexual exploitation and violence,” she added.
Grande pointed to the help provided by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) where Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) are “kept safe and protected.”
However, following the Kurdistan Region’s Sep. 25 independence referendum, tensions between Erbil and Baghdad have increased.
On Sep. 29, the Federal Government of Iraq imposed a flight ban over Kurdistan’s airspace which prevented international flights from leaving or entering the Region.
The flight cancellations were in retaliation to the historic vote where 92.7 percent voted for secession from Iraq.
Humanitarian aid groups fear Baghdad’s decision to impose a flight ban could have a severe impact on the lives of refugees and displaced persons sheltered in Kurdistan.
Since the emergence of IS in 2014, the Region has housed over 1.8 million IDPs and refugees fleeing the militant group from parts of Iraq and neighboring Syria.
Baghdad’s flight ban will directly impact aid groups providing care for displaced people and refugees who have escaped poverty only to be faced with the prospect of further adversity.
“International humanitarian law is clear,” Grande said. “Everything must be done to ensure people are safe and have access to the assistance they need.”
According to Grande, over 5.4 million civilians have been displaced since 2014, including 2,400 displaced since the launch of the Hawija operation on Sep. 21.
Editing by Ava Homa