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Life in the Largest Syrian Refugee Ca...
Erbil
By Younes Mohammad
30 Mar 2015

March 30, 2015

Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan



Syrian refugees fled their country and arrived in Iraqi Kurdistan looking for assistance and a safe place to settle after the heavy clashes between the YPG and Al-Nusra front that took place in Rojava. The Kawrgosk refugee camp is currently the largest in Iraq but many of the refugees prefer to live on the outskirts of the city of Erbil. Iraq has recorded a total of 19, 844 Syrian refugees in the camps and aid is distributed to them by the UN, NGOs, and local and national bodies.

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Kurds Celebrate Nowruz in Turkey
Turkey, Diyarbakir
By Omar Al Khani
24 Mar 2015

Thousands of Kurds celebrate Kurdish New Years (Nowruz) in the city of Diyarbakir, in eastern Turkey. An ancient Persian tradition, Nowruz is the biggest holiday in the Kurdish calendar and this year it took on a particularly strong political tone in light of the nearby conflicts in Syria.

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The Christian Militia Fighting ISIS i...
Unnamed Road, Bakufa,Iraq
By Nils Metzger
23 Mar 2015

This footage shows fighters from the Assyrian Christian Dwekh Nawsha militia at their forward operating base in Baqufa, Iraq, as well as on the frontline where they operate together with Peshmerga units. Since August, Dwekh Nawsha has guarded the village of Baqufa – especially its church – from looters. They also control the road connecting Mosul, the largest city in the Islamic State, and Dohuk, a large Kurdish city currently giving refuge to more than 100.000 displaced persons, many of them Christians.

This specific section of the frontline is very quiet, with no major fighting for the past six months since neither side has any heavy weapons deployed here. Many refugees criticize the militia’s lack of commitment to recapturing their village in the Niniveh area.

This footage shows an ordinary day with Dwekh Nawsha: watching the enemy on the frontline, waiting at the base camp, patrolling the village of Baqufa, staying awake all night to guard the small checkpoint, preparing breakfast for the day shift, cleaning the base and returning home for their week off.

The footage includes interviews with Rama Baito, the social media manager of Dwekh Nawsha; Sargon Logan, a 25-year old bread vendor from the city of Dohuk who joined Dwekh Nawsha three months ago; General Tareq Suliman, the local Peshmerga commander on the frontline near Dohuk; and his second-in-command, Colonel Kerim, who accompanied the journalist to the frontline.

BACKGROUND:

In August 2014, the Islamic State captured a number of Iraqi Christian towns in the area surrounding Mosul, among them Karakosh, the largest Iraqi city with a Christian majority.

While most fled, some Christians organized themselves into militias to defend their villages. One of them is Dwekh Nawsha (‘The Sacrificers’). Since August 2014, they have trained more than 60 fighters from the Ninaveh region of Iraq and control a small part of the frontline north of Mosul near a village called Baqufa. Dwekh Nawsha is not just a militia of Christians, but one fighting for the interests of the ancient Assyrian communities in Iraq. The Assyrians cherish a culture much older than Christianity, but were also one of the first peoples to convert in the 1st century AD. Over the last few months, the Islamic State has destroyed a number of important excavating sites and historical cities of the Assyrians, a people who used to rule over large parts of the Middle East 3.000 years ago.

The interviews were conducted in English and Kurdish.

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Interview: US Citizen Provides Iraqi ...
Dohuk, Iraq
By Nils Metzger
22 Mar 2015

In February 2015, Judd Carroll from Tyler, Texas decided to start a fundraising campaign to help Christian refugee children in northern Iraq and then deliver the material aid himself. Not only did the fundraising effort fail but, despite harsh criticism from family and friends, he spent his own money to fly to Iraq to bring both baby food and military equipment to local Christian militias. In this 30min interview, he explains his motivation and why he wants to join these Christian militias fighting the Islamic State.

The interview was filmed at the headquarters of the Christian Assyrian militia Dwekh Nawsha (‘The Sacrificers’).

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Kurds Celebrate Nowruz 01
Diyarbakir, Turkey
By Omar Al Khani
21 Mar 2015

A huge gathering of Kurds celebrating the Nowruz holiday.

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Kurds Celebrate Nowruz 03
Diyarbakir, Turkey
By Omar Al Khani
21 Mar 2015

Kurds raise the flags of Kurdish political parties, including the outlawed PKK or Kurdistan Workers Party, as they celebrate Nowruz holiday.

