12 November 2014
The 30-mile highway from Kifri to Tuz Khurmatu in northern Iraq is a no-man's-land dotted with motley gatherings of thousands of displaced families, caught between the cruelty of ISIS forces and targeted by militias backed by Iraq's government.
In August, these people lived in towns around Tuz and Amerli, at the epicenter of fighting in which the militias, Iraqi security forces and Kurdish Peshmerga, assisted by U.S.-led airstrikes, supposedly drove ISIS forces (ISIS calls itself the Islamic State) from the area. No one stayed to protect civilians from the aftermath; their homes were looted and burned by militias, they say, after ISIS pulled out.
Now, several thousand families from this region, about 90 kilometers south of Kirkuk, are eking out an existence in makeshift shelters along the road, caught between contested territory and the mountains leading to the relative safety of Iraq's Kurdish region. At a defunct chicken factory, I met some 40 families who said they had been living there for two months without a visit, let alone any assistance, from humanitarian organizations or government officials.
Despite warnings from international aid agencies about deteriorating conditions for people displaced by conflict in other parts of Iraq, these communities have been overlooked. Their current residences -- the chicken factory, a school, makeshift tents -- are too dangerous to visit, according to representatives of local humanitarian organizations.