August 26, 2014
More than 16.000 civilians are trapped in the area of Amerli, in Tuz Khormatoo District of Salahaddin Province. Daaesh (ISIS) fighters put Amerli under siege and threaten to enter at any moment. Iraqi civilians from the Turkmen minority are in urgent need of protection.
Urgent call by the Iraqi Civil Society Solidarity Initiative (ICSSI)
Risks are increasing for the inhabitants of Amerli, besieged from all sides by the extremist fighters of DAAESH. Despite the resistance organized by people of the city and the security forces stationed there to stop the terrorist fighters, the risk that these will enter the city is concrete. If DAAESH enters Amerli, mass murder and enslavement of civilians are likely to happen, likewise in other areas inhabited by Iraqi minorities in the last weeks.
Amerli is part of Tuz Khormato District (90 km East of Tikrit) and has been experiencing a three-months long siege, since DAAESH militants started controlling large parts of Salahaddin Province, and after they took control of Mosul (405 km North of Baghdad) in June 2014. In Amerli, Iraqis from different backgrounds live together. The majority of them are from the Turkmen minority, a large section of them are Muslim and follow the Shia doctrine (Al-Madhab Al-Jaafari).
Institutions are aware about what is at stake there. A number of Iraqi politicians and journalists organized a pause of silence last week in the buildings of the Iraqi Parliament and called for the rescue of Amerli. Civil society campaigns are spreading through social networks, calling on the Iraqi government and the international community to provide protection for this city. As the third month of siege begins, fears of supply shortages of food, water, fuel, medical supplies and other essential items are increasing. The suffering of the city is intense also due to the large number of children who still live there: there could be up to 250 babies in need of milk and water. A number of children have been forced to carry arms to defend the city and are being exposed to high risks, due to the absence of protection.
According to “Tareeq Alshaab Newspaper”, the Rapporteur of the Iraqi House of Representatives, Mr. Niazi Oghlu, defined as “historical” the responsibility of the Iraqi Parliament and Government to protect the citizens of Tuz and Amerli. He asked them to instruct immediately an urgent military operation, in coordination with the Peshmerga forces, in order to save these citizens from death. Oghlu added that “the siege and attacks on the city led to the aggravation of the humanitarian situation and the death of children, women and elderly people” and urged for “stopping daily shelling by militants of DAAESH”. Oghlu was surprised by “the international and regional silence over the suffering of the Turkmen in this area, given the ethnic and sectarian cleansing that is taking place”.
In a press statement issued by the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq, the UN envoy for Iraq Mr. Mladenov confirmed that people are surviving in desperate conditions and urged “the Iraqi Government to do all it can to relieve the siege and to ensure that the residents receive lifesaving humanitarian assistance or are evacuated in a dignified manner”. Observers explain that the only way to get aid to the city now is by helicopters, which are arriving every day loaded with food and medical aid, but they say that this aid is not sufficient for the needs of people there.
The director of the District in which Amerli is located, Adel Shakour Al-Bayati, told “Al-Madaa Press” that the whole district is suffering due to the siege. Its effects began to show clearly on 15.000 people, many of whom are children and women, who are running out of white oil for cooking and food, electricity and drinking water. Al-Bayati called the international community to give attention to the steadfast Turkmen in Amerli, similarly to what they did with other minorities who are exposed to crimes by DAAESH, asserting that “the people of Amerli are ready to die, fighting for the day in which the siege will be lifted, without desecration of their land by terrorists”.
The Iraqi Civil Society Solidarity Initiative calls for the Iraqi government to provide urgent and effective protection for the besieged city, in coordination with local authorities, and not to put civilians at risk of direct military confrontation with the extremists. ICSSI demands immediate action by the international community to help the Iraqi government and Kurdistan Regional Government of Iraq in protecting the city of Amerli and Turkmen people in Iraq.