Red Cross Urges Reconciliation in Iraq amid Lingering ISIS Resentment

Red Cross Urges Reconciliation in Iraq amid Lingering ISIS Resentment

Wednesday, 7 March, 2018 - 19:30
The head of the ICRC called for reconciliation in Iraq three months after the government declared victory over ISIS. (Reuters)
Asharq Al-Awsat
The International Committee of the Red Cross warned on Wednesday of resentment among the relatives of detainees suspected of fighting for ISIS.

Head of the ICRC Peter Maurer called for reconciliation in the country three months after the Iraqi government declared victory over ISIS.

"This is a critical moment in Iraq and Iraqi politics," Maurer told a news conference in Baghdad after visiting the country's Anbar province.

The ICRC president cautioned against depriving the families of suspected terrorists of "regular access to brothers, fathers, husbands".

Many were worried about "where they are detained and by who, what is the future of their bread-giver," he told journalists.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi in December declared victory over the extremist group after a years-long battle.

Pro-government forces detained some 20,000 suspected ISIS fighters, researchers say, but Iraqi authorities have not confirmed how many prisoners they are holding.

Maurer said some suspected extremists’ relatives had been confined to camps and were barred from moving freely.

Hundreds of women and children, both Iraqi and foreign, had been detained in Iraq, he added.

"The issue of foreign fighters is particularly complex," he said, adding the ICRC had been able to deliver assistance to some families in need.

The ICRC said it had "increasingly cooperative" access to families of suspected ISIS militants.

The ICRC has had intermittent access to the families, giving humanitarian aid and helping coordinate contact with relatives or officials in their countries of origin.

More than 1,000 wives and children have been held in Iraq since the defeat of ISIS in August 2017, and some of the women have gone on trial for joining ISIS.

Foreign aid agencies said last year they were "gravely concerned" about the fate of the families.

The families mostly came from Turkey, France, Germany and former Soviet states, such as Tajikistan, Azerbaijan and Russia.

First detained in a camp near Mosul, the families were moved to a military base in Baghdad in November, as Iraq's government deliberated over their fates. The move to the capital coincided with a push by Iraqi officials to begin legal proceedings.

Less than a month after world powers pledged $30 billion (24 billion euros) at a donors' conference on Iraq's reconstruction, Maurer said there were "still a lot of humanitarian needs".

Iraq remains the ICRC's second most important theater of operations, he said, after war-ravaged Syria.

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