An estimated 10,000 Christian men, women and children from communities in northern Iraq are abandoning their homes and most of their possessions as a result of the violence and killing being perpetrated by the terrorist group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), according to Friday's report by the United Nations.
The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reports that a large number of Christian refugees fled to Iraq’s region controlled by the Kurds. It's estimated that 300,000 Iraqis from Mosul and the nearby towns and villages have sought refuge with the Kurds.
“They fled by bus, car and taxi into Iraq’s northern Kurdistan region [beginning on] Wednesday night,” UNHCR spokesperson Melissa Fleming told reporters in Geneva, Switzerland. “Many are women and children staying with families, relatives and in schools and community centres, mostly in Erbil. They tell us they fled in a big rush, and didn't bring many belongings with them so that is a sign of how afraid they are.”
So far this year, an estimated 1.2 million Iraqis have been displaced by fighting, including Christians and Shi'ite Muslims from Anbar and Ninewa governorates, according to UNHCR.
In recent weeks Iraq has seen violent armed groups sweep through a number of provinces sending massive numbers of desperate people fleeing for safety.
“The most vulnerable and poorest families have already experienced their share of tragedy over the last few years,” said WFP Executive Director Ertharin Cousin in a press release regarding her time in Iraq
She reported that she has met families who had escaped the bloody violence perpetrated in Mosul by ISIS. She also met with members of the de facto government of Kurdistan.
“Many [Iraqi Christians] are displaced in very harsh conditions. Lack of services, support and insecurity is forcing them to move around – in too many cases making these families difficult to reach,” Cousin stated.