MESOP SITUATION REPORT : Peshmerga bring stability to disputed areas

15.06.2014 – Reband Khoshnaw – BasNews, Mosul – The Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS) terrorist group asks Mosul refugees to return back to the city. One of the escaped soldiers of Iraqi Army states that the names of all Mosul soldiers are in the computer of ISIS group.A team of journalists from BasNews embedded with Kurdish Peshmerga and travelled to Mosul Province on Thursday.ISIS, forces that have in past been accused of killing Iraqi children and men are now in control of a functioning army and are advancing towards the capital of Iraq, Baghdad. Before the organization began it territorial gains, they were able to chase Iraq’s army out of the city.

On Thursday, only 500 meters from an ISIS checkpoint, a Peshmerga commander told BasNews: “Iraqi forces escaped ISIS in front of our eyes, they were terrified. But ISIS cannot take a single part of Kurdistan’s disputed areas”.  

The first town we found was the Christian-majority Bertla, in the eastern areas of Mosul Province and 13 miles from the city of Mosul. The town was deserted and Peshermga forces were not in the area. One soldier at the Bertla checkpoint told BasNews that the Kurdish forces are paying less attention to this town because it is now empty. “Our Peshmerga forces settled in Mosul water dam, Tilkef and Gokjali to fight against ISIS militant groups,” he said.

The Peshmerga soldier told BasNews that Christian residents had relocated to safer places in the Kurdistan Region. However, Kurdish residents of Bertla remained in the area and welcomed Mosul internally displaced persons (IDPs) and provided them with food and accommodation.

Our second stop was Hamdaniya, south east of the province. The town was calm and a number of refugees were returning to Mosul. Those who are not related to the government have begun returning to their homes.

IDP Abu Salm was passing the last Peshmerga checkpoint and to return to Mosul with his family, his car crammed with bags filled with fruits and water.

“We’re tired of running from one city to another, from one neighborhood to another in Erbil. Even if we die, it is better to die in our house, it is better than this difficult life,” said Salm. Not everyone that has left Mosul views ISIS in the same way. Ali Adam is one of the Iraqi soldiers who fled the army and settled in Khazr Camp with his family, on the outskirts of Erbil.

 “Death is waiting for us if we go back. Whoever gets back to Mosul, their ID will be checked in the computer [and they will see] whether he is of the Iraqi army or not. If the name is on the list of Iraqi army soldiers, he will be killed,” said Adam.

“ISIS have the name of all Iraqi soldiers in their computer. Until they stay there, we can’t get back to home,” said Adam.However ISIS has allegedly created a calm environment in the areas that they control. Even Kurds with Kurdistan Region number plates go to Mosul and do not face problems.“Mosul is calmer, ISIS militants do not pay attention to regular citizens and everybody is free to go to Mosul and get back. From the morning until now we have seen many people who go there to buy the left-over weapons of the Iraqi army for cheap and sell them expensively in Erbil,” said Kurdish security at Kahzr checkpoint.

Our third stop was Gokjali. It was the hottest border area between ISIS and Peshmerga forces. Gokjali is one of the quarters of eastern Mosul. 500 meters from the Peshmerga is the ISIS checkpoint, where the members of the organization stood in shorts. Peshmerga forces have been based there in completely full preparation. Some of the Peshmerga forces were joking and saying: “ISIS have chased 60,000 Iraqi troops away in shorts!”

About the further attempts of Peshmerga to stand against ISIS, one of the Peshmerga Commanders named Mahmod Grdi told BasNews: “We are not going to attack ISIS. They have set a checkpoint 500 meters away which is the previous checkpoint of Iraqi security. They normally allow people to leave or come inside the city.” The commander talked about the first day of ISIS attack to Mosul: “All those thousands of Iraqi soldiers that had heavy weapons, without shooting a single bullet, in front of our eyes, they took off their military uniforms and left their weapons and military vehicles there then escaped to areas under control of KRG.”“We won’t move here, if ISIS approach us, we will face them to death. We won’t interfere in their area. Here is Gokjali the last border point of Article 140 (Kurdistan Region border). We are here to protect Kurdish land. Until one bullet and one Peshmerga is left here, ISIS won’t pass,” added Grdi.