Cii News | Pic: Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP/Getty Images | 18 Jumadal Ukhra 1436 – 09 April 2015
Iraqi army units and Shia aligned militia forces, many emanating from Iran, have been running amok in Iraq as they recapture lost territory previously under the control of the Islamic State (ISIS).
In a bid to restore the status quo that was prevalent as US forces withdrew from the region some years ago, these armed gangs have unleashed a reign of terror particularly on the Sunni dominated regions of the country.
While the atrocities carried out by ISIS fighters has been well documented and criticised by Muslims and others the world over, there has been very little comment or analysis on the actions of the Iraqi army and its allies on the ground.
Despite the lack of independent journalists, organisations like Human Right Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International have been investigating these occurrences and documenting them. But that’s about where it all stops. Through the perpetuation of ISIS as an overbearing monster in the mass media, the human rights violations that have been carried out by the opposite side have hardly appeared on the proverbial radar screen.
The fact that the Iraqi army is well supported by the US and other western allies and has been actively involved in steering the Iraqi army adds reason to the silence of western media on the issue.
A HRW report, “After Liberation Came Destruction: Iraqi Militias and the Aftermath of Amerli,” from September 2014 documented how these militias, “looted property of Sunni civilians who had fled fighting, burned their homes and businesses, and destroyed at least two entire villages. The actions violated the laws of war. Human Rights Watch also documented the abduction of 11 men during the operation in September and October…Militia abuses are wreaking havoc among some of Iraq’s most vulnerable people and exacerbating sectarian hostilities.”
A video report by the US based ABC News agency detailed some of the atrocities that have been committed by the Iraqi forces and their allies. They include beheadings and the execution of children.
Many such videos have begun to surface including this extremely graphic one. WARNING EXTREME VIOLENCE – viewer discretion is advised. The video shows the beheading and disemboweling of male bodies strewn across the front of military vehicle. The video can be found here in its unedited version. Again we WARN that it is extremely graphic.
Although the veracity of the footage could not be determined, the screen grab shows a military patch usually associated with Shia militia worn on the arm of a man in military fatigue walking in close proximity of what can only be described as a scene of human slaughter.
Iraqi authorities have previously stated that these patches don’t mean much as they can be acquired easily. In the background towards the end of the video, a yellow flag can be seen raised upon a mast, a common sign for supporters of Shia movements such as Hezbollah. Again again these are widely available.
A second video that has done the social media rounds shows the execution of what is reported to be a Sunni boy. He was accused of assisting ISIS. The exact location in Iraq in unclear although the shoulder badge of one of the men involved in the incident is that of the Iraqi army. The video also contains graphic scenes of the boy’s execution.
In their latest reports, HRW commented on the battle for Tikrit that began on March 2, 2015. Iraqi security forces and Shia militias launched an assault the capital of Salah al-Din province. Tikrit was the scene of a massacre of at least 1,000 Iraqi soldiers by ISIS last June.
It noted that the UN Human Rights Council denounced, “atrocities by the extremist group Islamic State (also known as ISIS), but failed to condemn the abuses by militias, volunteer fighters, and Iraqi forces.”
John Fisher, the organisations Geneva director stated: “No one questions the Human Rights Council’s attention to the widespread atrocities by ISIS in Iraq, but ignoring abuses by Iraqi militias and security forces is not only indefensible, it’s dangerous.”
In Amerli a few months earlier, witnesses told Human Rights Watch they saw militias looting villages after the fight against ISIS ended.
“Residents told Human Rights Watch that the militias, whose vehicles and insignias identified them as including the Badr Brigades, Asa’ib Ahl al-Haqq, Kita’ib Hezbollah, and Saraya Tala’a al-Khorasani,” the report noted.
HRW called on the Iraqi government to rein in the militias with the aim of disbanding them.
The Wall Street Journal, quoted Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi as stating in December 2014 that he pledged to “bring … all armed groups under state control. No armed groups or militias will work outside or parallel to the Iraqi Security Forces.”
The stories may take time to emerge but eventually they do. One wonders what the piles of documentation will reveal once investigations in to the current happenings in Iraq will be exposed.