The effect of isil on Iraq, Syria, the Kurdish region, Jordan and Turkey with relation to Displaced Peoples

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The effect of ISIL on Iraq, Syria, the Kurdish region, Jordan and Turkey with relation to Displaced Peoples

Peace Research | (June 2015)


Victoria Ashcroft

Margaret Devaney

Grant Helm

Pushba Kaur

Connor Monaghan

Alex White


The effect of ISIL on Iraq, Syria, the Kurdish region, Jordan and Turkey with relation to Displaced Peoples 0

Abbreviations 3

Project Summary 4

Iraq 5

1. Economic Impact 5

2.Internal Displacement 6

3.Refugee Situation 6

4.Resource Strains and Environmental Impact 7

5.Impact on State & Societal Security 7

The Kurdish Region 8

1. Internal Displacement & Refugee Situation 8

Syria 8

1. Refugee Situation 8

2. Internal Displacement 9

3. Impact on State & Societal Security 9

Jordan 10

1. Refugee Situation 10

2. Economic Impact 10

3. Impact on State & Societal Security 11

4. Resource Strains and Environmental Impact 11

Turkey 11

1. Economic Impact 11

2. Refugee Situation 12

3. Resource Strains and Environmental Impact 12

4. Impact on State & Societal Security 12

Conclusions 13

Authors 1

Abbreviations 3

Project Summary 4

Iraq 5

1. Economic Impact 5

2. Internal Displacement 5

3. Refugee Situation 6

4. Resource Strains and Environmental Impact 6

5. Impact on State & Societal Security 6

Kurdistan 7

1. Internal Displacement & Refugee Situation 7

Syria 7

1. Refugee Situation 7

2. Internal Displacement 8

3. Impact on State & Societal Security 8

Jordan 9

1. Refugee Situation 9

2. Economic Impact 9

3. Impact on State & Societal Security 9

4. Resource Strains and Environmental Impact 10

Turkey 10

1. Economic Impact 10

2. Refugee Situation 10

3. Resource Strains and Environmental Impact 11

4. Impact on State & Societal Security 11

Conclusions 12


FDI Foreign Direct Investment

GDP Gross Domestic Product

IEA International Energy Agency

ISIL – The Islamic State / Daesh

REACH – EU Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals

UNHCR The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees 

UN OCHA The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 

Project Summary

This report will outline the impact of ISIL on several key regional actors, these being Iraq, Kurdistan, Syria, Jordan and Turkey. Within these countries key areas have been examined which are the economic Impact, the impact on internal displacement, the regional refugee situation, the impact on state and societal security and on the environment and resources.

This report presents the key information found when researching these areas whilst attempting to establish the key areas for concern through identification of trends. The report has found that the primary implication of the rise of ISIL has been the massive dispersion of people across the region. The effect of this internal displacement within Iraq, the Kurdish region and Syria has placed great strain on resources, added to economic turmoil and the collapse of state and societal security. In looking at Jordan and Turkey the impact can be seen from the side of a country dealing with an influx of refugees. These two host countries further demonstrate the economic and environmental consequences of a displacement crisis. Further to this in summarising the impact to these two countries the interdependent nature of the impact of ISIL is highlighted.

This report offers a summary of the research undertaken with the aim of highlighting commonalities in the problems faced by these countries and in the process illustrate the true extent of the displacement crisis caused by the rise of ISIL.


1. Economic Impact

    1. The Iraqi economy is highly dependent upon oil revenue with the fifth largest oil reserves in the world. Oil accounts for 54% of the country’s GDP, 99% of exports and 93% of government fiscal revenues.

    2. The result of ISIL acquisition of oil has allowed the group to sell it at hugely discounted rates on the black market allowing them to accumulate between $1million and $3million a day.

    3. Before the June 2014 ISIL offensive on Iraq, the International Energy Agency (IEA) predicted Iraq would account for 45% of the world’s global production growth through 2030. This meant an estimated 40% increase in production growth by 2019. However the impact of ISIL makes this goal seemingly unachievable.

    4. Across the Levant states Iraq has suffered the most in terms of the direct per capita impact of war and has also suffered the most from the effects of trade disintegration in the region. Syria however has suffered the biggest aggregate impact to welfare. It is important to draw a distinction that sources of economic data do have significant overlap with the impact of conflict prior to the emergence of ISIL however the impact of the group’s emergence has accelerated the economic deterioration of Iraq.1

  1. Internal Displacement

    1. According to a UN news center figure as of March 1st 2.25 million people had been internally displaced in Iraq since. This equates to 362,794 families. This equates to around 6.7% of the population which identifies the vast extent of the impact of ISIL.

    2. The extent of the developing humanitarian crisis is drawing increasing attention from humanitarian groups with Amnesty international pointing to the response of Shia militias and how this has served to further issues of displacement such as human rights abuses and a general lack of security for civilians across Iraq.

