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Forced To Seek Shelter In Baghdad's Mosques, Ramadi's Displaced Say They Feel Abandoned

Displaced Sunni Iraqis, who fled the violence in Ramadi, arrive on the outskirts of Baghdad on April 19.

Displaced Sunni Iraqis, who fled the violence in Ramadi, arrive on the outskirts of Baghdad on April 19.

The displaced persons crisis in the capital, Baghdad, is worsening with civil society institutions lacking the resources to cope with the thousands of Iraqi families displaced from their homes in the past several days, Iraqi media are reporting.

The United Nations said on April 19 that more than 90,000 people fled their homes in Anbar in the last few days, as Islamic State (IS) militants advance in the province, particularly in the provincial capital of Ramadi, 60 miles west of Baghdad.

With the displaced persons finding shelter as best they can in Baghdad's mosques, some are blaming the Iraqi central government for their plight, saying that they feel abandoned.

Al-Sumaria News spoke to one woman from Ramadi, Umm Ahmed, who is sheltering in the al-Nida Mosque in northern Baghdad. Umm Ahmed said that tribal elders and Iraqi politicians had abandoned Anbar's civilians.

Umm Ahmed said that living conditions for her and her family are "dire" and that everyday things such as bathing have become luxuries.

Another elderly woman, Karimah Abdullah, told Sumaria News that she and her family had been forced to flee their homes in Ramadi after the clashes between IS militants and Iraqi security forces intensified.

Abdullah said that she and her family had been sleeping on the street and wanted a solution.

The fighting in Ramadi had been going on for a year, she said, and the situation had become so bad that they "did not eat eat supper nor a midday meal."

Ali Abdulredha, the head of the municipal council for Baghdad's Adhamiyah neighborhood, told Al Sumaria News that Sunni and Shi'ite groups were working to help the displaced people and that officials had begun to make a list of all of the internal refugees within the district.

But Sheikh Hamid al-Hayes, the leader of the Anbar Salvation Council, a group of tribal militias in Anbar Province, criticized some Anbar politicians, saying that they just "drank tea and coffee" in Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone while "over 10,000" displaced persons were trying to reach the capital without a "guarantor," a friend or relative who lives in Baghdad and who can vouch for them and guarantee them housing.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Sunni civilians fleeing Ramadi have complained about the guarantor requirement, saying that they are being treated as foreign security threats. As a result of the requirement -- which Iraqi officials have claimed they would cancel -- many displaced families have reportedy not been able to enter the city.

Al-Hayes called on the Iraqi central government and municipal authorities in Baghdad to open a hotel to accommodate those who had been displaced from their homes in Anbar.

According to RFE/RL's correspondent in Iraq, on April 19 thousands of families were still migrating into Baghdad across the al-Bzayez bridge, as heavy clashes continued in Ramadi, including in the center of the city where Iraqi security forces are attempting to repel attacks by IS militants on government buildings. Civilians trying to cross the al-Bzayez bridge have been forbidden to drive across and have had to carry their belongings on foot.

The Wall Street Journal reported that civilians fleeing to Baghdad said Ramadi is now almost completely empty of noncombatants. Ramadi residents also said that IS militants had planted land mines and other booby traps in the city's streets and in civilian homes, a tactic that IS has used in other towns it has invaded, including Kobani in northern Syria.

-- Joanna Paraszczuk

About This Blog

"Under The Black Flag" provides news, opinion, and analysis about the impact of the Islamic State (IS) extremist group in Syria, Iraq, and beyond. It focuses not only on the fight against terrorist groups in the Middle East, but also on the implications for the region and the world. The blog's primary author, James Miller, closely covered the first three years of the Arab Spring, with a focus on Syria, and is now the managing editor of The Interpreter, where he covers Russia's foreign and domestic policy and the Kremlin's wars in Syria and Ukraine. Follow him on Twitter: @Millermena


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