Civilian death toll ‘staggering’
Iraq witnessed a sharp increase in civilian deaths following the fall of large swaths of territory to the Islamic State group in the summer of 2014. Now despite a string of recent battlefield losses for IS, civilians in Iraq continue to die at a “staggering” rate, according to a new United Nations report.
At least 18,802 civilians were killed and another 36,245 were wounded in Iraq between the start of 2014 and Oct. 31 of last year, according to the UN report released Tuesday. In just one six-month period between May and October last year, more than 10,000 civilians were killed.
“Despite their steady losses to pro-government forces, the scourge of ISIL continues to kill, maim and displace Iraqi civilians in the thousands and to cause untold suffering,” UN envoy Jan Kubis said in a statement, using an alternative acronym for the extremist group.
The numbers are nowhere near the death tolls recorded during Iraq’s bloody civil war. In 2006 alone more than 34,000 civilians were killed, according to UN data. The following year the Iraqi government refused to provide the UN with death toll statistics, stating that the government wanted to prevent the data from painting a negative image of the country.
But civilian casualties since the rise of IS in Iraq are considerably higher than the preceding years of relative stability. In 2011, the number of civilian deaths due to violence was at its lowest since the civil war, with fewer than 2,800 killed.
UN human rights chief Zeid Raad al-Hussein said the civilian death toll may actually be considerably higher.
“Even the obscene casualty figures fail to accurately reflect exactly how terribly civilians are suffering in Iraq,” he said in a statement.
The UN report also documented a wide range of human rights abuses, including the IS group’s conscription of some 3,500 people into slavery. Many of those are women and children from the Yazidi religious minority who were taken hostage in the summer of 2014 and forced into sexual slavery. It said another 800 to 900 children were abducted from Iraq’s second largest city, Mosul, for religious and military training.
An Aug. 13, 2015, photo shows people carrying the body of a victim killed in a truck bombing in Baghdad, Iraq. A UN report says 19,000 civilians have been killed in under two years.