Operations to liberate the city of Tal Afar from ISIS control began a number of days ago while thousands of civilians were stranded inside the city. The battle to recover the city from ISIS has led to an increase in the number of displace people who have been able to escape.
Those who have escaped Tal Afar are now scattered in camps around Erbil and Mosul, cities not too far away. According to the UN humanitarian coordinator, Lise Grande, around 30,000 are settled in various camps in Qayyara, including Haj Ali, Jada’a, Badush, and Hammam al-Aalil. The camps located to the west of Erbil include al-Khazer, Hassan Sham and Jumkur.
The security forces are said to have secured six safe corriders to ensure the safe transfer of displaced people to shelter camps by private buses.
Those managing the camps lament the conditions in which the displaced are living. They complain of a lack of water, food and medicine, a problem experienced by more or less all IDP camps in Syria and Iraq. Some of the refugees in these camps are hardly able to endure the treacherous conditions as they describe the outbreak of diseases, which has caused a number of deaths.
Since the full liberation of Mosul over a month ago, ISIS has moved its main stronghold in Iraq to Tal Afar, thus lending more importance to the attempt at liberating the latter. The city, which had long been besieged by the Kurdish Peshmerga from the north and the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) from the south, is the last major urban centre held by ISIS alongside the city of Hawija in the Kirkuk Province.
It is unknown how many civilians still reside in the city which had a population of approximately 200,000 when ISIS took over in the summer of 2014. Consisting mostly of Turkmen of both Sunni and Shia backgrounds, Tal Afar was the scene to numerous mass executions by the militant group. Meanwhile, civilians have been leaving the city steadily over the past three years, with about 10,000 people fleeing the city over the past two weeks alone.