Turkey airdrops aid to internally displaced persons in Iraq
The Turkish government airdropped humanitarian aid to thousands of members of the Yazidi community on Aug. 7, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said, adding that Turkey was the sole country conducting humanitarian operations for displaced Iraqis fleeing from ISIL violence.
“Humanitarian aid [provided by Turkey’s disaster agency, AFAD] was delivered by Iraq’s helicopters for members of the Yazidi community trapped in the mountains of the Sinjar region,” Davutoğlu told private broadcaster NTV Aug. 7.
Davutoğlu’s statement came right after he chaired a security meeting with the participation of Land Forces Commander Gen. Hulusi Akar, Gendarmerie Forces Commander Gen. Servet Yörük and National Intelligence Organization (MİT) chief Hakan Fidan. The meeting focused on the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’s (ISIL) advance into northern Iraq, which presents a security risk for Turkey amid growing concern about an influx of Iraqi minority groups fleeing violence into Turkey.
Having already started to supply humanitarian aid to Turkmens, the minister said: “Having the experience of Syria, what we want to do is to set up camps in the Kurdish region [of Iraq]. We could not manage that in the Syrian case,” in reference to plans to erect a camp in the Dohuk region for 20,000 Iraqi Turkmens.
The camp’s capacity could be increased to 40,000 in the future to head off a mass influx of displaced people in Iraq.
The government has ordered border governors to take necessary measures, the minister said, noting that a number of Yazidis had crossed into Turkey and took shelter with relatives. “Not a single Yazidi is kept waiting on the Turkish border,” he added. Despite Turkey’s current aid to the Yazidis, Kurds in northern Syria have long accused Ankara of facilitating ISIL activities in the area.
For his part, Culture Minister Ömer Çelik has announced that Yazidis who have fled to Turkey were settled in homes in the southeastern province of Şırnak. Yazidis, who believe in an ancient religion linked to Zoroastrianism, have suffered years of oppression and are considered “heretics” by radical Islamists.
Turkey’s humanitarian aid agencies as well as the Red Crescent and the Health Ministry were holding coordination meetings with the Chief of General Staff, the Defense Ministry and MİT, the minister said, underlining that the objective was to be able to supply aid to these groups in the most secure way.
“These meetings between our state institutions are important for the coordination. It’s a very improved mechanism for the efficient and speedy supply [of the assistance]. Our units can move very fast to take measures for security and humanitarian aid in surprise developments,” he said.
Circle of fire around Turkey
Although no statement was made concerning the meeting, Davutoğlu said it was routine. “We have mechanisms that we activate when there is a need of crisis management in the face of developments in our region,” he said, but added that yesterday’s meeting had no extraordinary agenda.
“Unfortunately, our opposition is not aware, but eight countries around Turkey suffer from a crisis of governance. Some of them are experiencing it intensely as some central governments cannot control their territories. There is a circle of fire around us,” he said.
Because the meeting was attended by two top commanders, the land and gendarmerie force heads, it is believed that security measures along Turkey’s borders with Iraq and Syria were also discussed. Davutoğlu, in earlier interviews, hinted that Turkey was capable of protecting its borders against any manner of threat.
The participants are believed to have evaluated the state of 49 Turks abducted by ISIL in Mosul and on the potential repercussions of ongoing unrest to the rest of the region.
Despite growing instability in surrounding countries, Turkey is continuing to accumulate power, he said, vowing that they would not allow provocations to send Turkey into chaos and become ensconced in the problems. The minister called on the Turkish public to be on alert against provocative reports and oppositional party accusations.
Slamming the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) for accusing the government for supporting ISIL, Davutoğlu said: “Those who make these claims are either blind or remorseless. And if these claims are made in Turkey, they are traitors.”
He also strongly criticized the CHP for submitting a motion of censure against him over the Mosul hostage crisis, asking, “What kind of irresponsibility is this that they can launch a debate over our hostages that could risk their lives?”
Meanwhile, jihadists seized Iraq’s largest Christian town and surrounding areas, sending tens of thousands of panicked residents fleeing in what is being called a humanitarian disaster, officials and witnesses said.
Militants led by ISIL moved into Qaraqosh and other towns overnight after the withdrawal of Kurdish peshmerga troops, who are stretched thin across several fronts, residents said.
“Qaraqosh, Tal Kayf, Bartella and Karamlesh have been emptied of their original population and are now under the control of the militants,” Joseph Thomas, the Chaldean Catholic archbishop of Kirkuk and Sulaymaniyah, told Agence France-Presse.
Entirely Christian Qaraqosh lies between Mosul, the jihadists’ main hub in Iraq, and Arbil, the Kurdish region’s capital. It usually has a population of around 50,000.
Pope Francis called on the international community to protect the mostly Christian communities. A statement delivered by his spokesman said the pope joined the urgent appeals for peace from bishops in the Middle East and called on the international community to “ensure the necessary help” reaches people fleeing militants from ISIL.
Arbil ‘ready’ for evacuation
Fevzi Kızılkoyun – ARBIL
Turkey’s consulate in Arbil has prepared an “action plan” for an urgent evacuation if jihadists seize the northern Iraqi city.
“We have planned the evacuation of all of our consulate staff in the case of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) seizing the city,” Consul Mehmet Akif İnam told daily Hürriyet. “There is no risk as of now, we are safe. But it is hard to predict what will happen tomorrow. We have finished the planning process,” İnam said. Meanwhile, some 11,000 people, including children, have moved to the Kandil mountains from the Makhmur camp amid the ongoing fighting around the town.
Witnesses said the militants had seized Makhmur, but Kurdish officials told local media their forces remained in control of the area with television channels broadcasting footage of peshmerga fighters driving around the town.