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Kurds Celebrate Nowruz 04
Diyarbakir, Turkey
By Yasmin.m
21 Mar 2015

Kurds raise the flags of Kurdish political parties, including the outlawed PKK or Kurdistan Workers Party, as they celebrate Nowruz holiday.

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Kurds Celebrate Nowruz 05
Diyarbakir, Turkey
By Omar Al Khani
21 Mar 2015

A celebration attendee uses umbrella to protect from the rain.

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Kurds Celebrate Nowruz 06
Diyarbakir, Turkey
By Omar Al Khani
21 Mar 2015

A flame of fire during the celebration of Nowruz holiday.

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Kurds Celebrate Nowruz 07
Diyarbakir, Turkey
By Omar Al Khani
21 Mar 2015

A Kurdish woman waves a flag during the Nowruz celebration in Diyarbakir, Turkey.

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Interview: Yousif Thomas Mirkis, Chal...
Sulaimaniya, Iraq
By Nils Metzger
20 Mar 2015

Archbishop Yousif Thomas Mirkis of Kirkul is one of the most important clergymen in the Chaldean Church and one of the most influential representatives of the Christian community in all of Iraq. The diocese of Kirkuk has always been a centerpiece of Iraqi Christendom, its former Archbishop Louis Raphael Sako having become the Patriarch of the Chaldean Church in 2013. This interview with Bishop Mirkis was conducted on 19 March 2015 in Sulaimaniya, Iraq.

The main topics discussed are the current refugee crisis and the future role of Christians in Iraq.

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Interview: Emanuel Youkhana, Head of ...
Erbil, Iraq
By Nils Metzger
18 Mar 2015

This footage is an extended interview with Archimandrit Emanuel Youkhana, priest of the Assyrian Church of the East and head of the most important Christian relief organization in Iraq, CAPNI. Here he talks extensively about why, even after the Islamic State has collapsed, he thinks Iraqi Christendom is about to die out, and why he does not expect things to get much better.

The interview was conducted in English.

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Christian Refugees in Erbil, Iraq 1080p
Erbil, Iraq
By Nils Metzger
18 Mar 2015

Jens Petzold is a Swiss monk who heads a monastery in Erbil, Iraq for Iraqi-christian refugees who fled ISIS attacks on their towns last year. A former resident of the famous Deir Mar Musa monastery in Syria, Petzold first came Iraq from Syria in 2011 in order to rebuild the abandoned monastery of Deir Maryam al-Adha. After the Islamic State started to attack Christian villages in Iraq this past summer, he became the sole caretaker of dozens of displaced families.

Petzold is a charismatic and unorthodox church congregation leader. This footage tries to show how a single person can make a big difference to many refugees as well as show how refugees from the Christian community try to get on with their daily lives, somehow trying to avoid leaving their homeland for good.

Background:

In August 2014, the Islamic State captured a number of Iraqi Christian towns in the area surrounding Mosul, among them Karakosh, the largest Iraqi city with a Christian majority. Most of its 50,000 residents fled within a couple of hours on the 6th of August and left most of their belongings behind. Right now more than 100,000 of the already shrinking population of Iraqi Christian community have become internally displaced or fled to other countries. While most of the IDPs have found refuge in Ankawa, the Christian quarter of Erbil and two large refugee camps near the city of Dohuk, a small monastery in Sulaimaniya opened its doors for more than 200 refugees who have now been living in this very crowded place for more than half a year. The monastery with its church and one building houses 80 people, nearby apartments another 100+ people. Almost 70 of them are children.

The author visited Sulaimaniya in March 2015. The entire footage was shot during that time. It includes interviews with Jens Petzold, several of the refugees, shows daily life in the monastery as well as a mass. I accompanied Jens Petzold during trips to the local market, to a Christian graveyard and to another local church community where they are raising funds to build new housing facilities.

The following rough cut is in chronological order as it was shot.

The interviews were conducted in English and Arabic.

