Thousands Flee Into ISIS Territory as Shi’ite Militias Advance in Northwest Iraq

Many Seen Heading Into Syria

With Shi’ite militias continuing to advance toward the Iraqi city of Tal Afar, west of Mosul, the civilian population of Tal Afar are starting to flee by the thousands, and as had been repeatedly feared by aid groups, the civilians are mostly fleeing into other ISIS-held territory further west along the border with Syria.

This has been a recurring problem in the Iraqi invasion of ISIS cities, as the Shi’ite militias carry out bloody purges of the local population, and many find themselves fleeing. Unwelcome in territory held by the Shi’ite government, they are stuck fleeing into the ever-shrinking territory of ISIS for lack of anywhere else to go.

Provincial MP Nuraldin Qablan urged Kurdish officials to open their territory to fleeing civilians, but so far that appears unlikely. The thousands of families aren’t totally clear where they are going to end up, and many seem to be heading into neighboring Syria.

Whatever the case, staying in Tal Afar isn’t an option, with the militias bragging about being close to having totally surrounded the area to block supplies to ISIS. Those same militias have tortured and killed large numbers of civilians in the sieges in cities like Fallujah, and despite repeated assurances from the government, there is no sign they are going to actually stop.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.