Benoite Martin is programma coordinator voor het PAX programma Kulluna Muwatinun (Wij Zijn Allemaal Burgers) wat in Syrië en Irak wordt uigevoerd. Deze week bezocht zij in Noord-Irak een vluchtelingenkamp voor ontheemen uit Mosul. Hieronder in het Engels haar indrukken.
Visit to Dibega camp – August 14 2016
I accompanied our local partner Al Mesalla, who is providing psycho social support services in the camp. Dibega lies about 70 kilometres on the south east of the city of Mosul. It is the largest camp that has been established at the end of 2015 to shelter displaced people escaping from the hands of ISIS.
In the last few weeks, as the Kurdish Peshmerga forces have liberated many towns, advancing towards Mosul, families across the Ninewa governorate have been escaping military operations and airstrikes and sought safety in areas controlled by the Kurdish forces.
Dibega camp has steadily grown to host more and more families and is now struggling to offer decent shelter to all individuals escaping ISIS, as tents and other basic services are severely lacking.
At the time of visit, Dibega camp was hosting 33,500 individuals across three separate sub-camps. More than 2500 families are awaiting for tents which will be available in a few days as three more sub-camps are being set up in the area. Every day, more than 150 new families arrive requesting shelter.
As a woman, it is easy to approach a group of women and children to ask a few questions and understand their situation: all have the similar impressivestories to tell. They were living in villages near Mosul under the control of ISIS, and had to escape during the night, in order not to be seen. ISIS would otherwise execute them for escaping. The families walked for more than 10 hours carrying the children to reach the areas controlled by the Peshmergas. They left all their belongings behind, as it is impossible to carry with them anything in their flight.
As families reach the frontline, they undergo a security screening conducted by the Kurdish forces: men and women and children are separated and the intelligence services are identifying possible members of ISIS who would have mixed with fleeing families. Families are then taken to the transit camp at the entrance of Dibega where they await to be given a tent. Again separated, men are sheltered in mosques and school buildings while women and children are given large communal tents. After 10 to 15 days on average, families finally get reunited as they are given a tent.
Security in the camp remains an issue as explains a camp manager: “We know some bad elements are present in the camp, they send some people here” as he refers to individuals who remain linked to ISIS. The situation is very sensitive as the camp hosts many traumatized as well as radicalized persons. “People have been brainwashed by ISIS, they were forced to do many violent things and they need to understand these things need to stop now”. A couple of fights have erupted in the camp and as I leave the office of the camp manager, I can see a security guard making use of an electric teaser to calm down some angry men. Later during my visit, the intelligence forces rush three men away whom are tied up in a back of a pick-up car, probably suspected of being linked to ISIS.
Women and girls are particularly traumatized as they have witnessed and suffered from incredible violence. Al Mesalla, a partner organization of PAX in Iraq, runs two women space centers and offer psycho-social support and trauma therapy. Individuals accessing the center tell of hideous acts of violence they have witnessed. There have already been four cases of suicide of women in the camp since last year.