Protect Civilians from Military Violence


Target: Jalal Talabani, President of Iraq

Goal: Ensure that Iraqi civilians are protected from military violence

For many civilians in Iraq, violence occurs far too often. As military forces battle insurgent groups like the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), civilians find themselves caught in the crossfire, and attacks on areas like hospitals and residential streets have become commonplace. Repeated attacks on civilians are unacceptable. Sign the petition and remind Iraq of its responsibility to protect its citizens from harm.

In the first six months of 2014, nearly half a million Iraqis were forced to leave their homes after ISIS knocked government forces out of the city of Fallujah. Further violence in June prompted another half-million people to leave, Amnesty International reports. Civilians fleeing violence are unfortunately not guaranteed a new situation any safer than the one they left; the United Nations reports that refugees face water shortages, while Amnesty adds that a dearth of refugee facilities in neighboring areas and countries is contributing to the problem. Government forces in Iraq must ensure that civilians can safely leave combat areas, and the government should set up shelters for refugees in government-controlled areas adjacent to conflict zones.

Additionally, government forces must ensure that any captives and prisoners are treated humanely and in accordance with international human rights standards. Reports of torture and ill-treatment of prisoners are far too common, and Amnesty reports that there is evidence that suggests “a pattern of retaliatory extrajudicial executions by government forces.” While anti-government militias are also guilty of this crime, the government is responsible for protecting its own people and abiding by the laws which it has itself set out. Executions without due process are a severe miscarriage of justice, one that Iraqi forces must eschew immediately in favor of a more fair and humane solution.

Civilians ought to rely on their government for help and protection. A government that cares so little for the safety and well-being of its own citizens is counter to everything a modern system of government should be. Sign the petition and urge Iraq to take immediate measures to protect the safety of civilians and to ensure the fair treatment of prisoners and captives.


Dear President Talabani,

It is the responsibility of a government to protect its people from harm. However, military actions against invasive militia forces is not the be-all, end-all of “protection.” Iraq must do more to provide for the safety and well-being of civilians who find themselves caught up in the violence between government forces and insurgent groups like the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

In the first seven months of 2014, around one million Iraqis have been forced to leave their homes as the flee the violence between government forces and ISIS. These are not simply accidental victims of violence, as both government forces and ISIS stand accused of intentionally targeting civilian areas such as residential streets and hospitals. The idea that a government would attack any civilians–let alone its own people–is appalling, and does little to convince anyone that the government forces are any better than insurgent ones. Additionally, those fleeing their homes often encounter more problems, such as a lack of water and shelter. The government must step in to ensure that there are refugee shelters established in areas adjacent to conflict zones, and it must work with neighboring states to ensure that Iraqis fleeing the country will have a place to go.

Furthermore, the treatment of prisoners by both ISIS and government forces is unacceptable. Torture, ill-treatment, and what Amnesty International terms “a pattern of retaliatory extrajudicial executions” are all situations that have absolutely no place in modern warfare. Internal conflict or no, Iraq is bound by its obligation to international human rights standards, and it must treat all prisoners and captives in accordance with international agreements.

Iraq is nothing without its citizens. I therefore urge you to treat them with the respect and humanity they deserve.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Lance Cpl. James J. Vooris via Wikimedia Commons

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