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    Members of the Iraqi army's 9th Division fire a multiple rocket launcher from a hill in Talul al-Atshana, on the southwestern outskirts of Mosul, on February 27, 2017, during an offensive to retake the city from Islamic State (IS) group fighters

    Why Iraqi Authorities Risk Pushing Youngsters Into Daesh's Embrace

    © AFP 2019 / ARIS MESSINIS
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    Iraqi authorities risk pushing the country's youngsters into Daesh's embrace, Belkis Wille, Senior Iraq Researcher at Human Rights Watch, told Radio Sputnik commenting on the unbearable conditions at Iraqi detention facilities where 1,269 people suspected of ties with terrorists are being held.

    Iraqi authorities' actions may push more people into Daesh's embrace, Belkis Wille, Senior Iraq Researcher at Human Rights Watch, warned in an interview with Radio Sputnik.

    It was previously reported that Iraqi security forces are searching for jihadists among civilians fleeing western Mosul.

    Currently, more than a thousand people suspected of ties with terrorists are being held in horrendous conditions at three detention centers south of Mosul.

    "The Iraqi interior ministry is holding at least 1,269 detainees, including boys as young as 13, without charge in horrendous conditions and with limited access to medical care at three makeshift prisons," the Human Rights Watch's official site reported Monday.

    According to the watchdog, two makeshift prisons are located in the town of Qayyarah, and the third one is established at a local police station in Hammam al-Alil, 60 and 30 kilometers south of Mosul, respectively.

    Citing the Qayyarah prison staff, the watchdog called attention to the fact that at least 80 of the detainees are children under 18; children are held in the Hammam al-Alil prison as well.

    "At least four prisoners have died, in cases that appear to be linked to lack of proper medical care and poor conditions and two prisoners' legs have been amputated, apparently because of lack of treatment for treatable wounds," the report read.

    "One of the most disturbing things beyond what we physically saw and smelled… was the fact that there are people actually dying simply because of the conditions or having amputations," Wille told Radio Sputnik, commenting on the issue.

    There is a big chance that the screening procedure will cause anger and resentment among Iraqis, she warns.

    "That's a real concern that I have. When we present this issue locally in Iraq this is one of the things that I'm raising," she stressed.

    "ISIS [Daesh] was able to draw on followers from communities which were marginalized. These are usually communities that had been in the hands of [Iraqi] armed forces in the country committing abuses against them; and because they were marginalized by these abuses, they never saw any justice, they joined ISIS," Wille explained.

    The human rights abuses committed at the detention centers could become the trigger for young Iraqi individuals to continue to join the terrorist group, she believes.

    "If you look at these prison facilities that I saw, if you imagine someone who might stay in those facilities for a few years before coming out, I do have concerns of what might have happened once they're released and where they might go," she said.

    Iraqi rapid response members fire a missile against DAESH militants during a battle with the militants in Mosul, Iraq, March 11, 2017.
    © REUTERS / Thaier Al-Sudani
    Iraqi rapid response members fire a missile against DAESH militants during a battle with the militants in Mosul, Iraq, March 11, 2017.

    Over the last week Iraqi troops have managed to expel jihadists from several neighborhoods and key sites of Mosul, retaking control of the last road leading out of the city.

    "The fighting is extremely heavy," Wille said describing the situation on the ground, "It's a brutal fight and it is also on the side of the city that's more densely populated, at the west."

    "And we've seen a massive spike in terms of numbers of people fleeing the city and, unfortunately, because the humanitarian community does not have an… off-land for camps set up yet you have these IDPs [internally displaced persons] flooding out and really nowhere to go where they can find safety, where they can find food, water, services at an adequate level," she told Radio Sputnik.

    Displaced Iraqis flee their homes during a battle with Islamic State militants in the district of Maamoun in western Mosul, Iraq February 23, 2017
    © REUTERS / Alaa Al-Marjani
    Displaced Iraqis flee their homes during a battle with Islamic State militants in the district of Maamoun in western Mosul, Iraq February 23, 2017

    Needless to say, these IDPs face real a risk because of Daesh's using indiscriminate weapons and shelling those who are trying to leave.

    On the other hand, Wille highlighted that while the Iraqi forces didn't use heavy artillery inside the city in east Mosul, they have changed their tactics recently and now the Iraqi military use heavy weapons and are firing rockets indiscriminately in the west of the city.

    As a result, civilian casualties have soared dramatically, she emphasized, adding that those who have managed to flee the city still do not feel safe.

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    Tags:
    terrorists, civilian casualties, refugee, human rights abuse, humanitarian crisis, prisoners, Daesh, Iraqi Army, Human Rights Watch, Iraq, United States, Middle East
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