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Peshmerga Units Clear Explosives Laid...
Kirkuk, Makhmour
By Jeffry Ruigendijk
08 Feb 2015

The amount of IEDs left by the Islamic State is staggering. 'Not normal', says the mayor of Makhmour. According to Kurdish government and Peshmerga officials, improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and mines planted by Islamic State militants are the biggest cause of casualties for Peshmerga forces. ISIS has adopted the tactic of heavily seeding all of the territory it withdraws from with the deadly devices, with the intent of slowing down Peshmerga advances. Some IEDs are also intentionally left in fields and homes to target civilians according to Kurdish officials. We go to the frontlines with a Peshmerga engineer team specialized in dismantling the devices, and speak to a farmer who is affected by Islamic State IEDs. The mayor of the city of Makhmour, whose community is still dealing with getting rid of massive amounts of IEDs ISIS left in August, also weighs in on the subject.

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Hasake funeral 01
Hasake
By TTM Contributor 33
23 Jan 2015

Funeral of Kurdish YPG fighter Mohamad Turk, held in Hasake, northern Syria on January 23, 2015. Turk was killed the day before in clashes between Kurdish fighters and Syrian pro Assad soldiers.

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Hasake funeral 02
Hasake
By TTM Contributor 33
23 Jan 2015

Funeral of Kurdish YPG fighter Mohamad Turk, held in Hasake, northern Syria on January 23, 2015. Turk was killed the day before in clashes between Kurdish fighters and Syrian pro Assad soldiers.

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Hasake funeral 03
Hasake
By TTM Contributor 33
23 Jan 2015

Funeral of Kurdish YPG fighter Mohamad Turk, held in Hasake, northern Syria on January 23, 2015. Turk was killed the day before in clashes between Kurdish fighters and Syrian pro Assad soldiers.

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Hasake funeral 04
Hasake
By TTM Contributor 33
23 Jan 2015

Funeral of Kurdish YPG fighter Mohamad Turk, held in Hasake, northern Syria on January 23, 2015. Turk was killed the day before in clashes between Kurdish fighters and Syrian pro Assad soldiers.

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Hasake funeral 05
Hasake
By TTM Contributor 33
23 Jan 2015

Funeral of Kurdish YPG fighter Mohamad Turk, held in Hasake, northern Syria on January 23, 2015. Turk was killed the day before in clashes between Kurdish fighters and Syrian pro Assad soldiers.

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Hasake funeral 06
Hasake
By TTM Contributor 33
23 Jan 2015

Funeral of Kurdish YPG fighter Mohamad Turk, held in Hasake, northern Syria on January 23, 2015. Turk was killed the day before in clashes between Kurdish fighters and Syrian pro Assad soldiers.

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Hasake funeral 07
Hasake
By TTM Contributor 33
23 Jan 2015

Funeral of Kurdish YPG fighter Mohamad Turk, held in Hasake, northern Syria on January 23, 2015. Turk was killed the day before in clashes between Kurdish fighters and Syrian pro Assad soldiers.

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Hasake funeral 08
Hasake
By TTM Contributor 33
23 Jan 2015

Funeral of Kurdish YPG fighter Mohamad Turk, held in Hasake, northern Syria on January 23, 2015. Turk was killed the day before in clashes between Kurdish fighters and Syrian pro Assad soldiers.

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Hasake funeral 09
Hasake
By TTM Contributor 33
23 Jan 2015

Funeral of Kurdish YPG fighter Mohamad Turk, held in Hasake, northern Syria on January 23, 2015. Turk was killed the day before in clashes between Kurdish fighters and Syrian pro Assad soldiers.

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Hasake funeral 10
Hasake
By TTM Contributor 33
23 Jan 2015

Funeral of Kurdish YPG fighter Mohamad Turk, held in Hasake, northern Syria on January 23, 2015. Turk was killed the day before in clashes between Kurdish fighters and Syrian pro Assad soldiers.

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Hasake funeral 11
Hasake
By TTM Contributor 33
23 Jan 2015

Funeral of Kurdish YPG fighter Mohamad Turk, held in Hasake, northern Syria on January 23, 2015. Turk was killed the day before in clashes between Kurdish fighters and Syrian pro Assad soldiers.

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Hasake funeral 12
Hasake
By TTM Contributor 33
23 Jan 2015

Funeral of Kurdish YPG fighter Mohamad Turk, held in Hasake, northern Syria on January 23, 2015. Turk was killed the day before in clashes between Kurdish fighters and Syrian pro Assad soldiers.