    3. Some commentators such as Human Rights Watch’s Letta Tayler, a senior terrorism and counterterrorism researcher have drawn attention to the longevity of the issue: “The killing, bombing, and pillaging threatens to displace entire communities, possibly forever.”

    4. Displacement figures fail to fully account for the impact on those boxed in by ISIL occupation. ISIL has established financial independence mainly through the criminal network it has established. Extortion, organ trading, enslavement and prostitution have all contributed to ISIL’s wealth and those entrapped by ISIL are suffering the cost such as the 380,000 IDPs in Anbar province and other governorates which are now facing ISIL siege.

  1. Refugee Situation

    1. Most recent estimates indicate a total of 242,468 Syrian refugees dispersed into Iraq with the vast majority present in northern regions such as Duhok and Erbil. These UNHCR figures do begin tracking during the pre-ISIL phase of civil war and so show the influence of both factors however there is a sharp increase of roughly 35,000 registered refugees between September and November which is after the April emergence of ISIL and coincides with the ISIL capture of the Syrian town of Azaz.2

  1. Resource Strains and Environmental Impact

    1. The issue of water control has become fundamental in the battle against ISIL, their acquisition of dams has allowed the group to use it as a weapon by depriving groups of access to water and using it to maintain their own forces. Farmers have also been effected by a lack of access to water in some regions which has destroyed crop.

    2. Water quality is also declining due to reduced river flow leading to a reduction of usable water.

    3. "Water facilities, like grain silos, are important for the Islamic State's presentation of itself as an actual state and not a mere group dealing with locals," said Aymenn al-Tamimi, an authority on Iraqi jihadists at the Philadelphia-based Middle East Forum

    4. Issues have arisen over whether or not bombing ISIL controlled oil fields is appropriate given the environmental impact of such a course of action.

  1. Impact on State & Societal Security

    1. A lack of state and societal security has been a crucial feature which ISIL has capitalised on. The failure of the ‘sons of Iraq’ approach left ‘90,000 fighters without pay or position’, a resource which ISIL has been able to take advantage of.

    2. Suicide attacks, car bombs, and assassinations became more frequent and lethal in 2014, killing more than 12,000 people and injuring more than 22,000 between January and December.

    3. Support for ISIL has partly come from Sunni’s disenfranchised with the Shia governance, Sunni groups in the north of Iraq have benefitted from the basic security ISIL has provided. The remainder of Sunni militias who aided the effort against ISIL’s predecessor Al-Qaeda in Iraq now feel more safe fighting pro-government forces than ISIL.

    4. The presence of Militia members in the Iraq government undermines any potential image it may wish to convey to its Sunni populous.

    5. Moving forward more inclusive Iraqi governance has been widely discussed as a solution to issues of Sunni disenfranchisement. The case can also however be made for structural reform which allows for more regional autonomy amongst Shia, Sunni and Kurd regions.

The Kurdish Region

1. Internal Displacement & Refugee Situation

    1. The main effect that ISIL has had on the Kurdistan region is the influx of IDPs and refugees. There are now 1.4 million people seeking refuge in Iraqi-Kurdistan. With a huge influx of refugees and IDPs into Kurdistan, particularly Iraqi-Kurdistan, the Kurdistan government and local communities have struggled economically i.e. with providing shelter, aid, food etc.

    1. Over 750,000 refugees from Iraq have travelled to Iraqi-Kurdistan and one refugee camp in Domiz is hosting more than 50,000 Syrian refugees. In terms of IDP, around 200,000 Syrian Kurds have moved to Iraqi-Kurdistan the majority being women and children with men staying behind to fight and protect property.

    1. Many IDPs have been able to stay with family in Iraqi-Kurdistan, particularly in Erbil, reducing resource strains in the region slightly. Housing in the Kurdistan region is dire; many refugees and IDPs live outside of camps in churches, schools, and even shells of buildings, however the UN Refugee Agency has been providing aid to those outside of camps.

    1. The Yazidi and Christian Kurdish populations have been most at risk from ISIL, with the choice of conversion or death being offered to them, highlighted by the Sinjar massacre and the threats towards Christians in Mosul. Throughout ISILs advance, there has been resistance from Kurdish forces, mainly the YPG and peshmerga, with thousands of fighters combatting against ISIL.


1. Refugee Situation

    1. The civil war which broke out in Syria following failed uprisings in 2011 led to infighting between different militia groups. This infighting was eventually manipulated by ISIL in order to claim Syrian territory and try assert its dominance in Iraq and Syria.

    1. Before ISIL declared its caliphate, in June 2014, the number of Syrian refugees to be 2,816,179 this figure has now skyrocketed to 3,748,227. The majority of these new refugees can be understood to be seeking asylum from the Assad regime rather than ISIL. Under Assad the rate of refugee movement out of Syria was 5000 a day, however under ISIL there have been so much as 200,000 people leaving in a day.

