Personal insights on Iraq from my friend Karl

It’s nearly a week since the military operation to recapture Iraq’s second city from the Islamic State began.

For more than two years, the Islamic State has held Mosul, in northern Iraq, in a stranglehold. People who have fled say the militants terrorize people, conduct public executions, recruit children as fighters, forbid communication with the outside world — all in the name of enforcing a brutal regime they call Islamic – which it is not.

The UN estimates the worst-case scenario is 1.5 million people at risk. We all hope this is not the case. A friend of mine Karl Schrembi is working with the Norwegian Refugee Council based in in Erbil, where refugee camps are hastily being constructed – a mere 80m kms from Mosul.

I first met Karl in 2010 in the tropical paradise of Ubud, Bali with Janet De Neefe at the writers and readers festival. At that time he was stationed in the Gaza strip on the front line with Oxfam. His personal insights as a humanitarian aid worker (and a poet) helps us all understand the true cost of war.

For those who know Karl – he assures me is doing OK and his agency is working hard along with other aid agencies to do what they can. We can only hope that he, and all who do this important work, will continue to stay safe.

Here are some links to Karl’s interviews on the BBC, ABC radio and NY Times.