'Safe Corridors' in Mosul are Unsafe

News and Press Release
Originally published

11 April 2017

The Iraqi Observatory for Human Rights (IOHR) states that civilians trying to flee from ISIS-controlled areas, particularly during battles between the Iraqi Government and ISIS fighters, have no safe escape routes, where all corridors out of the city are subject to ISIS attacks.

According to IOHR statistics, at least 25 civilians were killed since 1 April 2017 on Abu Zeayan street in the right coast of Mosul, considered one of the ‘safe corridors’ provided by the Iraqi Government Forces.

Abu Omar Al Hayali, who was displaced to the left coast of Mosul, had used Abu Zeayan street in his escape towards the Iraqi Security Forces, with his family and several others. He said in a phone conversation with IOHR: “As soon as you try to escape the ISIS-held territory, a sniper starts to target civilians trying to flee.”

He added: “I saw a woman and a young man in his twenties both fall in front of my eyes after being hit by a sniper’s bullet. I hid with my family behind a concrete wall hoping that the sniper would not see us. After that, we were able to cross the danger zone with the help of Iraqi Security Forces.”

Safa’, a pen name for a Mosul-based journalist who is constantly at the frontlines, said in an interview with IOHR: “Both the Nineweh Private Hospital (Al Mahata Street) corridor, and the Abu Zeayan corridor, are controlled by ISIS snipers.”

IOHR stated, “While Iraqi Security Forces are making a concerted effort to help civilians flee from combat zones, they also face dangers from ISIS members who shoot at anyone trying to escape. Despite these difficulties, Security Forces continue to help dozens of civilians escape to safety on a daily basis, however, a number of civilians are killed or injured in the escape due to ISIS mortar shells, exploding devices, or sniper bullets.”

A medical source who provides emergency treatment to displaced families from the right coast of Mosul said to the IOHR: “Over 50 wounded civilians per day are being treated during their displacement. ISIS uses mortar shells, and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) to target civilians escaping from territories under its control.”

The same source added: “Children are the most vulnerable to such injuries, as families do not know which escape route is the best to take. They are all targeted by ISIS.”

Hakam Khalid, an aid activist from Mosul, said: “A child, Ali Amer, aged 10 years old, tried to escape with his family from Mosul Al Jadeeda. However, a car bomb exploded upon them as they entered a mined street. Six of his family members were killed. He survived but his left left was amputated as a result of the explosion. He is now in a hospital west of Erbil.”

An aid worker at a hospital west of Erbil (Erbil Emergency), said: “In the past few weeks, the hospital received hundreds of wounded persons, many of them lost some of their limbs or were severely injured, or killed in their escape from ISIS.”

IOHR stresses the urgent need to secure all ‘safe corridors’ opened by Iraqi Security Forces from any ISIS threats to the civilians using them to escape.

IOHR calls on the Iraqi Government to give civilian safety and protection highest priority, while preventing any further casualties. IOHR stresses on the need to have urgent response teams on standby in areas located near civilian escape routes from combat areas.