• Iraq’s human rights situation has worsened since January 2014, when armed clashes between government and insurgent forces enveloped the mostly Sunni Anbar province. The crisis deteriorated further in June, when an array of Sunni armed groups, including the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS), launched a major offensive, taking control of the cities of Mosul and Tikrit as well as other areas. By July the violence had displaced more than one million Iraqis, according to UN figures. Serious violations by ISIS have included abductions and mass executions, and persecution of Iraq’s ethnic and religious communities. The government has also committed serious abuses, including mass executions of Sunni prisoners, and kidnappings and summary executions by security forces and government-backed Shia militias. The government in June issued new media guidelines that violate Iraq’s obligation to protect free expression. Both ISIS and government-aligned Shia militias are apparently using children under 18 in their forces.
  • The U.S. can help the Yazidis and their Kurdish hosts by increasing financial support for desperately needed shelters and schools.
    Yazidi refugees in Iraqi Kurdistan now sleep in classrooms, hallways, and the courtyards of facilities intended for children’s education. What happens when school starts?

Featured Content



  • Sep 28, 2014
    Discussions about the latest turns in U.S. military policy in Iraq have centered on President Obama’s plan to “degrade and destroy” the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Yet that conversation doesn’t seem to include the elephant in the room – how to end abuses by the Iraqi government and its allies.
  • Sep 26, 2014
    Shia militias, still operating under the control of former Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, are laying siege to Latifiyya, especially the Asa’ib Ahl al-Haqq militia. Failure to address the broader effects of international assistance in Iraq’s fight promises to further polarize Iraq’s communities.
  • Sep 24, 2014

    Tucked inside the continuing resolution the United States Congress passed late last week was a provision to authorize the training and equipping of “moderate, vetted” elements of the Syrian opposition. The CIA has been carrying out a covert, small-scale version of this program, according to media reports.

  • Sep 13, 2014
    The Iraqi government should promptly investigate an airstrike that hit a school housing displaced people near Tikrit on September 1, 2014. The attack killed at least 31 civilians, including 24 children, and wounded 41 others. According to three survivors, no fighters from the armed group Islamic State or other military objects were in or around the school at the time.
  • Sep 9, 2014
    Yazidi refugees in Iraqi Kurdistan now sleep in classrooms, hallways, and the courtyards of facilities intended for children’s education. What happens when school starts?
  • Sep 5, 2014
    The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria’s gruesome staged-for-maximum-horror murders of the kidnapped American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff in northern Syria have underlined the high risk of reporting on the conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa, particularly in Syria and Iraq. Their murders bring to 67 the number of journalists killed in Syria from work-related causes since 2011, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. In Iraq, 165 journalists have been killed since 2003.
  • Sep 3, 2014
  • Sep 2, 2014
    New evidence about executions carried out by the Islamic State (IS) in Tikrit after it seized the city in June 2014 triples the estimated death toll and shows additional execution sites.
  • Sep 1, 2014
    Human Rights Watch welcomes the HRC's attention to the crisis in Iraq and to that end supports a resolution calling on all parties to cease fighting and for an independent investigation into abuses committed by all sides to the conflict.
  • Aug 28, 2014

    We who work to promote human rights operate in the realm of treaties, rule of law, and state responsibility.