Kurdish Peshmerga fighters along a frontline position protect the main highway

Kurdish Peshmerga fighters along a frontline position protect the main highway

By Gabe Wanissian, Sports Editor

The location that was once Ancient Babylon – now Iraq, has seldom seen long bouts of harmony; the current whirlwind of battles among Shia’s, the Iraqi government, Kurds, and the comparatively, newly-formed Jihadist militant group consisting of Sunni’s named IS (Islamic State) is the most recent development that has contributed to the state of ongoing chaos in the region.

While Iraq has been littered with civil wars between various demographics and political parties since the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s regime; it was in January of this year with the onset of the IS independence from Al-Qaeda that brought a level of destruction that had not been seen before. A United Nations report has shown that 5,573 civilians have died in the last year in Iraq (2014 is currently on pace to double the Iraqi civilian death toll in 2013), and almost 1.2 million Iraqis have been forced to flee from their homes. The United Nations reports stated that the fighting “has inflicted untold hardship and suffering on the civilian population with large-scale killings, injuries, and destruction and damage of livelihoods and property.”

Syria, a country with its own conflicts at the moment, has also been brought into this, as around 700 civilian deaths have been reported near Iraqi borders. This stems from IS pushing to govern both Iraq and Syrian territory in the form of a caliphate, a large body governed by a supreme religious leader known as a caliph e.g. successor to Muhammad. Former militant group leader Ibrahim Awwad, now Caliph Ibrahim, has been deemed to be “Muhammad’s descendent.”

IS religious denomination is Sunni, but there are many of the Sunni faith that heavily oppose the group. Sheikh Ali Hatem al-Suleiman, leader of Iraq’s biggest Sunni tribe, has repeatedly warned Sunnis and all Islamic faiths to oppose IS, as they are “dangerous”.

While IS presence is prevalent in Syria, a strong Kurdish military in Syria has slowed their progress within the country. The same cannot be said for their conquest of Iraq however, as in mere months, the majority of the country has now been captured by IS. Much of this is due to a weaker opposition from the Shia and the fleeing Iraqi Army; most of whom have either surrendered or been killed by IS coalition.

Kurdish presence in Iraq is still highly prevalent however, and with their strong military combining with their long sought after attainment of a State for the Kurdistani people has prevented IS from capturing the state entirely; such as the Kurd military successfully fending off IS presence from the predominantly Kurdish city of Kirkuk. The city itself is known for having an abundance of land resources such as oil, which makes it a hot commodity for all parties involved.

In the midst of the fighting parties hosts a large number of minorities; they claim not to hold any form of favoritism to any of the major parties at war, and it has lead to dangerous conditions for them. Human Rights Watch Middle East Director, Sarah Leah Whitson says, “Being a Turkman, a Shabak, a Yazidi or a Christian in IS territory can cost you your livelihood, your liberty, or even your life.” The grim statement was given after 270 Christians were murdered in Syria after IS officials warned that all must convert to Islam or flee.

There has also been a long history of disdain between the Christian and the Kurdish (the majority being Islamic) communities that dates back generations; even as recent as last year in both Syria and Iraq there have been reports of Christian/Kurdish strife resulting in deaths and kidnapping on both sides. Currently, there seems a sort of solace between the two communities with Christians going to Kurdish forces for refuge. Father Jebrail Gorgis Toma, Christian priest who is in charge of the Virgin Mary Monastery in Mosul, Iraq said, “We are fed up with the conditions in other parts of the country.” He added,  “But Kurdistan has proven itself in terms of stability, economic development, and democratic measures.”

Iraq’s current state of affairs mirrors the hectic bloody free-for-all that has plagued Syria since 2011. Multiple parties on all sides with their entirely unique agendas are fighting for superiority, and civilians have unfortunately suffered at the hands of powerful military factions. While this has been prevalent in Iraq for many years, parties are becoming more adept in their armed forces, new military presences such as IS have arisen; a peaceful resolve is not in the foreseeable future.