Iraqis in Bahrain agonise over mayhem back home
Manama, June 29, 2014
Iraqis in Bahrain have spoken of their distress at events unfolding back home, where militants have overrun large parts of the country, killed nearly 1,100 people and displaced hundreds of thousands in the past two weeks.
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has taken control of swathes of five provinces and broadcast videos showing torture, beheadings and killing of soldiers, police officers and people apparently targeted because of their religion or ethnicity, said a report in the Gulf Daily News (GDN), our sister publication.
As a result, Iraqi citizens in Bahrain are reportedly cancelling trips home and using the Internet to stay in touch with loved ones because of poor phone lines.
However, despite the violence, a spokeswoman for Bahrain's national carrier Gulf Air said there had been no change in its flights to Baghdad, Najaf, Erbil and Basra - adding that bookings were normal.
"People are cancelling their trips because of the fear and are avoiding travelling to meet their families," said Professor Dr Mowafaq Al Dulaimi, a senior member of the Iraqi community in Bahrain.
He revealed some of his relatives had left their homes in the Al Anbar province, where Sunni militants have captured several cities, years ago to escape unrest.
"My three brothers moved from Al Anbar province to other safe areas in Northern Iraq a couple of years ago, so they could be away from the unrest," said Dr Al Dulaimi
"But there are still several families who left all their belongings since the turmoil started as the demonstrations escalated with groups like Daish (an Arabic acronym for ISIL) joining in."
He said Iraqi expats were sending money home to help relatives, but suggested a fundraising drive in Bahrain to help those affected.
Meanwhile, an Iraqi professional who wished not to be named said his family in Mosul was now "desperate" to leave, having previously chosen to stay through wars and other hard times.
"There is a great panic right now as my father's family in Mosul have moved near Kurdistan and there is no electricity or civic services, which makes things difficult," said the 55-year-old.
"I have a huge family who are all desperate to get out. These are people who stayed during times of war, sanctions and other problems.
"If they are leaving their homes and migrating now, then the situation is tense and they are fed up."
He added his brother in Baghdad was stockpiling food and essential items, amid reports that ISIL militants were inching closer to the Iraqi capital.
"The prices of food products have gone up because of the insurgency and people are shocked," he said.
"I try my best to communicate with them, but sometimes the lines are choppy - which means we have to rely on Internet calls."
Bahrain recalled Ambassador Salah Al Malki from Iraq earlier this month as the situation worsened and advised all its citizens to leave.
However, the envoy told the GDN around 30 Bahraini students in Najaf were staying put because of exams.
US Secretary of State John Kerry held crisis talks with leaders of Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region on Tuesday, urging them to stand with Baghdad in the face of the Sunni insurgency that threatens to dismember the country.
Meanwhile, powerful Shi'ite cleric Moqtada Al Sadr has vowed to "shake the ground" under the feet of advancing Sunni militants and called for "new faces" in a national unity government, as Iraqi premier Nuri Al Maliki warned rivals against exploiting the crisis to sideline him.
Iraqi government forces fought off insurgent attacks on Wednesday on a major air base and a key western town, after repelling assaults on Iraq's biggest oil refinery.
But the country was hit by militant violence with bombings and shelling south of Baghdad and in the disputed, ethnically mixed northern oil hub of Kirkuk killing a total of 20 people.
Hundreds of soldiers have been killed since the Sunni offensive began and insurgents have been bolstered by fighters after the Al Nusra Front, Al Qaeda's franchise in Syria, made a local pledge of loyalty to ISIL on a town along the Syria-Iraq border, giving it control over both sides of the frontier.
Meanwhile, a Bahraini MP has done a U-turn and retracted claims that a gym in Muharraq was being used to recruit young Bahrainis as jihadists.
Al Asala parliamentary bloc president MP Abdulhaleem Murad made the claim earlier this month.
"I would like to clarify that someone provided wrong information to me regarding this gym and it is only used for fitness training," the MP stated.
The gym denied the MP's claims in a statement.
"We have invested a lot of money in setting up the gym and such false claims affect our reputation and customers," it said. - TradeArabia News Service