[Press Release] World Help Reports ISIS Using Families As Human Shields

Aug. 9, 2016

World Help’s local partners deliver containers of food to refugees who are fleeing ISIS’ ‘human shield wall’ in Northern Iraq


FOREST, VA – For the last several weeks, World Help, through its national partners in Iraq, has delivered convoys loaded with food supplies to camps in Northern Iraq where Iraqi refugees are arriving daily. Following the recapture of Fallujah in June, ground reports have emerged of ISIS using families as human shields in villages between Fallujah and Mosul to deter the advance of the Iraqi army.

“We’ve been told ISIS is literally lining up men, women, and children—whole families—in a ‘human shield wall’ as a defensive preparation for the oncoming siege for Mosul. People are escaping through the rough desert terrain, attempting a 40-mile journey under 120 degree temperatures without water or food,” said Vernon Brewer, president and founder of World Help. “Many—especially children and the elderly—have died in the desert; their bodies litter the escape routes these desperate families are taking to reach safety.”

Most of the refugees had to complete a three-day journey by foot to reach the refugee camp where World Help’s partners meet them with containers of water, ice, bread, canned vegetables, and baby food.

“Families of five or six members flee Shirqat and arrive daily with only three or four family members left,” Brewer said. “It’s a heartbreaking situation. The children are in special danger of dying because of dehydration. They are in desperate need of basic food supplies that we take for granted.”

According to a report released at the end of July by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), since June, 25,284 people have been internally displaced in this area of Iraq. Many of these refugees are fleeing to the Debaga refugee camp in the Kurdistan region, and also to the fertilizer plant south of Shirqat.

Earlier this year, the UNHCR also estimated the imminent fight for Mosul might add between 600,000 to 1.2 million refugees to the already 3.4 million people internally displaced in Iraq.

Nina Shea, director of Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom, has already warned about the consequences the lack of an adequate humanitarian aid response can bring to the country:

“First, there must be a careful review of a humanitarian disaster that accompanied the successful Fallujah military operation. Iraqi and international authorities must not treat refugee-aid planning as an afterthought in Mosul, as they evidently did in Fallujah,” wrote Shea in an article for the National Review.

“A humanitarian failure in Iraq’s second-largest city could mean a massive loss of life among its Sunni civilians and have far-reaching consequences for the Christians and Yazidis, refugees from genocide, who used to live in Mosul’s surrounding towns and hope to return there once the provincial capital is liberated.”

World Help continues to respond to the immediate needs of refugees in the Middle East. Through its network of local aid partners, water, food, and basic supplies are provided to thousands of families in Iraq and Syria.

“The world has largely moved past the conversation on the crisis in Iraq, but we must not forget there are still tens of thousands of Iraqi families with real, urgent needs. That’s why we haven’t abandoned our work here,” Brewer concluded.


Photos of food distribution in the Debaga camp: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/8bm1ygbk2tdyuxu/AADSPuIR2mLB6EHTuHc15UdVa?dl=0