The Islamic State Organization (ISIS) has kidnapped approximately 1900 civilians from Hawija district in Kirkuk province as they were fleeing the ISIS-controlled territory. The kidnapped civilians were planning to flee from Hawija towards safer areas, when an estimated 100-120 ISIS fighters intercepted their escape in the areas of Um Qasir and Saiha.
Areas in the south and west of Kirkuk have been under ISIS control since June 2014. In Hawija, Iraqi Security Forces have surrounded the district for the past two weeks, driving ISIS fighters to use civilians as human shields.
The Iraqi Observatory for Human Rights (IOHR) learned from eye witness accounts that 1900 civilians were kidnapped while fleeing Hawija towards the Iraqi Security Forces, who cordoned off the district. Witness accounts detailed the execution of tens of civilians by ISIS, and burning of six others there.
An eyewitness from the village of Aisalana told the monitoring network at the IOHR: “120 ISIS fighters kidnapped more than 1900 civilians on Wednesday night, including women and children from Hawija. The civilians tried to flee from the villages of Saiha, Aisalana, Un Qasir, and others towards the Saddam Water Irrigation Project. The witness added that ISIS has executed tens of civilians (IOHR was unable to get an exact estimate), while burning six of them.
Another witness spoke about the terrible humanitarian conditions facing Hawija, stating “a number of women and children died because of the lack of food, medicine, water, and electricity.”
In light of these reports and witness accounts, the Iraqi Observatory for Human Rights (IOHR) demands that the Iraqi Government and United Nations agencies in Iraq, as well as all relevant actors, to contribute to end the crisis in the area and to help rid its residents from the oppression of ISIS while ensuring the delivery of humanitarian assistance to residents.
The IOHR calls on Iraqi Security and Government Forces to prioritize the safety and security of displaced individuals fleeing from areas controlled ISIS and areas of armed struggle, and to adhere to the principle of distinction at all times between combatants and civilians, as stated in international humanitarian law.
The IOHR stresses the rights of refugees and displaced individuals fleeing areas of armed struggle to search for and seek refuge in safe areas, and stresses their right to safe passage.