Immediate safe routes out of Mosul needed for civilians

By agency reporter
November 8, 2016

As Iraqi forces enter the outskirts of Mosul, amid reports of ISIL using families as human shields, Christian Aid is calling for all sides to the fighting to respect international law and allow immediate safe passage for those trapped in the city and seeking to flee.

More than 18,000 people have fled since the start of the offensive to retake Mosul two weeks ago from towns in the region, yet the 1.5 million people in the city are prevented from leaving. Iraqi coalition forces have recaptured nearby districts and villages on the march to the city, including the Christian town of Qaraqosh.

Frances Guy, Christian Aid’s Head of Region for the Middle East said: “The charred remains of the church at Qaraqosh are a symbolic reminder of the damage that has been done to the multi-religious fabric of Iraq over the last few years.

“The liberation of Christian, Shabak and Turkmen towns highlights the multi-religious makeup of Iraq.  The opportunity to rebuild a lost harmony must not be thrown away in a potential rush for revenge.

“Civilians are caught in the middle of an increasingly complicated conflict with different forces on all sides of the city and little concern for humanitarian principles.

“Whilst we welcome the return of the sound of church bells to the Eastern approaches to Mosul, we urge all sides to the fighting to respect international humanitarian law and allow for the immediate safe passage of civilians seeking to flee deadly fighting.”

A spokesperson for a Christian Aid partner organisation based in Iraq has described the situation in Mosul as terrifying; “They are terrified of the shelling, they are trapped at home, they cannot leave the city because of ISIL.”

Mosul, a centre for ancient cultures and trade has been devastated since it was captured two years ago. ISIL has controlled all movement in and out of the city, enforcing high taxes resulting in soaring unemployment and sky high prices for basic food stuffs making it near impossible for people to feed their families.  ISIL initiated their own school curriculum, so many families had stopped sending their children to school.

People that can flee often leave suddenly with few belongings, desperate to find a safe place away from aircraft and shelling, or any kind of threat on their life.  Many families have fled to Dabaga camp and Qayyarah where Christian Aid partners have been providing urgent aid over the last few months.  They are ready to support thousands fleeing violence in the battle for Mosul with food distributions, which is the priority need.

Christian Aid has reached more than 242,000 people, with food, clothes, hygiene kits, health services and cash assistance since the launch of the Iraq appeal in 2014.

* Christian Aid http://www.christianaid.org.uk/

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