The EU called on Baghdad and the Kurdistan Regional Government to ‘urgently’ restore their security cooperation to confront the militants. Photo: AFP
COPENHAGEN, Denmark – The European Union (EU) has expressed concern over the situation in northern Iraq, where tens of thousands of civilians are fleeing attacks by the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL), including dozens of Kurdish Yezidis daily dying on an arid mountain.
"We are deeply concerned by the humanitarian and security consequences of the ISIL assaults on the town of Sinjar (Shingal) and Zumar and surrounding provinces,” the EU said.
Its statement condemned the fundamentalist group’s actions, “including the killing and kidnapping of innocent civilians.”
It also called on the Shiite-led government in Baghdad and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in the north to “urgently” restore their security cooperation to confront the militants.
“We commend the KRG for its efforts so far to facilitate humanitarian assistance and encourage it to keep its borders open to displaced Iraqi citizens,” the EU added.
Dellawar Ajgeiy, the KRG representative in Brussels, responded to the statement by calling for action.
“We do not need words but actions," he told Rudaw. “So many women and children are surrounded in Shingal that we must act now," he added.
A human catastrophe has been unfolding in Shingal, where a Rudaw reporter on the scene said that the death toll on Shingal Mountain was rising by the minute, with bodies scattered among the rocks, especially of children and the elderly who have been perishing from starvation, thirst and exhaustion.
Despite more than 60 reported dead on the mountain on Wednesday – most children and the elderly -- the families cannot risk descending because their Yezidi faith has made them a target of the religious zealots. There have been reports of arrests and executions by the militants in Shingal, including of women taken as hostages or war booty.
Ajgeiy said the EU should firstly come up with a plan to provide military support to the KRG.
"The EU has a responsibility to fight terrorism and ensure collective security and support us against militant extremism," he said.
He also disclosed that the United States has sent military advisers to the KRG.
Feryal Xelef, a Yezidi living in Germany who has many family members in Shingal, also said the time for words alone is long past.
"People are dying of thirst, we must act now. What difference does it make to condemn ISIS if you do not do something about it" she asked, urging for European military support for the Peshmerga.
Christine Allison, a professor at the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom and one of the leading European experts on Yezidis, described the situation in Shingal as "extremely serious." She predicted it could mean "the end of Yezidism in Iraq."
"The Yezidis’ holy places are in Iraq. If they are forced out of Iraq, as they were from Turkey about 100 years ago, they will have difficulty maintaining their Yezidi identity in the same way," she said, recommending that the EU and the West should arm the Kurds in their fight.
"They do not only need humanitarian aid, but also weapons," she said.
Sebastien Brabant, an EU foreign affairs spokesperson, told Rudaw that the Union has never directly provided military support to countries, regions or any other entities.
“The EU does not have the legal competence to take such action. Decisions on military provisioning can only be taken by individual EU member states,” Brabant said.
Soren Schmidt, associate professor at Denmark’s Aalborg University and an expert on Iraq, predicted that the EU will end up backing the United States if Washington extends military support to Iraqi Kurds.
"The EU is a junior player in front of the USA, but if the latter provides more active militarily support the EU will at the end support them politically," Schmidt said.
The KRG has coordinated with international organizations to deliver food and water to the refugees by air, but people on Shingal mountain say the supplies are not reaching them adequately.
Marzio Babille, the Iraq representative for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), described the situation as “a total disaster.”
“There are children dying on the mountain, on the roads,” Babille wrote in the Washington Post. “There is no water, there is no vegetation, they are completely cut off and surrounded by Islamic State.”