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Kurdish Women Military Training
Erbil
By mushtaq mohammed
14 Dec 2014

December 14, 2014
Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan

Special units of Kurdish women fighters train with the Peshmerga to fight against ISIS. Video shows the women practicing with various weapons and methods of warfare.

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A Day in the Life of a Peshmerga Fema...
Sulaymaniah
By Stefano Carini
03 Aug 2014

July 2014

"When I was young it was one of my dreams to be a Peshmerga. Many of the men in my family were Peshmerga with the PUK party. They were fighting against the regime of Saddam Hussein for a free Kurdistan and many of them died this way.”

Paxshan Omer, 37 year old, is a Kurdish Peshmerga from Sulaimaniyah. She married when she was 18 years old and has two sons. Her husband died 12 years old, and she has been taking care of her kids ever since.

Paxshan decided to join the Peshmerga in 2003, with the American invasion and the implementation of the “Anti terror war”. She is one of 500 female Kurdish Peshmerga fighters. The regiment, which was founded in 1996, is now ready to go to the frontline to defend the country.

“I know it is hard work and the day I decided to be a Peshmerga I told myself that maybe one day I might get injured or even die and I could not live with my family again. But only God can give you death or life, and so I am at peace.”

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Clowns In Syrian Camps
By Younes Mohammad
23 Apr 2014

Darashakran Syrian Refugee camp,Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan: some of student look at clowns performance during their show.
Three Clowns comes from CMSF From belgium they doing somethings funny in two days (24 & 25 April 2014) in this camp, around four hundred kids look at their show in each performance.

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Battles between the Islamists and the...
Syria
By Bud Wichers
01 Sep 2013

Attacks by jihadists from Jabhat Al-Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) against the Kurdish population in Northern Syria have made it difficult for ordinary Kurds to flee to neighboring Turkey. The PYG, the military wing of the PYD (Partiya Yekîtiya Demokrat), is officially responsible for the safety of the Kurdish province of Al-Hasakah and has been under attack by Islamists from 2012. Since there is no official border crossing open at the moment, the journey to safety for the elderly, the sick and children is near impossible.

TRANSCRIPTION:

Syria's Kurdish-Islamist conflict

Transcript:

Voice-over: Kurdish fighters have been battling Islamists in Syria’s northern Kurdish region for months now. The conflict escalated earlier this year when Abu Musab, a high ranking commander of the Islamic State of Iraq, was captured by Kurdish security forces. International human rights organizations claim that over a thousand Kurds were slaughtered indiscriminately at the hands of jihadists in the last few months alone. They claim attacks are continuous against civilian Kurds. Islamic fighters have been accused of gang-raping women and setting houses on fire after raiding Kurdish villages. The military wing of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party, YPG, has been mainly responsible for the safety of the Kurdish population.

Quote Redur Xalil (PYD) : "The recently declared war against us by Al-Nusra, ISIS, and the other Islamic groups is not aimed at the Kurdish forces but against the existence of the Kurds in this area. These groups do not want the Kurds to have autonomy in this region, as they have their own jihadist agenda. They want to have this area for themselves, and the Kurds here and especially the YPG stand in their way. Therefore they use a lot of violence to achieve this. There are no government forces of Assad to be found here. These groups have exchanged the fight against the Syrian regime for the fight against the Kurds."

Voice-over:Islamist forces have been on the offensive for the past three months, leaving the Kurdish security apparatus in the highest state of alert. They have protected the Kurds from several suicide bombers and car bombs in the province of Al-Hasakah. The city of Amuda used to be a cultural hub for artists and creative minds. Now it is a city closed off from the outside world. With the heavy fighting in nearby Ras al-Ein, snipers are positioned on rooftops and strategic points at the city’s center. Islamists who are planning to attack the town will meet stiff resistance from the Kurdish security forces and PKK loyalists.

Quote Redur Xalil (PYD) : "Al-Nusra and other similar groups are Muslim forces operating with their own agenda. With regard to the FSA, we found each other in our common goal to bring our own regime. With the FSA we worked in cooperation, fighting side by side against the regime in Aleppo. Unfortunately, most units of the FSA in certain areas, such as Aleppo, Idlib and Azaz, are more and more influenced by Al-Qaeda and affiliated jihadist groups such Al-Nusra and ISIS, and now they attack us jointly."

