Iraq Country Profile
Officially the Republic of Iraq, Iraq is located in Western Asia, bordering Turkey, Iran, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Syria.
Iraq is home to diverse ethnic groups including Arabs, Kurds, Turkmen and Yazidis, with 99% of the country’s 38 million citizens being Muslim. The official languages are Arabic and Kurdish.
The region between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, historically known as Mesopotamia, is often referred to as the cradle of civilisation. It was here that humankind first began to read, write, create laws and live in cities under an organised government.
Between 1983-2003 the country was ruled by the Baathist party under President Saddam Hussein. Accused of manufacturing weapons of mass destruction, the US and allies invaded Iraq in 2003, overthrowing the dictator. A power vacuum ensued, where conflict has been able to continue. In recent years, the armed group calling itself Islamic State, caused violence and terror in its attempts to create a ‘caliphate’ in Northern Iraq.
Why are people fleeing Iraq for safety in other countries?
Amnesty International reported in 2018
Since Iraqi authorities declared the end of the military operations to retake control of areas from the armed group calling itself Islamic State (IS) in late 2017, during which thousands of men and boys were killed or went missing, many thousands of female-headed households across the country were left struggling to survive. Armed actors under the control of Iraqi authorities collectively punished families with perceived affiliation to IS, including by denying them access to humanitarian aid, refusing to issue them crucial documents, and restricting their freedom of movement. Women in families with perceived IS affiliation were also subjected to sexual violence, including rape. Torture in detention was endemic. Courts continued to sentence individuals convicted of terrorism-related offences to death, frequently after unfair trials that relied on torture-tainted evidence. Iraq continued to use the death penalty extensively. Protesters demanding access to jobs, basic services and medical care were shot, beaten, arrested and detained by security forces. IS carried out bomb attacks on the capital, Baghdad, and in several other governorates, often targeting civilians. IS fighters abducted dozens of civilians and members of the security forces and summarily killed them.
Kurdistan is an area of northern Iraq, which extends to areas of Syria, Turkey and Iran. While there are Kurdish political attempts to establish their own independent country, or ensure more Kurdish autonomy within those countries, there are many other reasons why people are fleeing Kurdish Iraq; in these cases below the authorities do not or are unable to provide protection, leaving flight the only option.
Some asylum seekers and refugees in Lancaster are fleeing due to sectarian violence between ethnic groups, some say fuelled by foreign backed militias.
Some are fleeing honour-based violence. This is related to the belief that a family's honour is dependent upon the sexual conduct and behaviour of (usually) female members. Offences against a family’s honour can include sex outside of marriage, including homosexuality, inappropriate dress, contact with a man outside of the family, being a victim of rape, marrying without permission from family. In this belief the offending woman or girl may be killed by family members to restore the family's honour or subjected to any of the following: physical violence (including assault, maiming and killing), coerced suicide (including by enforced self-immolation), starvation, forced marriage of women (often to a man who has already raped her), forced abortion, removal of children, female genital mutilation, forced virginity, forced hymen repair, and the curtailment of liberty, basic rights and/or education. Such honour-based violence can be "communally sanctioned," potentially involving "multiple perpetrators within the household or members of the community."
‘According to a report by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights….the Iraqi Kurdistan Directorate of Combating Violence Against Women (DCVAW) reported 2,353 allegations of violence against women between July and November 2013, including 2,141 cases of physical abuse, 132 cases of self-immolation, 46 cases of sexual abuse, and 23 murders (UN June 2014, 16).’
Human Rights Watch