UN chief urges countries to do more to help Iraqi civilians

By agency reporter
13 Aug 2014

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has urged Iraqi security forces against intervening in the country’s political process where heightened tensions, coupled with the current security threat from the armed group, the Islamic State (IS), could lead the country into even deeper crisis.

“I strongly urge all political parties and their supporters to remain calm and respect the political process governed by the Constitution,” the Secretary-General told journalists in New York.

Mr. Ban welcomed efforts led by the Prime Minister-designate Haider al-Abbadi to form a new, broad-based Government that is “acceptable to all components of Iraqi society.” Echoing statements he had made during a visit to Baghdad and Erbil last month, the UN chief urged Iraqis to support the ongoing democratic process.

Addressing the press, Mr. Ban also underscored the threat IS fighters post to Iraq, Syria and the entire region.

“The people of Iraq – all Iraqi people – need security,” Mr. Ban said. “Yet the poison of hatred and brutality is spreading.”

The UN chief said he was “profoundly dismayed” by the “barbaric acts” carried out by IS fighters, which he said include accounts of summary executions, boys forcibly taken from their homes to fight, girls abducted or trafficked as sex slaves.

He called on the international community to do even more to provide protection, and condemned “in the strongest possible terms” the systematic persecution of individuals from the minority populations and those who refuse extremist ideology of IS and associated armed groups.

The situation of the Yazidi minority group and others trapped on Mount Sinjar is “especially harrowing,” Mr. Ban said. He noted that even when people manage to find a way out, “they remain exposed to searing heat and a perilous odyssey.”

Meanwhile, Mr. Ban’s Special Advisors on the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng, and on the Responsibility to Protect, Jennifer Welsh, today condemned in the strongest terms the reported execution by the Islamic State of some 500 Yazidi community members in Sinjar and the surrounding areas. They also express alarm at reports of the abduction of some 1,500 Yezidi, Christian and Shabak women and girls.

“These reports are shocking in the extreme. They show, in very clear terms, the complete absence of humanity of the perpetrators of these crimes,” stated the Special Advisors.

They added that such acts constitute grave violations of human rights and international humanitarian law and may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity, and potentially genocide.

As of 12 August, an estimated 20,000 to 30,000 people remain trapped on the mountain, according to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), which confirmed that thousands of people had fled in the previous 72 hours.

“The new arrivals are exhausted, dehydrated and many have suffered sun or heat stroke, with the daily temperatures reaching 40 to 45 degrees Celsius,” spokesperson Adrian Edwards said in Geneva.

The town of Zakho near the Turkish border is hosting some 100,000 displaced Iraqis, mainly from Sinjar and Zumar, who fled in the previous week. UNHCR said that the Dohuk Governorate, in which Zakho is located, is now hosting close to 400,000 displaced Iraqis, including Yazidis, Christians, Shabak, Kakai, Armenian and Turkman minorities – some of whom had endured repeated displacement.

The UN agency is distributing mattresses, blankets, emergency relief kits, household items and hygiene kits in several regions, he said. The people are also benefitting from the “enormous generosity” of the local community.

The health stuation of tens of thousands of people stranded on Sinjar Mountain remains “precarious,” said Paul Garwood, a spokesperson for UN World Health Organisation (WHO). The UN agency is supporting the deployment of two mobile medical teams in the mountains to try to care for some of the affected people.

In addition, air drops are providing some medical supplies and other basic supplies, such as protein bars.

Irina Bokova, the Director-General of UNESCO, the agency tasked with protecting press freedoms,has condemned the killing of journalist Leyla Yildizh, also known as Deniz Firat, in northern Iraq.

“It is essential that all parties involved in the conflict in the region respect the civilian status of journalists and their right to carry out their professional duties in safe conditions,” Ms. Bokova said.

Leyla Yildizh, a photographer and television journalist for the Firat News Agency, died in an attack on 8 August while reporting from the Maxmur refugee camp north of Mosul.

[Ekk/4]

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