Baghdad, 23 December 2017 - Teams from the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) conducted monitoring missions to Tuz Khurmatu where they observed destroyed homes and businesses in several primarily Kurdish neighbourhoods of the ethnically and religiously mixed city in the wake of the transfer of security authority in the area in October.
Since the outbreak of violence in Tuz Khurmatu in October, UNAMI has received a number of allegations of human rights abuses and violations, in particular with regard to civilian casualties and two allegations of sexual violence. These incidents are still being investigated. UNAMI also received and investigated a large number of allegations concerning the destruction of property that took place on 16 and 17 October. A number of sources and witnesses alleged that civilians and members of Turkmen armed groups carried out these acts as well as intimidating residents, many of whom left the city in fear. The identity of the perpetrators of these acts remains unknown.
UNAMI received reports of these incidents from internally displaced persons (IDPs) from Tuz Khurmatu who are currently in Kirkuk, Sulaymanyia and Erbil, government and security forces, media reports and journalists, community and political representatives and national and international NGOs. Many IDPs attributed the violence to the tensions between the Kurdish and Shia-Turkmen communities. They alleged much of the destruction and looting occurred after the Kurdish inhabitants left the city, most of whom have not yet returned. Moreover, many alleged that while looting was apparently carried out widely and at random in their neighbourhoods, more serious damage was of a targeted nature - for example, on the basis of political or security affiliation.
As of 14 December, according to figures provided by the International Organization for Migration, 1,440 families (8,694 individuals) from Tuz Khurmatu are currently displaced following the events of mid-October. 444 displaced families (2,664 individuals) have returned to their homes. One IDP told UNAMI "I am afraid for my family's security. We do not want to go back until this issue is resolved. The deployment of Iraqi Army commandos from outside Tuz Khurmatu to secure our neighbourhoods is a good thing because they are neutral." Another IDP stated: "We are afraid to go back because there is also shelling now into our neighbourhoods."
Teams from UNAMI undertook two monitoring missions to Tuz Khurmatu on 7 and 14 December, primarily to assess allegations concerning property damage. They visited the neighbourhoods of Askari and Imam Ahmed, and subsequently Jumhori and Jamila. UNAMI observed during the first mission in the Askari and Imam Ahmed neighbourhoods, both of which have a large Turkmen population, one building damaged from what appeared to be a mortar strike. UNAMI also observed damage to the local Kurdish PUK party office and severe fire damage to an automobile business north of the city. During the mission, UNAMI also met representatives of the Tuz Khurmatu City Council, representing Sunni-Arab, Shia-Turkmen, and Kurdish communities. A representative from the Shia-Turkmen Popular Mobilisation Units (PMUs) was interviewed, as well as a senior police officer responsible for the area. The team sought to obtain independent accounts of what transpired, as well as accounts of security operations, and information about investigations being carried out.
Before the follow-on visit on 14 December, UNAMI received an analysis of satellite imagery of the primarily Kurdish quarters of Jumhori and Jamila prior to and after the violence. The imagery indicated that at least 29 buildings had been destroyed in Jumhori and 11 in Jamila. During the visit, the UNAMI team observed approximately 100 shops burnt or damaged along the main market road in Jumhori, many of which could not be observed in the satellite imagery. The team also observed approximately 30 homes that were burnt or damaged. Five houses were demolished in Jamila and one in Jumhori.
The team noted that it was difficult to spot looted buildings unless doors were open, and that many houses were inaccessible behind high walls or within compounds, making it impossible to determine whether there was damage or looting. The team cannot therefore exclude the possibility that the number of houses destroyed and/or looted could be higher; indeed, UNAMI has received allegations about a significantly higher number of houses affected.
The UNAMI team also observed widespread graffiti marking homes as belonging to Turkmen, allegedly to prevent damage and/or looting. IDPs reported they would ask Turkmen friends and/or neighbours to mark their properties to protect them.
UNAMI has consistently expressed concern about the situation of the civilian population in Tuz Khurmatu and allegations of the destruction of property, both in press statements on 19 October and 12 December and during the briefing by Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Iraq, Mr. Ján Kubiš, to the UN Security Council on 22 November. UNAMI requests the Iraqi authorities to take all necessary measures to protect civilians in Tuz Khurmatu, not least in light of recent shelling attacks; to facilitate the safe, dignified and voluntary return of IDPs; and to hold accountable those responsible for the violations that occurred since mid-October. UNAMI also expresses its concern over the recent repeated indiscriminate mortar attacks which have inflicted losses, including civilian casualties from among the Turkmen community, in the town and calls for an immediate end to acts that threaten the security and the safety of the Kurdish and Turkmen communities.
For more information, please contact: Mr. Samir Ghattas, Director of Public Information/Spokesperson
United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq, Phone: +964 790 193 1281, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
or the UNAMI Public Information Office: email@example.com
United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI)
Public Information Office (PIO) - Baghdad
Phone: +39 083 105 2640 or +39 083 105 2644