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Caught in the firestorm: Iraq's countless refugees Open in fullscreen

Clive Hambidge

Caught in the firestorm: Iraq's countless refugees

Iraq's people ran from war in 2003. They've been running ever since [AFP]

Date of publication: 24 April, 2015

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Comment: Millions of Iraqis have fled war, persecution and lawlessness in the last decade. The situation has only ever worsened, despite the promises of leaders and politicians, says Clive Hambidge.

Iraq has been caught in a maelstrom of incessant violence ever since the murderous "shock and awe" campaign of George W Bush. Russia declared 2013 in Iraq "the year of carnage" - and then the Islamic State arrived on the scene.

Masses of Iraqis have fled for their lives over the last decade, leaving their homes to escape violence, persecution and death. Two million languish in neighbouring states including Kuwait, Lebanon, Iran, Egypt and Jordan, and the figure continues to rise.

Syria, which historically had an open-door policy for Iraqi refugees, is in flames, and Iraqis have become another chunk of refugees fleeing one regional firestorm to the next.

There seems almost no answer to the horrors of lawlessness, sectarianism, and war faced by millions of people. 

During a recent visit to Baghdad, the UN's secretary general Ban Ki-Moon warned the the creation of more refugees by "ongoing military operations" could overwhelm humanitarian efforts in Iraq.

The truth is that aid agencies are already overstretched, their workers facing the threat of kidnap and murder as they work, and precious little aid is getting through.

     Aid agencies are overstretched, and their workers face the threat of kidnap and murder.

Ban also called on the Iraqi government to control the Shia militias accused of murdering and persecuting Sunni Iraqis during their campaigns against the Islamic State in the north of the country.

Iraq's prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, stated his government's "commitment to human rights [as] final and definite", but admitted abuses had been committed by the Iranian-directed and backed Shia militias.

Abadi has requested additional military aid from the US in to fight ISIS, and the US has also pledged $200m for humanitarian aid.

Business Insider UK reported that the US need a non-sectarian government in Baghdad to give the country the best chance for success. The US does not want Iran playing any central role in the fight ahead, and has insisted they are overseen by the Iraqi military.

But while regional, local and international politics play out the people of Iraq continue to suffer.

Abuse, terror, torture is all Iraqi civilians have known since the illegal and brutal US military intervention, and the resultant mess of al-Qaeda, Islamic State, and Shia militia extremism.

Have drone attacks targeting leaders of IS and al-Qaeda ever changed anything? Will the death of Samir Abd Muhammad al-Khlifawi, Saddam's former intelligence colonel, not lead to the hydra growing a new head?

Will the reported death of Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, a member of Saddam's inner circle later allied to the IS group, alter the balance of power? 

The IS must take note: In 634AD, Caliph Abu Bakr exhorted to a Muslim army preparing to invade Syria: "Do not commit treachery, nor depart from the right path. You must not mutilate, neither a child or aged man or woman.

"Do not destroy a palm, tree, nor burn it with fire and do not cut any fruitful tree."

A footnote of history for modern Iraqi civilians. They continue to pay with their lives, as war swirls around them, be they a "child or aged man or woman".

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