In Pictures: Iraqis flee to Kurdistan Region - Al Jazeera English

In Pictures: Iraqis flee to Kurdistan Region

Thirty thousand have fled Mosul after its seizure by rebels - many heading to the Kurdistan Region and refugee camps.

Mackenzie Knowles-Coursin | | Humanitarian crises, War & Conflict, Iraq, Middle East, ISIL

Since the Islamic State, formerly known as ISIL, seized Mosul earlier this month, long-standing sectarian and regional rifts permeating Iraq have galvanised and created a landscape that many now worry is irrevocably fragmented. Iraqis on all sides - Shia, Sunni, Baathist, Kurdish, and Turkmen - have taken up arms and mobilised armed groups in order to defend what they see as theirs and take what they have long wanted.

While the rapid advance of the Islamic State fighters has been successful - besieging Mosul, storming Tikrit, and consolidating border crossings - the drive has been largely directed southward, towards Baghdad. Both because of this focus, and because of the presence of a well-trained Kurdish armed force, the semi-autonomous Kurdish region has remained largely stable, and even bolstered, after the capture of the long-contested, oil-rich city of Kirkuk. 

This stability has drawn an estimated 300,000 of the 500,000 people the UN estimates fled Mosul when the rebel fighters surged into the city. Many have taken up residence in the homes of family, hotels, or even schools. Thousands, however, have been kept from entering the Kurdistan Region, unable to show proof of either a sponsor or family in Iraqi Kurdistan - stipulations required by the Kurdish government to enter. 

Hundreds of families have amassed along the Kurdistan Region's periphery and camped out in temporary tent settlements the Kurdish Regional Government has erected. Khazer camp, situated halfway along the road between Erbil and Mosul, currently holds roughly 1,300 people.

Fleeing ongoing reciprocal skirmishes between the Islamic State and the Kurdish Peshmerga forces and growing fears of sectarian violence at the hands of the Islamic State, many civilians continue to arrive daily. With no sign these dynamics will change anytime soon, thousands more Iraqis may soon find themselves on the run.

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