According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), while the Islamic State (ISIS) has sought to portray itself as the savior of Iraq’s Sunni Arabs it is intentionally exposing them to chemical weapons. The rights watchdog made the remark in reference to a report which castigated the jihadists for deploying chemical weapons in the Iraqi town of Qayyarah.
“The use of toxic chemicals as a means of warfare is a serious threat to civilians and combatants in and around the embattled city of Mosul, and is a war crime,” HRW said.
The unconventional weapons struck Qayyarah, in September and October after Iraqi security forces retook the town on August 25. Qayyarah is located south of Mosul city.
The chemical attacks caused painful burns to at least seven people. A chemical weapons expert has concluded that the burns were consistent with exposure to low levels of vesicant agents, also known as blister agents.
“ISIS attacks using toxic chemicals show a brutal disregard for human life and the laws of war,” said Lama Fakih, Deputy Middle East Director at Human Rights Watch. “As ISIS fighters flee, they have been repeatedly attacking and endangering the civilians they left behind.”
Human Rights Watch called on Iraq’s central government to warn civilian populations of the use of chemical weapons, bar civilians from contaminated areas and provide treatment for victims. “If [the government] is not in a position to do so, it should seek international assistance and cooperation from other Chemical Weapons Convention member countries,” it said.
Since the Mosul operation began, Human Rights Watch has documented ISIS forcibly evacuating civilians under their control alongside the group’s fighters, apparently using them as “human shields.” ISIS has also rounded up hundreds of men and executed those suspected of past links to the security forces.
Lama Fakih drew attention to the brazen hypocrisy of the Islamic State, a group trying to anoint “itself as protector of Sunni Arabs in Iraq, while it is willing to use chemical weapons on them in their own homes.”