Voice-over:Many families fled the violence. Kurdish activists have said that there is an ethnic-based hatred against the Kurds in Syria, but Muslim and Christian leaders have denied this claim categorically. Since the border at Ceylanpinar is still closed, Kurds who seek asylum in Turkey are forced to use dangerous and illegal border crossings at night. For elders, infants and children, this is a nearly impossible journey. Many Kurds are stuck in a region they cannot escape. For now, the only option is to go through Pesh Khabur to Kurdish Iraq. Many Kurds hope the relationship between their government and Turkey will improve.

Quote Redur Xalil (PYD) : "Turkey is a neighbor to Syria. We hope that the Turks will build a more friendly relationship with the Kurds. They do not need to be afraid of us. The Turks have played an unfortunately negative role in recent fighting between the Kurds and Al-Nusra. They have opened their borders for these jihadist groups and they are supplying them with the weapons to attack us. We hope Turkey revises its position on these groups. The current attitude of the Turks, overall and in the long term, is not favorable for Turkey as a neighbor and not for the Turkish people."

Voice-over:
The situation remains fluid and uncertain for Kurdish people in the region.

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Kurdish YPG Rebels in Syria
Syria
By Mais Istanbuli
15 Jul 2013

In northern Syria near the city of Ras al-Ayn, young Kurds have been prepared for battle at the Kurdish People’s Defense Forces (YPG) training camp. Here, teenagers and young adults are trained to conduct guerilla warfare against any threatening enemy. They have also been educated and inspired by the philosophies of Abdullah Ocalan, who is one of the founding members of militant organization the Kurdish Worker’s Party (PKK). Unlike the typical Syrian opposition fighter, these trainees are fighting for a democratic society based on Marxist-Leninist philosophies. Most YPG soldiers believe that after President Bashar al-Assad falls, an all-out war against every faction involved is imminent.

One young female, Ahsi, said on her first day of training for the Kurdish Women Defense Forces, "'We train to defend ourselves. We never attack. We do not want FSA/Nusra forces here. We also don't want Assad's forces. We just want to be free."

Training of these young rebels came in before recent fighting in the city where the Islamist fighters were pushed out of Ras al-Ayn by Kurdish forces on July 17.

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YPG rebel training Syria (5 of 16)
Syria
By Jeffry Ruigendijk
14 Apr 2013

Sherin is too exhausted to run during her first day of training to become a member of the Kurdish Women's Defense Forces (YPJ) rebel army. The YPJ is the female branch of the YPG. Sherin is not Kurdish, but a young Sunni muslim. She grew up in a Kurdish town and joining the YPJ seemed the most logical step after the war broke out. 'It's not important to be Kurdish in the YPJ, it is only important to believe in the ideals of freedom, democracy and equality.'

On the night of July 16, the YPG/YPJ attacked Jabhat al Nusra in Ras al-Ayn. Sherin fought behind the front line. She survived and is now stationed in Ras al-Ayn, where she grew up.

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YPG rebel training Syria (10 of 16)
Syria
By Jeffry Ruigendijk
14 Apr 2013

Young rebels rest in the shade after a morning of training inside YPG's camp.

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25th Anniversary of the gas attack on...
Halabja, Iraq
By Antonio Zambardino
28 Mar 2013

Aram Karim Hama Hussein (boy) and Ana Karim Hama Hussein (girl) age 4. They are both born with Microcephalus, a neurodevelopmental disorder in which the circumference of the head is more than two standard deviations smaller than average for the person's age and sex, and can be caused by abnormal conditions while the mother is pregnant. Both children are unable to walk or develop speaking abilities.

On the 16th of March 1988, an Iraqi military strike hit the Kurdish town of Halabja with the greatest attack of chemical weapons ever used against a civilian population. The weapons used were a "cocktail" of mustard gas and the nerve agents sarin, tabun and VX. These chemicals drenched the skin and clothes of the targeted people, affected their respiratory tracts and eyes and contaminated their water and food.
But a generation later, the strike on Halabja is still killing people. An increasing number of children are dying each year of leukemia and lymphomas. The cancers are more frequent in children and teenagers in Halabja than elsewhere in Iraqi Kurdistan, and many people have aggressive tumors.
No chemotherapy or radiotherapy is available in this region. The attack has left thousands people wounded physiologically too. Some statues and monument in Halabja are based on the pictures taken on the day of the attack and often show dying people instead of triumphant men in a context of greatness.
The entire city carries this legacy on its shoulders.