As the battle to recapture Mosul intensifies, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) is increasingly concerned about the fate of 1.2 million Iraqis trapped in the city, who tell of desperate conditions trying to survive.
Close to 50,000 people have fled Mosul since the military offensive began on 17 October to recapture the city from ISIS. The number of people displaced increased drastically in the past week alone, with more than 20,000 people recorded, compared to some 6,000 the week before.
“Civilians have told us of horrific stories from inside Mosul. They have given terrifying accounts of ISIS moving them from neighbourhood to neighbourhood, and from house to house, in tactics identical with being used as human shields,” said NRC’s Country Director in Iraq, Wolfgang Gressmann.
Civilians are also repeatedly being caught in the crossfire. One father NRC spoke with said three members of his family were killed when their house was shelled. The mother and her two children escaped alive, but all three were badly burnt.
Parents told us about not being able to take injured family members to hospital because of the repeated shelling. Some people had not eaten for days, having run out of food and too afraid to leave their homes.
NRC is also concerned about harrowing reports of civilians being hanged, beheaded and tortured.
“Civilians must not be used as weapons of war,” warned Gressmann. “Innocent men, women and children must be protected. Clear rules govern war and these rules need to be respected by all sides.”
People who have fled Mosul are increasingly afraid to speak publically about their experiences under ISIS, for fear of retaliation on family members still trapped inside the city.