Battle for Mosul: The Grave Humanitarian Ramifications

Mosul is Daesh’s largest and last remaining bastion of power in Iraq. Victory over Daesh in Mosul is simply a matter of time with Iraqi forces, Kurdish Peshmerga forces and Western firepower encircling Mosul where ISIS have just 5,000 troops. However, there remains critical concern about what comes next; how to provide safety for up to 1.3 million refugees trapped in Mosul? How to re-establish governance in a city brutalised by tyranny?

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The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has confirmed as of 16th October, twenty-seven camps and emergency sites have been prepared with a total of 10,014 plots currently available for 60,084 people. A further 41,744 plots for 250,464 people are planned or under construction. Three camps to the south and southwest of Mosul have been identified as priority sites for the first waves of displacement. However, with a potential of 1.3 million displaced people the UN and other aid organisations are severely underprepared and underfunded to cope with such an exodus of people. Furthermore, there are few safe routes out of Mosul for civilians as the city starts to become immersed in heavy attack, thousands of civilians face great danger of being caught in the crossfire or trapped in the city beyond the reach of any humanitarian aid. Some 5,000 refugees have managed to cross the border into Syria arriving at the Al-Hol refugee camp, where conditions are cramped with a shortage of humanitarian aid. The number of those that have managed to flee Mosul raises the question of whether Daesh fighters will use the same route re-joining Daesh forces in Syria. Even worse, there are claims that Daesh will use the civilians trapped in Mosul as human shields as Iraqi and Peshmerga forces begin to besiege the city.

What happens after the Battle of Mosul is as important as the battle itself. In the aftermath of ISIS occupation, there are no cohesive plans and competing forces will want to translate their military gain into political control. There are bitter sectarian scars between Sunni and Shi’ite Iraqi’s, which could lead to instability in a post-Daesh Mosul. Shia militias were accused of killings; abductions and lootings by Sunni communities in Ramadi and Fallujah after these cities were retaken. Also, the Kurdish Peshmerga forces have already clashed with Shia militia in the province of Diyala. If sectarian strife is inflamed this will be catastrophic for the civilians who remain in Mosul.

 

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