Thousands of Families Flee Islamic State-Held Hawija

Thousands of Families Flee Islamic State-Held Hawija

 More than 3,000 people, mainly women and children fleeing the Islamic State (ISIS) held town of Hawija, arrived in the village of Topaz, south of the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, on Monday (October 2).

Families were transported by military trucks to Peshmerga positions at Maktab Khaled district, 20 km south of Kirkuk where they underwent security checks before being moved to camps in Lilan district.

According to Asyish Lieutenant Colonel Ali Sedeeq of the Kurdish internal security force, 3,600 people have arrived to the area - a Kurdish-Turkmen village located 25 km south of Kirkuk and 25 km north of Hawija -- since Sunday (October 1). He said that the men underwent a security check to see if they had links with ISIS before being allowed into camps.

"Families are fleeing from Hawija, Riyadh and al-Abbasi districts towards Peshmerga positions and we welcome them in. When they arrive here they undergo a security check to see if their names are on the wanted people list and to see whether they are Daesh [ISIS] or not, and then we separate them from others. Others were provided with food and water before being transported to camps allocated for them,” Sadeeq said.

Iraqi forces are currently fighting to dislodge ISIS from the town, The Iraqi forces, deployed north and west of Hawija district, are pushing southward along the Tigris River and have cleared the first lines of defense by midday. The United Nations last week said up to 85,000 people could be displaced from the Hawija region. Up to 30,000 children are in extreme danger, Save the Children said on Thursday (September 28).

"Life is very difficult [under ISIS]. Sometimes, we remain a month or two without soap to wash. The price of a soap bar reached up to 15,000 Iraqi dinners ($13). There is no rice and no cooking oil. We melt the fat of the meat and use that instead of cooking oil, while each person is entitled to 5 kg of flour a month,” said Busier Mohammed, a mother of five.

Hawija, located some 50 km southwest of the city of Kirkuk, became an ISIS stronghold when militants swept across northern and western Iraq in 2014. Hawija district remains one of the group’s two remaining militant strongholds in the country.