    1. The greatest number of Syrian refugees is in Turkey, with it currently housing 1,622,839 Syrian refugees. Lebanon is a close second with 1,164,631 refugees and a further 10,540 awaiting registration. More than 3 million people are affected in Lebanon, by the Syrian crisis, particularly given that one in every four people is a refugee. Lebanon saw its influx of refugees increase drastically after movement of ISIS into Syria, however, it also houses refugees of the Assad regime. Lebanon is currently suffering from a funding shortfall to cope with its refugees and as a result is currently attempting to stem the flow of Syrians into the country by introducing a visa system, whereby a Syrian wanting to enter the country must clearly state the reasons for their visit.

2. Internal Displacement

    1. At least 200,000 people have died and around half of the population of 22 million have been displaced so far in Syria, this number will only increase with further threats from ISIL in the region. It is expected that there will be up to 4.27 million Syrian refugees in the Middle-east by the end of 2015.

    1. It is currently estimated that there are around 7.6 million internally displaced people within Syria. The highest number of IDPs is 1,787,000 in ISIL controlled Aleppo. Many of these people rely on international aid which, while having issues with gaps in funding, is also at times denied access to areas in need by ISIL.

3. Impact on State & Societal Security

    1. ISIL are able to use the lack of aid as a way of maintaining power in the area by making civilians dependent on them for these resources. In 2014 the UN OCHA requested $2.26 billion to provide humanitarian aid in Syria, yet only received 108.2 million. With such a shortfall in funding and restrictions on the aid that does pass through, the quality of life for the people under ISIL is less than that experienced under the Assad regime.

    1. Many of the IDPs, and refugees, from ISIL have been targeted in their attempt to eradicate ‘heretics’ from the caliphate. ISIL also use claims of heresy to validate attacks on individuals and groups. They have forced many religious communities to flee in fear of punishments for their belief, which includes death by crucifixion. However, even when they flee they are still targeted by ISIL. ISIL’s attacks on these other religious communities has increased since the declaration of the caliphate, the most recent being the kidnapping of 220 Assyrian Christians.

    1. ISIL govern the Syrian people with fear and it is predicted that the number of refugees fleeing Syria from ISIL will increase by nearly one million by the end of 2015, with many more being internally displaced.


1. Refugee Situation

    1. As of the 4th of March 2015 there are 624, 244 Syrian Refugees in Jordan. Of these only around 20% live in camps (the largest of which are Aszraq (12 718) and Zaatari (83 819))3. The majority of the remaining 80% of refugees live in the Northern regions of Irbid, Mafraq, Amman and Zarqa.

    1. The vast majority of these refugees arrived in Jordan as a result of the Syrian Civil War with 567 000 already in Jordan by December 2013.

2. Economic Impact

    1. The rapid increase in population exacerbated long standing problems within Jordan, and created tensions between the host and refugees communities. A REACH Initiative report found that by December 2013, three key areas of tensions had already arisen; housing4, education5 and income- generating opportunities6 7.

    1. Tensions around housing derive from significant rise in rent in certain areas of high population such as Irbid, which saw in a 3-fold increase in pricing in 2013 and the perception among young Jordanian males that the lack of housing prevents them finding a wife8.

    1. Tensions around education derive from increase in class sizes, reduction in class times, and the perception that the more secular Syrian children threaten the conservative Jordanian upbringing9,

    1. While tensions surrounding income- generating opportunities, arise from the perception among Jordanians that Syrians are reducing job prospects10.

3. Impact on State & Societal Security

    1. These tensions manifest themselves as severe societal security issues. Mercy Corps for example, have noted that even by 2013, there had been a sharp increase in the number of hostile language used in reference to Syrians. Jordanian reports are destabilising the situation by politicising their presence and unsettling identity differences, with the word “Syrian” becoming a byword for inferiority, unemployment, theft and prostitution11.

    1. The existence of tensions created by the Syrian Civil War means that any refugees fleeing from the ISIL crisis do so into an already tense and socially divided environment. It is not the case that a refugee crisis arising from ISIL will create any new problems for the Jordanian government, but are certainly likely to add to the already fractured society and threat the societal and state security as a result.

4. Resource Strains and Environmental Impact

    1. The perceived strain on resources in combination with the media exacerbation of tensions, has developed deep societal tensions between the host and refugee communities. A study by the University of Jordan Centre for Strategic Studies in April 2013 found that from the sample group, 71% of the population and 43% of politicians would refuse entry to anymore refugees, and by June this had increased to 73.5% and 55% respectively.12


1. Economic Impact

    1. Trade disintegration is much greater for Turkey, than any other direct losses, forgoing opening businesses, services, and construction. Turkey’s loss amounts to $1.6bn, from ISIL restrictions on oil trade flows across the border. Turkey has a welfare loss of 1.5% per capita. Relatively low to the rest of the region as refugees account for a smaller share of Turkey’s population.

