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November 3, 2014

ISIL battles displacing families for winter

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Thousands of families have been forced out of their homes in Iraq and Syria as the militant group ISIL overtakes dozens of towns and kills scores of civilians.

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, also called ISIL, has swept through northern Iraq and Syria over the past six months in an effort to establish a Sunni Islamic caliphate. The U.S. and U.N. classify ISIL as a terrorist group. In its push to take over territory, it has conducted mass killings and beheaded foreign hostages.

ISIL is currently targeting the Syrian city of Kobani, which is strategically located on the Syrian-Turkey border. Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga fighters are fighting to defend Kobani from ISIL’s advance, and the ensuing battle has forced thousands of families flee to the nearby Kurdish region of Iraq.

ISIL has used brutal tactics to make military advances. In August, the group trapped hundreds of thousands of Yazidi families on Sinjar Mountain, where they remained without food, water or shelter for weeks. Last week, reports claimed that ISIL had executed over 300 members of a tribe that had resisted the group.

Now, thousands of displaced families are living in camps that are becoming more and more overcrowded every day. With battles happening in surrounding regions, they have few options to relocate, according to Caroline Gluck, a representative from the European Commission Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection.

“Many communities who fled are trapped in between different zones of the conflict,” she said.

Even if families are able to return to their village, they could find their homes destroyed or cut off from supplies. Iraqi aid agencies have deemed some areas too dangerous to transport fuel or other supplies, leaving families without heat for the oncoming winter.

Neither U.N. agencies nor the Kurdish government have the resources to provide shelter and supplies to the displaced families, according to NewsHour special correspondent Jane Arraf.


Warm up questions
  1. Where are Syria, Turkey and Iraq?
  2. Imagine that you and your family had to flee your home at a moment’s notice and you could only bring what you could carry with you. What would you bring with you?
  3. What is a refugee? Can you think of any examples of recent refugees? Where are they from? Why did they leave their own country?
Critical thinking questions
  1. Why are Kurdish people fleeing their homes in Kurdistan (the autonomous northern region in Iraq) and why are the Peshmerga fighting ISIL in Syria?
  2. What are the challenges specifically faced by the Kurdish families who are fleeing Kurdistan?
  3. Three things refugee families said they desired the most were safety, education and running water. How do you think not having these things has impacted the families, particularly the young children? What would your life be like if these basic needs could not be met?
  4. Whose responsibility is it to help the Kurdish refugees? Nearby countries? The United Nations? The United States? What do you think is the most important thing that can be done for these people? If you had to choose between military support for the Peshmerga or supplies for the families, what would you choose? Explain your answer.
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