Eyewitnesses report 'panic' as ISIS take over more towns in northern Iraq

Islamic State of Iraq and Sham flag in Mosul © Amnesty International
‘ISIS is now in the town … they are gripped by panic and fear’ - Donatella Rovera
 
Christians and Yezidis flee, fearing for their lives 
 
Panic has taken hold in north-western Iraq as tens of thousands of people flee areas where Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants are continuing their advance, Amnesty International said. 
 
Thousands of residents of the Christian city of Qaraqosh fled after ISIS arrived overnight, while others told Amnesty that they were trapped in the town and unable to leave. 
 
In Bashiqa, a town north of Mosul populated by a majority of the Yezidi minority (a Kurdish ethno-religious group present in various parts of northern Iraq), residents’ long-standing fears of an ISIS attack were borne out overnight, and the population has now been forced out of the town. 
 
As ISIS advanced further east and north of Mosul overnight, thousands fled towards the Iraqi Kurdistan cities of Dohuk and Erbil. For example, Yezidis from the Sinjar area, who were forced from their homes at the weekend after ISIS took over the area and who found shelter near Dohuk, are fleeing again. They are now heading for the Turkish border. 
 
Donatella Rovera, Amnesty International’s Senior Crisis Response Adviser, who is currently in northern Iraq, said: 
 
“The situation for Iraqis in the north-west of the country, especially those from the Yezidi and Christian minority communities, is becoming increasingly dire as both residents and many of those already displaced are now fleeing their homes and places of shelter.
 
“I met a man yesterday in al-Qosh, a Christian town, who for weeks has been working hard to provide shelter and assistance to displaced people - Christians, Yezidis and other minorities who had fled their homes in the recent days and weeks amid ISIS assaults. 
 
“Today he and his family have themselves become displaced. He broke down in tears as he told me that last night he and his family fled with only the clothes on their backs - with not even time to take their documents. ISIS is now in the town.
 
“Many members of minorities are even fleeing areas where there seems to be no imminent danger of an ISIS attack as they are so traumatised by their recent displacement. They are gripped by panic and fear.”
 

Note to editors

Amnesty International’s Senior Crisis Response Adviser, Donatella Rovera, is currently in Iraq and available for interviews. Follow her on Twitter: @DRovera 
 
For earlier Amnesty concerns on this topic, go here
 

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