Aid workers harassed, threatened and arrested in Iraq

Aid workers harassed, threatened and arrested in Iraq

by Shruthi Venkatesh March 1 2019, 4:21 pm Estimated Reading Time: 2 mins, 57 secs

A Human Rights Watch report revealed that aid workers in Iraq are being harassed and detained by members of the local authority in Nineveh province. It is also said that local authorities are also compelling organizations to stop providing services to families the authorities accuse of ISIS ties.

“As if their working conditions aren’t difficult enough, aid workers in Mosul and other parts of Nineveh have faced baseless charges of ISIS affiliation, and have even been arrested,” said Lama Fakih, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Charges of ISIS affiliation appear to be thinly veiled attempts to get some organizations to divert aid to corrupt local authorities or to stop giving assistance to some needy families accused of having relatives in ISIS.”

Iraqi authorties threaten aid workers at Ninevah (kurdistan 24)

The Human Rights Watch had spoken with two people who had been tracking assaults on aid workers. Sources told HRW that since the beginning of 2018, they had documented at least 22 incidents in Nineveh “ranging from intimidation and arrests to assault, robbery, and live fire incidents,” with similar cases happening in other Iraqi provinces.

Lawyers also working for the aid organisation have experienced or witnessed verbal harassment or arrests over the past two years, HRW said. Human Rights Watch documented cases in which authorities detained aid workers because of humanitarian work, accusing them of being affiliated with ISIS.

In one incident, military intelligence officers arrested a local lawyer, two drivers and a group of displaced people. They were interrogated, accused of ISIS affiliation and kept in custody despite running their names through security databases and confirming that they were not wanted. HRW further documented that security forces prevented some families from receiving humanitarian or legal assistance if they were thought to be affiliated with ISIS – reports the National World.

Aid agencies told HRW they had raised concerns of harassment, unlawful detention, and threats, along with other abuses of power with the office of Iraqi Prime Minister, Adil Abdul-Mahdi, “but have not received information about tangible steps taken to address the attacks and prevent further harassment.” According to Kurdistan24 - The human rights group also called on Iraq’s security forces, with the support of the US-led coalition partners, to integrate in their efforts to ensure the long lasting defeat of the Islamic State information regarding the protection of aid workers, addressing incidents where humanitarian work has been interfered with or targeted.

“Unless there is a robust response to abuses of aid workers and attempts to undermine aid operations, it is going to become even harder and more dangerous for them to help Iraqis who need their assistance, including families with perceived ISIS affiliation,” Fakih added.

There are dozens of humanitarian organizations operating in Iraq, providing aid to displaced people as well as helping rebuild liberated areas damaged by the war against the Islamic State. Nineveh is the second most populated province in Iraq, after Baghdad, with three million residents. Most of its people were displaced in 2014 after the emergence of ISIS in the north of Iraq. Some construction projects in Nineveh have been halted due to threats issued by Iraqi authorities, which have prompted donors to retract financial support. Over the past year, many displaced people have returned to Nineveh, but others are hesitant to go back due to security concerns and the lack of basic services in the area.

Iraq declared victory over the insurgents in December 2017, but ISIS cells continue to operate in Northern provinces.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The writers are solely responsible for any claims arising out of the contents of this article.

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