fear of hearing a family member has been killed has made
picking up late-night phone calls difficult for members of
Dunedin's Iraqi community.
As the Iraqi Government continues to struggle to repel
advances led by militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and
the Levant (Isil), Iraqis living in Dunedin fear their family
members could be the next ones killed.
University of Otago biochemistry researcher Dr Atheer
Matroud, who moved to New Zealand in 2008, said the
deteriorating situation was taking its toll on Dunedin's
tight-knit Iraqi community and making it difficult to
concentrate on work.
''One of the scenarios coming through my mind is that ... I
receive a call telling me your dad is killed. I feel that and
I live that, without it happening.
''Sometimes I fall into tears, just because I imagine that I
receive a call that my dad is killed or my mother is
This made it difficult picking up phone calls from family in
Iraq, especially when they came at odd hours.
''You see it is from Iraq, you want to pick it up, [but] at
the same time you don't want to hear bad news.''
Iraqi Students' Association president Zaid Dohan (21) had
family members in Mosul, now under Isil control, who were
afraid to leave the house.
''Even though they are at the moment targeting personnel in
the army, police officers, they are capable of doing
''They don't even take hostages any more. If they catch you
and you are on the bad side of them - you don't believe in
what they believe - they will kill you.''
Both were against the United States intervening militarily.
They believed the best way of stopping Isil was to stop the
funding of rebel groups. Mr Matroud said the United States
had supported rebels in Syria and now it was coming back to
haunt it, like it had previously when it supported extremists
fighting against Soviet Union control in Afghanistan.
He also believed the extremist Wahabi branch of Islam,
exported from Saudi Arabia, was partly to blame.
''It's the ideology of the Wahabi and no-one is stopping
them,'' he said.
The pair believed there were about 10 Iraqi families and 20
Iraqi Otago University students living in Dunedin.