The Khazir refugee camp was bursting at its seams early last week. Over 5,000 people had sought refuge there, with around 20 new families turned away every day. The crowded camp was hastily set up in the aftermath of the Islamic State’s sweeping victory over Mosul at the start of June and the sudden exodus of residents from the city fearing attacks by the militant extremists.
The Kurdistan Regional Government originally set up the camp in collaboration with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. The camp’s residents were put under Kurdish protection when thousands of people fled Mosul, seeking refuge in the Kurdish autonomous region of Iraq.
But the camp lies abandoned now, after Islamic State militants advanced toward it on Thursday. Kurdish Peshmerga forces pulled back from the camp and the surrounding areas — which lie right outside the Kurdish government’s official borders, but within Kurdish disputed territories — and told the 5,000 residents of Khazir that Kurdish forces could no longer protect them. The refugees ran.
Mariam Farahat, from Mosul, was one of those 5,000 who have now fled for the second time from the advancing, and increasingly sophisticated, Islamic State. After overrunning Mosul two months ago, the militant group began implementing its own rule of law resembling a Taliban-style interpretation of Islam which includes the complete covering up of women and draconian punishments for smoking or not adhering to the newly formed Islamic State principles. People caught violating these rules in public could face several lashes or even execution.
“Everyone is scared to go in the street in case Daash [Islamic State] get them,” Farahat, a Sunni Muslim told MintPress News. “They take the children, the women, the boys, they give them different names, and they can’t run away. When Daash catches you, you have to work with them and you cannot run away from them. Our ideas for life are so different from these people, we don’t understand how they think, but we know our beliefs are different from them.”