NZ aid worker: Iraq intervention must be cautious

  • 18/10/2014

A New Zealand aid worker who has just returned from northern Iraq is cautioning the Government as it considers offering support in the fight against Islamic State militants.

Kevin Riddell has spent a month in the Kurdistan region and says uniformed soldiers from the West can put locals at risk just by making contact with them.

Mr Riddell heard story after story of terrified families with only the clothes on their backs fleeing Islamic State fighters.

Armed only with his GoPro camera, Mr Riddell visited refugee camps in the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq, now home to a staggering 1.4 million refugees from the wars in Iraq and Syria. His mission was to assess the ever growing humanitarian crisis for aid agency TearFund.

Day after day he saw families living in paddocks and abandoned buildings and schools. Some got tents; others weren't so lucky.

"I visited a few families who were living in sheep pens, so it was quite a desperate situation," he says.

Mr Riddell urges caution as New Zealand considers military involvement. Sending troops to Iraq, even if only to deliver aid, comes with unintended risks for the people they're trying to help.

"If it was to be seen that New Zealand military helped this family get back on their feet, that family could then become a target."

Any link to military from the West is a potential death sentence for locals. Mr Riddell suggests removing military uniforms from the equation.

"If New Zealand efforts were protected through NGOs, who don't engage in military activity and take a neutral stance, I think we would be quite effective."

As for Mr Riddell himself, he wants to return to Iraq to pick up where he left off.

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source: newshub archive