The Iraq War has technically been over for more than four years, but Iraqis are still dying in large numbers. According to a U.N. report released Tuesday, nearly 19,000 Iraqis died between January 2014 and October 2015 due to continued instability in the country.
The report, published by the U.N. Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), found that at least 18,802 Iraqi civilians were killed and another 36,245 wounded during that time. These numbers are expected to be even higher, however, due to secondary effects of the conflict, like lack of access to food, water, and medical care.
The number of Iraqis seeking refuge in other countries has risen considerably in recent years, as the conflict between the Islamic State and the Iraqi government and associated forces continues. The U.N. described the violence as “staggering” and noted the Islamic State may be guilty of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and possibly genocide.
“This report lays bare the enduring suffering of civilians in Iraq and starkly illustrates what Iraqi refugees are attempting to escape when they flee to Europe and other regions,” said U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein in a statement. “This is the horror they face in their homelands.”
According to the U.N., victims of the Islamic State have included a wide variety of people, including those seen as opposing the Islamic State’s ideology, those affiliated with the Iraqi government, doctors, lawyers, journalists, and religious leaders. Many have been abducted or killed on the pretext of helping or giving information to the Iraqi security forces.
As a result, nearly one in 10 Iraqis fled their homes during the 22-month period, revealing the severity of today’s refugee crisis. The report found that more than 3.2 million Iraqis were internally displaced, and over one million of them were school-age children.
The Islamic State has killed many people for attempting to flee areas under its control or for helping others do so. The U.N. found that the Islamic State frequently publicly hung bodies from electricity poles to discourage others considering fleeing toward southern Salah al-Din and Kirkuk city, areas not under the Islamic State’s control. The Iraqi government also often impeded Iraqis’ freedom of movement, including through denied access to safe areas, police raids, and arbitrary arrests.
Women and children have been especially vulnerable during the continued conflict. According to the report, approximately 3,500 people are currently held as slaves by the Islamic State. The majority of these are women and children and from the Yezidi community, although other ethnic and religious have been targeted as well.
While most of the casualties have been inflicted by the Islamic State, the report also notes unlawful killings, abductions, forced evictions, and destruction of civilian infrastructure and property by pro-government forces and other unidentified actors.
The current refugee crisis is the largest since World War II, with almost 60 million refugees in the world today, according to the U.N.