ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – On Thursday, the president of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) announced that the autonomous federal region of Iraq is committed to providing sanctuary to those who have faced danger as a result of their religious beliefs.
President Nechirvan Barzani stated in a tweet, “We reiterate that the Kurdistan Region will remain a safe haven for those who flee persecution, as we continue to protect and promote religious freedom in Kurdistan and beyond.”
The statement comes on the International Day Commemorating the Victims of Acts of Violence Based on Religion or Belief, which celebrates efforts to eliminate all forms of intolerance and discrimination based on religion or belief. There are dozens of other such camps as well.
Iraq is the traditional home of a diverse array of religious minorities whose communities have been repeatedly victimized from multiple sides, including Yezidis (Ezidis), Christians, Kakais (Yarsan), Sabean Mandaeans, Zoroastrians, Baha'is, and the much larger Sunni Muslim minority that are often associated with extremist groups that claim to represent them like the Islamic State and al-Qaeda.
In the Kurdistan Region’s Khazir and Hasansham displacement camps alone, officials say that approximately 17,000 of the internally displaced persons (IDPs) who now live there had to leave their original homes because of religious or ethnic persecution.
Fatima Alyas, a Sunni Muslim from Mosul, told Kurdistan 24,” I have been displaced four times in the last five years for being of the Sunni sect, with Shia militia forces threatening and arresting us on baseless charges of Islamic State affiliation or being relatives of Islamic State members.”
Alyas said that, along with her two children, she “escaped to the Kurdistan Region” from the Jadah camp outside Mosul “out of fear for our safety after staying there for two years.”
Rashid Darwesh, manager of both Khazir and Hasansham camps, told Kurdistan 24,” the displaced people in the camps are mostly from Mosul and its surroundings and are Sunnis who are escaping the Shia militias after having survived the Islamic State,” referring to Iraq's Hashd al-Shaabi militias (PMF) operating in Nineveh.
“Recently, an increased number of IDPs are arriving at our camps from the Jadah, Namrood and Salamia IDP camps in Nineveh province. On Wednesday alone, we received 30 families seeking a safe haven who were in fear of their safety because of the armed militias,” added Darwesh,
Although over two years have passed since Nineveh's capital city of Mosul was liberated from the so-called Islamic State, residents who finally returned to their hometowns continue to flee yet again for the camps in the Kurdistan Region because of the lack of security, basic services, and overall reconstruction.
Editing by John J. Catherine