Mosul pilgrims stuck in Kirkuk; Daesh out to seize their homes

Updated 16 October 2015
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Mosul pilgrims stuck in Kirkuk; Daesh out to seize their homes

KIRKUK: Like hundreds of elderly men and women from the Iraqi city of Mosul, Haji Ahmed left in August to perform Haj.
Leaving the militant-held city comes at a high price. Many residents are now forced to give up the deed to their homes as collateral to ensure they return — a tactic the militant group uses to keep civilians from fleeing the city.
For four weeks, the septuagenarian and some 580 pilgrims from Mosul did their religious duty — each of them obtaining an official Daesh-stamped exit document and a discrete stamp in their Iraqi passports that reads “Nineveh,” the province where Mosul is located, and the year according to the Islamic calendar: 1436.
The Iraqi government permitted only those above age 60 to exit militant territory, escorting them by bus to Baghdad, where they then flew to Saudi Arabia.
But nearly two months later, the Mosuli Hajaj, as they are known in Arabic, are desperately trying to get home — blocked by Iraqi and Kurdish authorities near the northern city of Kirkuk who refuse to open a corridor back into militant-held territory.
“They didn’t really give us an explanation,” said Haji Ahmed, who provided only his nickname and said he doesn’t know his actual age. “They just told us to wait here. That was six days ago. I just want to go back to my home.”
The group has been squatting at a dusty, fly-infested mosque ever since, with little food or medicine, and mounting fears for the fate of their families in Mosul and for their homes if they don’t return.
“My daughter ... is worried about me and I am worried about her,” said a woman who identified herself only as Oum Zamaa, or Zamaa’s mother.
“We are so afraid that an operation to liberate Mosul will begin and we will be here,” said Oum Hijray. “What if we are separated from our children? That would be a disaster.”
Most of those declined to provide their full names or offer details about their lives under the Daesh group, visibly afraid for their safety and that of their families back home.
Whatever the reason, most of the stranded pilgrims said they have accepted the new norm in Mosul, while sharing almost no opinions on the Daesh group itself.
When asked his name, one pilgrim replied: “Haven’t I suffered enough?”


EU agency: More Iranian, Turkish citizens seeking asylum

Updated 11 December 2018
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EU agency: More Iranian, Turkish citizens seeking asylum

  • 3,170 Iranians applied for asylum in the EU in October, the highest number for more than two years
  • October saw a record 2,880 asylum applications lodged by Turkish citizens

BRUSSELS: The European Union’s asylum office says people from Iran and Turkey are increasingly applying for international protection throughout the EU.
EASO said Tuesday that “Iran and Turkey have both been among the top five countries of origin over the past few months.”
It says that 3,170 Iranians applied for asylum in the EU in October, the highest number for more than two years. More than one in three Iranian applicants received protection in the past six months.
October saw a record 2,880 asylum applications lodged by Turkish citizens. Over the past six months, around 44 percent of Turkish applicants were granted refugee status.
EASO says more than 60,500 people applied for asylum in October, the highest monthly figure this year. Most were nationals of Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.