Monday, June 13, 2016

Fearful, Frustrated, Trapped

"People jumped from the other side of the river and saved some of those who were drowning, but not my son's two girls and his boy."
“I couldn’t even return his dead children to him. If we went [back to Fallujah] we’d die of hunger, mortars and shelling. His poor children drowned hungry — they hadn’t eaten in two days.”
Nuriya, Amiriyat al-Fallujah camp, Iraq
The operation for Fallujah has come at a dire human cost [EPA]
"Many of them are desperate and travelled long journeys trying to avoid detection by ISIL with nothing but the clothes they wear. The fleeing families were traumatised, distraught and looked pale."
Caroline Gluck, senior public information officer, UNHCR
The government of Iraq is focused on its army advancing toward Fallujah, to retake it from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. It has been held back by ISIL's extensive tunnel network and roadside bombs. The Iraqi military has advanced no effort to aid tens of thousands of frightened Iraqi desperate to remove themselves from the vicinity of the pending challenge of surviving the crossfire of the Iraqi military and the Daesh militias, neither of which is prepared to observe the rules of conflict protecting civilian life.

Government forces, still on the fringes of the city, have been held back in their advance, according to Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi being mindful of the need to protect those citizens, but doing nothing whatever to achieve that protection, so the civilians who have left the city are left to their own desperate devices. Gathered on the banks of the Euphrates River, with no discernible method of crossing its water in safety, people are drowning in their efforts to escape the coming carnage.

Standing on the banks of the river in their fearful throngs, they watch as their relatives drown, helpless to aid them. An estimated 50,000 civilians remain trapped in the city while preparations are forged to storm Fallujah. And as the military awaits the signal to commence, the crowd along the river bank grows, hoping, awaiting an opportunity to cross in safety by boarding a navigable boat, scarce in numbers.

Nuriya, 50, separated from her family in the general melee, watched her daughter-in-law loose hold one by one of her small children. Nuriya's son has been left behind, in Fallujah.
Iraqi families are pictured near al-Sejar village, in Iraq's Anbar province, after fleeing the city of Fallujah
Iraqi families near al-Sejar village, in Iraq's Anbar province, after fleeing Fallujah Credit: AFP
People are using anything resembling a vessel to try to escape and cross the river. One toddler drowned when her parents attempted to give her passage to safety in an empty refrigerator. By encircling the city and refusing to allow humanitarian aid to enter, government forces are starving out the Daesh militias in a siege but also the civilian population who have been eating animal feed to survive, along with dates and contaminated water from the Euphrates.

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