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Steinmeier pledges to help Iraq

August 16, 2014

Germany’s foreign minister has announced that the country will provide over 24 million euros in humanitarian aid to Iraq. Thousands of people in Germany have protested against attacks on the Yazidi minority.

Image: picture-alliance/dpa

In Baghdad, Frank-Walter Steinmeier assured members of Iraq's Yazidi minority, many of whom have been recently been displaced in attacks by a group calling itself the "Islamic State" (IS), that Germany would provide them additional humanitarian assistance. Steinmeier made the pledge of further aid from Germany, worth about $32 million, during a tour of a refugee camp sheltering Yazidis in Irbil, the capital of Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan region. Earlier on Saturday, Steinmeier had met with President Fouad Massoum, a day after European ministers agreed to arm Iraq's Kurdish forces battling IS.

"The first German air force planes are flying to Irbil at this moment to deliver humanitarian aid," Steinmeier said in a joint press conference with Iraq's acting foreign minister, Hussein Shahristani. "In the current situation, where minorities, especially in northern Iraq, are expelled and murdered, where children are orphaned and women are enslaved, humanitarian aid is extremely important."

Steinmeier's visit follows reports quoting officials that IS has carried out a massacre of about 80 ethnic Yazidis in a northern Iraq village, where men were said to have been killed after refusing to convert to Islam. One report said female residents were kidnapped. IS views the minority as apostates to Islam, though they do not and have not practiced the religion.

"The daily images from Iraq of killings and massacres have led to shock and horror across the world," Steinmeier said in Baghdad. "A terrorist gang of murderers is trying to subdue the country," he added.

'This is genocide'

Police say at least 10,000 people attended a demonstration for Yazidis in the northern German city of Hanover on Saturday (pictured). Protesters carried banners demanding that the international community protect the Yazidi people and other minorities from IS and bearing slogans such as "This is genocide" and "Germany, open your eyes - today us, tomorrow you."

Demonstrations took place across Germany, which has one of the biggest diaspora Yazidi populations worldwide.

The push by IS through northwestern Iraq toward the Kurdish region has sent tens of thousands of Yazidis and Christians fleeing. Since June, large swaths of oil-rich territory in eastern Syria and Iraq have been captured by the group. The US, which began air strikes on August 8, announced that it had carried out more raids on Friday after receiving reports that IS "terrorists were attacking civilians."

mkg/shs (Reuters, AFP, dpa, epd, AP)