12 Aug 2014

Iraq: piles of aid lie idle as Yazidis starve and crews battle militants

I am in northern Iraq, which has become a magnet and haven for many different kinds of refugees (Iraqi Christians, Kurds, Turkmen, Muslim Arabs) – let alone those who fled here from Syria‘s civil war in the hope that Iraq was a safer bet.

Most notoriously right now, untold numbers of Yazidis marooned for up to 10 days in the deadliest natural sanctuary imaginable: a bleak range of mountains south of here, a barren wasteland scorching in thirty to forty degree heat.

Yesterday I reported on the harrowing scenes we witnessed when an Iraqi military helicopter rescued as many Yazidis as it could carry.

Only four helicopters are available for this work, which is dangerous on two counts: firstly, the aircraft come under attack from Islamic State militants, as happened to us yesterday; and secondly, helicopters risk being mobbed by Yazidis fighting one another to climb aboard.

So far today I have only seen one Iraqi helicopter take off; the others were deployed on bombing missions against IS jihadists. Instead of being loaded with water, biscuits and dehydration salts, they were armed with rockets.

The Kurd nominally in charge of coordinating this mission is beside himself with anguish. The helicopters don’t belong to him or to Kurdistan but to the government in Baghdad, which decides what the priorities are; either killing jihadists currently occupying large swathes of the country – or rescuing a little known Yazidi minority in Kurdistan, a region which wants to break away from Iraq and become its own country.

And so it is that I watch large piles of bottled water, and carrier bags full of bread and bananas, sitting idle on the tarmac of a military base, waiting for the brave Iraqi air crews to return from their bombing missions and carry the aid up the mountain instead.

There could be a fairly rapid solution to this humanitarian disaster: a helicopter airlift, with the aircraft provided by the Americans and possibly the French, who I am told have been showing signs of interest.

But the mantra of the Obama White House is that there are no American military solutions to Iraq’s problems. The question, I suppose, is when do you make exceptions to that guiding principle. If you were a Yazidi trapped on Mount Sinjar, you would answer “right now”.

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6 reader comments

  1. Chris Johanson says:

    All very good blaming the Iraqis for using helicopters to stop ISIL, where are the British. Of course we have a general election next year..Check these facts the KRG Kurd Government brought a dozen helicopters from AN Arizona company a few years ago, why not use them or are they still only for use of the Bazarni family..


  2. Neil Brooks says:

    I never thought i’d be sticking up for the Americans but they truly cannot win, they invade half the middle east remove dictators, install governments, stabilize economies, suppress fanatical- thug organisations and are chased out of the country as war criminals only to be accused of “doing nothing” by every media organisation in the world 12 months later when everything falls to pieces

    How quickly opinions change between when everything is going fine and everything is going badly

    1. ikke says:

      Admit it , with the dictators times , the killing was less , and less barbaric and more merciful, less suffering. Can’t they really really do nothing for those people? Really , we should blive that , the almighty US ?

  3. alistair leslie says:

    Phonetically Yazidi and Hassidic sound similar .Is there an ancient connection ?

    1. Behroze Gandhy says:

      I think Yazidis have links to the city of Yazd in Iran. Yazd is where the majority of the Zoriastrians live, the oldest monotheistic religion whose rituals have been adopted by the present day Yazidis along with Christianity and ancient Mithraism

  4. Joann Desnick says:

    why doesn’t the Pope call in the christain powers to save these poor people

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