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Iraq: Pistelli in Erbil, thousands of Christians fleeing; approx. 1.5m refugees and displaced

“Politics measures time in months and weeks, but the communities of the Nineveh Plain in northern Iraq are measuring it in days and hours”, asserted Deputy Foreign Minister Lapo Pistelli, who is on a visit to Iraq. “We are obliged by Erbil and the areas that have generously taken in fleeing Christians, to demand the international community’s rapid and tangible support for the government of the Kurdistan Region and the Peshmerga, Kurdistan’s national guard, who find themselves essentially on their own in confronting a military front 1000 kilometres long, and in their attempt to free several communities trapped in increasingly desperate conditions, such as the Yazidi escaping from Sinjar”, Pistelli added.

“I can personally confirm”, the deputy minister continued, “that the UN humanitarian system is here and is visible, but the numbers that those agencies are preparing to handle (approximately 1.5 million refugees and displaced persons) and the volatility of the situation on the ground are sorely testing their organisational abilities. The government of the Kurdistan Region, to which I carry Italy’s support, is asking for immediate help in supporting efforts against ISIS and defending the communities that have been thrown out of their homes”.

“We are hoping, in any case”, Pistelli concluded, “in good news from Baghdad within the day regarding the formation of a unity government, but it must be clear that the magnitude of the challenge posed by ISIS must not be underestimated if we are to avoid the map of the Middle East being redrawn over the coming weeks”.

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