U.N.: Almost 19,000 Civilians Killed in Iraq Since 2014

A new report from the U.N. outlines the civilian death toll in Iraq, and the fears of execution and torture that exist for those who are still alive.

TIKRIT, IRAQ - APRIL 10: Spyker families of soldiers visiting the place where ISIS executed on the river or buried in mass graves Tikrit, Iraq. April 10 2015. Visitors mourned and praying for the victims, and some expect that this location becomes a place of pilgrimage in the future. (Photo by Ali Arkady/VII for The Washington Post via Getty Images)
TIKRIT, IRAQ - APRIL 10: Spyker families of soldiers visiting the place where ISIS executed on the river or buried in mass graves Tikrit, Iraq. April 10 2015. Visitors mourned and praying for the victims, and some expect that this location becomes a place of pilgrimage in the future. (Photo by Ali Arkady/VII for The Washington Post via Getty Images)
TIKRIT, IRAQ - APRIL 10: Spyker families of soldiers visiting the place where ISIS executed on the river or buried in mass graves Tikrit, Iraq. April 10 2015. Visitors mourned and praying for the victims, and some expect that this location becomes a place of pilgrimage in the future. (Photo by Ali Arkady/VII for The Washington Post via Getty Images)

To celebrate Ramadan, Islamic State militants in Iraq reportedly hosted a Quran memorization competition last June in Mosul. The stakes were high: The three winners would be awarded sex slaves.

It was just one of dozens of accounts of life under the Islamic State published Tuesday in a harrowing United Nations report, which found that at least 18,802 civilians were killed in Iraq between January 2014 and October 2015.

Another 36,425 were wounded over the same time, and some 3.2 million people were internally displaced. Roughly a third of them were school-aged children.

To celebrate Ramadan, Islamic State militants in Iraq reportedly hosted a Quran memorization competition last June in Mosul. The stakes were high: The three winners would be awarded sex slaves.

It was just one of dozens of accounts of life under the Islamic State published Tuesday in a harrowing United Nations report, which found that at least 18,802 civilians were killed in Iraq between January 2014 and October 2015.

Another 36,425 were wounded over the same time, and some 3.2 million people were internally displaced. Roughly a third of them were school-aged children.

The report is based largely on interviews with victims and survivors of Islamic State rule who gave U.N. employees extensive detail about the ways the violent militant group publicly humiliates and executes civilians and government officials or sympathizers, at times beheading them or burning them alive. Iraqis believed to be gay are regularly thrown off of roofs, and others who are perceived to disagree with Islamic State ideology have been stoned or had their limbs amputated.

Young boys and men have also been kidnapped for various purposes, including upwards of 900 school-aged boys who were recruited for “religious education and military training.” Child soldiers who fled the frontlines in western Anbar province were reportedly murdered.

In northern Ninewa province, which includes Mosul, those who disobey strict dress codes, including “Afghani style” for men and total coverage for women, have also faced brutal punishment. In September, 36 young men were kidnapped for wearing jeans, and were reportedly beaten in public and forced to shave their heads. Any man without a beard can be jailed for two months.

The beatings and executions regularly have large audiences, not because other civilians enjoy the spectacles, but because members of the Islamic State force them to attend — or also face punishment.

But execution or violence on the frontlines are not the only ways civilians fear they may die. In some areas controlled by the group, food has become so scarce that there are reports of starvation. What little food remains has become increasingly expensive, but local residents have few choices but to stay. Those who have tried to move to different areas under the Islamic State’s control have faced torture and execution.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein warned that without significant international aid, Iraqis will die from the side effects of the conflict, and said the death toll could be significantly higher than what is documented in Tuesday’s report. “Even the obscene casualty figures fail to accurately reflect exactly how terribly civilians are suffering in Iraq,” he said. “The figures capture those who were killed or maimed by overt violence, but countless others have died from the lack of access to basic food, water, or medical care.”

And according to the U.N., the Islamic State is not the only threat civilians face. Those who manage to escape besieged areas have, at times, been forced out of government-controlled towns by Iraqi security forces.

“Once they reach such areas, some have experienced arbitrary arrest in raids by security forces and others have been forcibly expelled,” the report said. “The conduct of pro-government forces’ operations raises concern that they are carried out without taking all feasible precautions to protect the civilian population and civilian objects.”

Additionally, abductions by unknown perpetrators remain prevalent. Civilians and government officials across Iraq, including in Baghdad, have repeatedly been kidnapped. Many of the gun-wielding assailants remain unidentified.

Although not mentioned in Tuesday’s report, accounts of missing people are not limited to Iraqi civilians. Three American men, believed to be contractors, went missing from an apartment in Baghdad’s southern Dora neighborhood last Friday. According to CNN, the apartment is widely known to be a brothel, and the three men were reportedly taken away from the site in a convoy of unidentified vehicles.  

Photo Credit: Ali Arkady/VII for The Washington Post via Getty Images

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