According to the United Nations, some 28,000 civilians have already fled from the city of Tikrit, in anticipation of the Iraqi invasion. The number continues to grow by the minute as the troops, backing by Iranian artillery and Shi’ite militias, draw ever closer.
For a Sunni-dominated city like Tikrit, it’s very much a lose-lose situation, as they face a bloodbath, and the end result will be either ISIS retaining control over them, or Shi’ite militias being turned loose in revenge killings.
Across these front-line towns there is a sense of despair, with some of the refugees saying others decided to just stay and “die in their own homes” rather than risk being killed in refugee camps.
Though Iraqi officials are downplaying the risk to civilians, noting that a small percentage of their force are Sunni fighters, the history of the Badr Brigade and other Shi’ite militias in running roughshod over newly conquered Sunni towns is clear, and the sectarian nature of the war means the ouster of ISIS will only create new problems for Tikrit’s locals.