Euronews has been in contact with British journalist Hermione Gee, in Erbil, the fourth-largest city in Iraq (after Baghdad, Basra and Mosul), and the capital of the Kurdish region in northern Iraq. It lies 88 kilometres east of Mosul.
Naomi Lloyd, euronews: “Hermione, can you give us an idea of what’s happening there on the ground, and how many people you are seeing fleeing?”
Hermione Gee: “Starting from Monday we have seen around 320,000 internally displaced people, IDPs, fleeing into the Kurdistan region from the city of Mosul. I was down at the checkpoints on Tuesday and Wednesday, and the scenes were as you can imagine: lines of cars as far as the eye could see, people trying to cross on foot, people carrying as many belongings as they could.
“The Kurdistan regional government has set up a makeshift refugee camp just next to the checkpoint, so I also went up there for a look. The camp is very basic: just some tents and some water — but I’m sure in the next few days they will develop it.”
euronews: “How do people feel about the Iraqi army? It seems to have fled at the first sighting of ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant militant group).”
Gee: “I think people were quite shocked that they fled so quickly and without putting up a fight. The Kurdish Peshmurga forces who I visited yesterday on the border with the ISIL-controlled part of Mosul were laughing about it and saying that Peshmurga would never do that because [they] have higher values, greater bravery than the Iraqi army.
“The problem is that the Iraqi army was very sectarian. They weren’t really committed to the national cause. A lot of people were there simply for the salary, whereas the Kurds, who have experienced decades and decades of oppression under Saddam Hussein, fight not just for their salary but very much for the cause of Kurdistan. So, here people feel quite proud of the Peshmurga, and like I said, they were almost making fun of the way the Iraqi army behaved.”