Last week, ANT-Hiroshima sent financial assistance, which helped feed evacuees, to Reconciliatory Initiatives for Development Opportunities, Inc. (RIDO) in Marawi after the city was seized by combined militant groups aligned with the Islamic State. Friend of ANT-Hiroshima Abdul Hamidullah Atar, who works for RIDO, helped people evacuate the city, passing militants multiple times per day. On 31 May, he wrote to ANT-Hiroshima, saying, “Right now, we have been continuing various lobbying activities, urging the government to stop bombing the city, pushing to open negotiations, [collecting the bodies of those killed in] the bombardment and crossfire, and finally prioritizing the evacuation of the remaining populace trapped in the confrontation.”
On 23 May, Islamic State militants seized Marawi, located in the southern Philippines, with the goal of declaring an IS territory in Lanao del Sur. After roughly 500 militants attacked the Philippine Army stationed there, Marawi was put on lock-down, with roads leading to the city being blocked by both militants and government forces. Ninety percent of Marawi’s population was evacuated by 27 May, and reports differ between authorities and locals as to how many civilians have been killed by both militants and government airstrikes.
In his email, Abdul highlighted various challenges affecting the situation, such as the government only distributing relief assistance to evacuation centers, even though many IDPs are being hosted in people’s houses and lack food. Furthermore, after President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law on May 23, access to the military became very limited — which proved a problem as government forces sometimes treated innocent civilians as members of the militant groups. Abdul also worried that relationships between Muslims and Christians in the area would worsen after the militants targeted Christians in their attack.
Abdul asked for assistance to provide necessities such as hygiene kits, food, and water for both displaced people and those working to help them. He also emphasized the necessity of documentation of the damage and people’s stories, support for people who lost their homes, and care and school supplies for children.
RIDO used the funds donated by ANT-Hiroshima and other organizations to provide rice and other assistance to over 1,000 families in Lanao del Norte. However, the total assistance RIDO has received is still not enough to provide for everyone who needs help.
Abdul said he has been “involved not only in humanitarian assistance but also in dialogue with the government to stop airstrikes and bombardment and to observe the rule of law and international human rights.”
We at ANT-Hiroshima would like to express our sympathy for the people of Marawi. Ordinary people are always hurt in war and conflict, and we hope that the current situation can be resolved through nonviolent means so that the people there can live in peace.