A new United Nations report released Tuesday indicates that almost 19,000 civilian deaths have occurred in Iraq in just two years, and the Islamic State is responsible for most of them.
In total, from January 1, 2014, to October 31, 2015, there were 18,802 civilians killed and 36,245 wounded.
The UN Assistance Mission for Iraq and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights compiled the estimates based on witness testimony from survivors, or from those simply displaced by violence. ISIS tactics constitute gross human rights violations and border on genocide. Actual figures are likely to be much higher. The report made an attempt not to overestimate casualties.
“The violence suffered by civilians in Iraq remains staggering. The so-called ‘Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’ (ISIL) continues to commit systematic and widespread violence and abuses of international human rights law and humanitarian law. These acts may, in some instances, amount to war crimes, crimes against humanity, and possibly genocide,” the report notes.
Earlier in 2015, Iraqi forensic teams also excavated 12 different mass graves believed to hold as many as 1,700 Iraqi soldiers, which ISIS massacred in Tikrit.
Aside from deaths and injuries, ISIS activities have also resulted in massive displacement. Approximately 3.2 million fled the region. Of that figure, about 1 million were school-aged children.
The reason why ISIS has gained so much attention is not so much the number of those killed or injured, but the means by which this was accomplished. ISIS is known for horrific displays of cruelty, which the group purposefully engages in to attract more attention and notoriety. But the report noted that the most frequent cause of death is improvised explosive devices.
For those captured, their fates may be worse. The report noted that ISIS has around 3,500 slaves, and the group sexually abuses many of the women and children.
Not all civilian deaths can be attributed to ISIS. In fact, the UN noted that there are likely at least 500 cases in which civilians were killed by airstrikes, though the report did not attribute them to any specific country, other than pointing to the American-led aerial bombardment campaign, which is composed of numerous countries.
Additionally, other groups, including those who are American-backed, like the Peshmerga, have also massacred civilians. Iraqi Security Forces have also targeted civilians.
The solution, according to Jan Kubis, who serves as the UN secretary-general for Iraq, is to increase support for the Iraqi government, so that government forces can continue to recapture territory lost to ISIS.
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