In a joint report, the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) highlighted the challenges faced in providing justice for the families of victims found in mass graves in the territory formerly controlled by the "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant." The final number of mass graves found was 202, with an estimated 6,000 to 12,000 victims buried at these sites. However, the final number of victims will not be available until all the sites are exhumed. The victims range from women and children to the elderly and those with disabilities, as well as members of the armed forces and police, and some foreign workers. It is anticipated that more mass grave sites will be found in the coming months and years. (Photo: WikiMedia via Jurist)
Four prominent Iraqi women had been assassinated over the past weeks, including Tara Fares, a model and social media star, and Souad al-Ali, a feminist and leader of the recent popular protests in Basra. Other outspoken women are receiving threats and have been forced to flee the country—including Yanar Mohammed, leader of the Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has ordered an investigation into the killings, but Mohammed is skeptical, saying, "The police are collaborating with the murderers and covering up. for them. We never get the exact story." (Image via Gulf News)
Authorities in Ezidikhan, the self-declared Yazidi autonomous homeland in northern Iraq, issued a statement protesting a Turkish air-raid on their territory. The attack was apparently a targeted assassination of Yazidi leader Zeki ?engali, who is a representative of the Union of Communities in Kurdistan (KCK), the international body in the political orbit of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). Four members of the Yazidi territorial militia, the Sinjar Protection Units (YBS), were also killed in the attack, and a home destroyed. The raid actually took place as Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi was on an official trip to Turkey, sparking outrage from some Iraqi officials. (Photo: Kurdistan 24)
The Provisional Government of Ezidikhan—the self-declared autonomous homeland of the Yazidi people in northern Iraq, centered around the town of Sinjar—issued a statement flatly rejecting a political deal cut between Baghdad and Kurdish authorities in Irbil to hand control over the enclave to the Kurdistan Regional Government. Said Ezidikhan Prime Minister Waheed Mandoo Hammo: "The Yezidi people reject the Iraq government’s attempt to install the Kurdish Regional Government as the military and political authority over the nation of Ezidikhan without our consent. The Ezidikhan Provisional Government is the sole, legitimate government representing the peoples of Ezidikhan. No decisions regarding the political, economic or strategic actions [of] the nation of Ezidikhan can legitimately be made without our free, prior and informed consent." (Map: Ezidikhan.net)
Protests against unemployment, poor government services and corruption that began in Iraq's southern oil hub of Basra have spread to several other cities, including Najaf, Amara, Nasiriya and even Baghdad. At least three have been killed since the protests erupted a week ago. Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi arrived in Barsa to try to calm the situation July 13, flying straight into the city from the NATO summit in Brussels. But the next day he convened a meeting of Iraq's National Security Council, where the decision was taken to cut Internet access in Basra and mobilize army troops to the city. Units from the elite Counter-Terrorism Service and the Army’s Ninth Division have now arrived in Basra. (Photo: Kurdistan24)
Iraq's first parliamentary elections since the defeat of ISIS were supposed to herald a return of stability to the country after 15 years of practically incessant war. But turn-out was at a record low, and candidates were openly aligned with foreign powers playing for influence in Iraq. Incumbent Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi, backed by the US, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, appears to be squeaking past more populist tickets seen to be in the sway of Iran. These include the coalition of vice president and former prime minister Nouri al-Maliki. The ruling Dawa Party split into rival coalitions as Abadi and Maliki fell out. But the surprise so far is the strong showing of Shi'iite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr in an unlikely alliance with the Iraqi Communist Party. Sadr played to resentment against the cronyism and corruption endemic to both factions of the Dawa Party. (Map: CIA)
Turkish air-strikes killed four civilians camping in a rural area of northern Iraq's Qandil Mountains as part of a gathering celebrating the traditional Kurdish spring festival, Nowruz. The raid was ostensibly aimed at PKK positions, but local residents said the young men killed in the strikes were all civilians.? Ankara openly threatened this week to mount an offensive against northern Iraq's Sinjar region if the Baghdad government doesn't act against the PKK stronghold there. This is an implicit reference to the Yazidi minority of the Sinjar area, who have formed a militia that is aligned with the PKK. (Photo: Kurdistan 24)
Waheed Mandoo Hammo, prime minister of Ezidikhan, the self-declared autonomous homeland of the Yazidi people in northern Iraq, issued a statement expressing his nation's appreciation and gratitude in a letter to Armenia's Prime Minister Karen Karapetyan after the Armenian National Assembly approved a resolution recognizing the Yazidi Genocide of 2014. Armenia is the first UN member state to formally recognize as genocide the mass killings and enslavement of Yazidis by "Islamic State" forces after their seizure of the Sinjar area in August 2014. Hammo's statement recalled the sheltering of Armenian refugees by the Yazidis during the Armenian Genocide of 1915 to 1917. (Photo: Istanbul march commemorating second anniversary of Yazidi Genocide, August 2016, via VOA)
Thousands took to the streets across Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region to protest budget cuts and the lack of basic services. At least six were killed as security forces fired on protesting civil servants in Raniya, who have gone without pay for weeks. Demonstrators are demanding the resignation of the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) administration. Protesters armed with assault rifles attacked the local office of the KRG's ruling Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) in Raniya, where a curfew has now been imposed. (Photo: Rudaw)
Iraqi government forces, including elite troops of the US-trained Counter Terrorism Service and irregulars of the Shi'ite militia Hashd al-Shaabi, have taken the disputed city of Kirkuk, and its nearby military bases and oilfields. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi ordered Iraqi forces take down the Kurdistan flag in the city, and hoist only the Iraqi national flag. Thousands of Kurdish civilians have fled the city, heading toward territory within the official borders of the Kurdistan Region.
Leaders of Ezidikhan, the newly declared Yazidi autonomous zone in northern Iraq, are protesting that a UN Security Council resolution calling for an investigation into possible genocide by ISIS doesn't go far enough. Yazidi authorities are calling for the scope of the investigation to be widened to include non-ISIS actors also complicit in the genocide—presumably including the Turkish state.
As results come in from the Kurdistan Regional Government's referendum on independence from Iraq, Baghdad is rejecting the vote as illegitimate and refusing all talks on the matter. Turkey has threatened to seal the KRG's borders. One deadly clash was reported between Kurdish Peshmerga and a Turkmen militia at a town contested between Baghdad and the KRG.