This website is an archive of the work of Marietje Schaake in the European Parliament between 2009 and 2019. Marietje can be reached at

Expelled by terror IS: a blog from iraqi Kurdistan

irak-blog-2v2 Between Erbil and Dohuk, the most important Yezidi city in Iraq, buildings stand half finished. Hopes that Iraqi Kurdistan would one day be like Dubai have been replaced by existential questions and mere survival. Drying laundry reveals the fact that there are people living in these half completed constructions. Homeless and traumatised, they have sought refuge in Kurdistan. Last weekend, together with a small group of parliamentarians, I undertook an unofficial visit to the region to get a better sense of the humanitarian situation. Yezidi We met Yezidi women and children who were kidnapped and abused as sexslaves by IS. A 17 year old girl recounts how she was sold countless times by jihadists and how every attempt to resist was met with torture. Only through the help of the second wife of one of the militants was she able to escape. Her brother had to borrow a large sum of money to be able to pay the smugglers. Many girls and women from other families are still in the hands of IS. Psychological support is urgently needed, but unavailable. Thanks to a ruling by the highest religious authorities, at least these girls are not expelled from their communities. Social conventions amongst Yezidi and Kurds are often conservative. Honour killings, polygamy and even stonings occur. But during our meetings men, women and a religious leader cry together. People hold on to each other. All the minorities in Iraq have similar stories. After broken promises that they would not be attacked, they are hunted by IS. They flee in the night. After days of walking while chased by IS and after seeing barbaric brutalities, more than 2 million of them have now become displaced across Iraq over the last year. At least 5 of the 30 million Iraqi's need urgent aid, but many of them live in conflict areas where international aid cannot reach them. Sunnis who have fled for IS around cities like Mosul are probably in an even worse situation than others that have now received tents and emergency rations. They have effectively been closed off from the outside world. Minorities Christians are leaving for Turkey and Lebanon, hoping to go on to the US, Canada or Europe. Even though Iraq's history has constantly been marred by violence, after recent events they do not see a place in the country for themselves anymore. A bishop that we speak to wants to prevent people from leaving, because it will lead to the extinction of Christianity in Iraq. That is exactly what IS wants. Many ask existential questions and some of the men from refugee families are fighting on the frontlines. A front which is never far away. Dohuk and Mosul are only 40 kilometres apart. From Erbil to Mosul is 90 kilometres. Because of the ethnic ties, contacts with the local populations is easy. But the fear of what will happen when Kurdish militants and the Iraqi army reconquer Mosul and other cities is great. The violence will most probably force a new flow of refugees, mainly Sunnis, into the country. They will likely not be received with the same open-heartedness. The marginalisation of Sunnis by the Maliki government and the disintegration of the Iraqi army after the fall of Saddam Hussein are partly to blame for the quick advancement of IS. Apart from combatting IS, there is also an urgent need for humanitarian aid. Only one third of the funds to provide for basic needs are covered at the moment. (Text continues below) irak-blog-1 Humanitarian disaster In the refugee camps we see children with bare feet on the frozen earth. Small tents are inhabited by families with over 10 members. The troubled face of a 16 year old boy who cares for his six brothers and sisters, and has not heard anything from his other two sisters after they were taken by IS. His father's ID card was found near a mass grave. Most people know that their houses have been destroyed and plundered. In Iraq, the violence and expulsion taking place look an awful lot like ethnic cleansing. If we want to avoid more refugees and to counter extremist violence, we will need a strategy that does not only focus on the amount of weaponry needed to fight IS, but which also addresses the fate of the internally displaced people. Stability will require long-term commitment. Because the war in Syria has already caused so many refugees, who no longer get the media attention they deserve, the suffering of people on the run in Iraq seems to remain unnoticed. Tactical discussions on how to combat IS overshadow the huge human pain. The combined refugee flows in Iraq and Syria account for more than 10 million people. Europe Even though Europe is already the largest contributor of humanitarian aid, more money is needed. Otherwise we will see more ships sinking in the Mediterranean and probably more successful jihadist recruitment. We risk the creation of a lost generation in an already fragile and volatile region. We urgently need to look at the role played by a number of 'strategic partners'. And countries that have pledged aid but have not delivered must be singled out. The EU itself must show more political leadership. In the areas of justice, truth and reconciliation, we can play an important role. We also need more commitment from other European countries than Germany and Sweden to take in refugees. But even if the violence were to stop today, the traumas and the destroyed houses would still remain. And sadly, we are nowhere near getting rid of IS or the Assad regime and there is a fundamental lack of political will in the EU to be a decisive global player. This week, we closely felt the realities of the destructive power of terror in Europe. Our outrage, anger as well as our resilience are great, but they must not stop at our borders. The battle for freedom and justice is a global one. In Iraq people experience the hell of terror on a massive scale and every day. irak-blog-3
Press conference on 14-01-2015 by the four MEPs that travelled to iraqi Kurdistan