    1. Turkey’s land and capital owners actually benefit from the effects of ISIL, real land rents have risen by 2% in Turkey, however, the workers lose out because of the number of refugees put pressure on demand and augment the labour supply.

    1. Turkey’s trade surplus with Iraq is likely to down dramatically because of lower demand from Iraq, the trade route has impacted negatively because of ISIL.

    1. The fiscal costs of delivering basic services to refugees in Turkey and the infrastructure to support them has been substantial as Turkey has one of the highest amounts of refugees. ISIS have driven off many tourists from Turkey and scared off a lot of FDI. Turkish trade in the region does not look good because of ISIL’s political violence and the greater transportation costs as a result.

2. Refugee Situation

    1. The Syrian-Turkish border is a crossing point for everything: arms, oil, ISIL fighters and supporters, but mostly refugees. The refugee situation will continue in a mass influx intensifying humanitarian and security problems in Turkey, so long as ISIL push forth.

    2. There are 3,824,483 persons of concern from Syria, 3,743,943 are registered refugees Turkey has 1,552,839 Syrian refugees and a further 100,000 ‘persons of concern’, figures increased by half a million from November 2014 to December 2014 alone13 .

    1. Most refugees live in urban areas with only around 230,000 living in 24 refugee camps across.

    1. There is a huge volume of refugees residing within Turkey, as for IDP’s there are currently none according to UNHCR statistics.

3. Resource Strains and Environmental Impact

    1. The significance of resource strains currently within Turkey is with respect to the mass influx of refugees. With the increasing flow of Syrian Kurds crossing the border into Turkey, resource relief in the form of donations have been given by the UN refugee agency and the IOM. Donated resources into Turkey have consisted of several thousands of mattresses, pillows, blankets and food for Syrian Kurds crossing the border Ayn Al Arab, into the Turkish town of Suruc.

4. Impact on State & Societal Security

    1. Turkey is facing security and political challenges, when ISIL engaged in conflict in Kurdish city of Kobani thousands of innocent people were killed, forcing many to leave their homes, women are being sold and raped on the slave market by ISIL.

    1. State and societal security is divided, as ISIS approached Mursitpinar, bordering Syria and Turkish Kobani, the AKP did nothing whilst the YPG were fighting to try and keep ISIL out. Violence is spreading through Kobani and Istanbul as protesters are being attacked by other sectors of the Turkish population who support radical Islamic terror.

    1. Support for Islamic terror has reached all kinds of levels, in October 2014, a pro-ISIL group of students in Istanbul University attacked leftish Kursdish students, police have also attacked anti-ISIL, pro-Kobani protests in Ankara University and detaining scholars and students.


This report has outlined the key impacts of the rise of ISIL, the key challenge with the information found is the lack of distinction which can be made between the impact of regional conflict prior to or independent of ISIL. Despite this it is clear from the information found that ISIL has acted as an accelerant in the economic and environmental deterioration of the region. The main feature of the rise of ISIL has been the mass displacement of people which it has caused. This displacement has led to a major crisis which offers numerous challenges to affected regimes.

The impact of ISIL is diverse yet intertwined; host countries such as Jordan and Turkey are suffering similar economic and security challenges which helps to make the case for more open dialogue between effected states in pursuit of consistent and effective policy. Similarly Iraq, Kurdistan and Syria are suffering from a huge displacement crisis which is a driving factor in socio economic instability. Once again movements towards greater cross-regime coherence would at least project a unified front against the impact of ISIL.

1 Further statistics for the impact of the rise of ISIL and consequent break down of trade integration can be seen in detail in the World Bank report by E. Ianchovichina, M. Ivanic,

2 The full impact of the refugees of the ISIL crisis can be seen in the other parts of this report as the majority of refugees are either Iraqi or Syrian and thus impact other ‘host’ nations.

3 UNHCR .(2015). Syria Regional Refugee Response.

4 47% of communities questioned stated this was an area of tension.

5 43% of communities questioned.

6 38% of communities questioned

7 REACH .(2014) Evaluating the Effect of the Syrian Refugee Crisis on Stability and Resilience in Jordanian Host Communities.

8 Housing constitutes a significant part of a dowry for Jordanians and the inability to acquire housing delays marriage as they become unavailable.

9 Anecdotal evidence provided by the Director of Department of Development in Jarash Governorate (December 2013). Found In. REACH (2014) p. 11

10 KAS (2014), p.81

11 Mercy Corps (2014) Mapping of Host Community-Refugee Tensions in Mafraq and Ramtha, JORDAN.

12 KAS (2014) p.81

13 UNHCR reports from November and December 2014

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