Minorities may never return to their lands in post-ISIS Iraq, finds new report

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Minority communities in Iraq fear their ancestral lands will be stolen by government-backed forces as ISIS is pushed back, a new report finds. Territories ‘liberated’ from ISIS months ago remain occupied by Shi’a militias, Kurdish Peshmerga and Iraq Security Forces while Yezidis, Christians, Shabak and Turkmen have yet to return, a coalition of international NGOs reports.

Based on extensive fieldwork in conflict-affected Ninewa and other parts of Iraq, Crossroads: The Future of Iraq’s Minorities after ISIS is the third in a series of definitive annual reports on the state of Iraq’s minorities, published by Minority Rights Group International (MRG), Institute for International Law and Human Rights (IILHR), No Peace Without Justice (NPWJ) and the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO).

‘ISIS is not yet defeated, but the rush to grab their former territory is already well underway,’ says Mark Lattimer, MRG’s Executive Director. ‘East of Mosul, the Ninewa plains formerly home to Iraq’s minorities are now one ghost town after another, inhabited only by militias.’

The last year has seen continued high rates of refugee flight from Iraq, particularly by minority Christians and Yezidis. With insecure conditions for internally-displaced persons, many more plan to flee.

‘With the impending liberation of Iraqi territory from ISIS forces, minority populations continue to diminish. All indications point to a post-ISIS phase that could be just as – or even more dangerous to minority groups than the ISIS occupation. Many leaders fear that the “peace” could be more perilous for their survival as communities than the “war”,’ says William Spencer, Director of IILHR.

This report makes 63 specific recommendations to the Government of Iraq, the Kurdistan Regional Government and the international community tackling the humanitarian, legal, asylum, and other needs of minorities. The coalition of NGOs warns that if their concerns are not addressed, there will be a continuing and lasting legacy of inter-communal animosity in conflict affected areas, and the ultimate departure of ethnic and religious minority populations from many parts of Iraq.

Notes to editors

  • Crossroads: The Future of Iraq’s Minorities after ISIS will be available for free download on MRG’s website on 7 June.
  • For further information or to arrange interviews with MRG’s Executive Director:

Emma Eastwood, Senior Media Officer, Minority Rights Group International

E: | T: +44 (0)207 4224205 | M: +44 (0)7989 699984 |Twitter: @MinorityRights

  • Further interview opportunities:

Pascale Warda, President of Hammurabi Human Rights Organisation, Former Minister of Migration and Displacement, Member of Iraqi Women Network, Member of the Committee for Reconstruction of Sinjar

M: +964 7513760474 (Iraq) | E:

Fernando Burgés, Programme Manager, Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization
M: +32(0)483 448582 | E:

William Spencer, Executive Director, Institute for International Law and Human Rights

M: +1 202 365 1124 | E:

Alison Smith, Director of International Criminal Justice Program, No Peace Without Justice

M: +32 2 548 39 12 | E:

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