Iraqi militias sponsored by Iran are engaging in revenge killings against innocent civilians fleeing the Islamic State, according to research from a human rights group.
Iraq’s Shia Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs) tortured, kidnapped and murdered Sunni Muslims, according to the Amnesty International report released Tuesday. The Iranian-backed PMUs often consider Sunnis who lived under ISIS control to be sympathizers, and therefore purposefully target them.
“There was blood on the walls … They hit me and the others with anything they could lay their hands on, metal rods, shovels, pipes, cables … They walked on top of us with their boots,” one survivor told Amnesty. “They insulted us, and said that this was payback for the Speicher massacre … I saw two people die in front of my eyes.”
The Camp Speicher massacre was an ISIS attack on an Iraqi Air Force base which left at least 1,566 Shia cadets dead in June, 2014.
The survivor said that 17 of his relatives are still missing, including his own 17-year-old son. One of his relatives died as a result of torture.
“They beat me with a thick cable on the soles of my feet. I saw another detainee having a cigarette extinguished on his body. A boy of about 15 had hot wax poured on him. They wanted us to confess to being Daesh (ISIS),” said another man, who claimed he was tortured at an Iraqi military facility near the village of Hajj Ali in June, 2016.
One of the most deadly examples of abuse included 12 men and four boys who fled the town of al-Sijir, just north of Fallujah, and were executed after turning themselves over to men dressed in military and federal police uniforms May 30. The report noted that they were lined up and shot after being separated from women and children. Seventy-three other men of the same tribe are still missing.
All men and boys of “fighting age,” typically ages 15 to 65, are screened by the ISF to ensure they are not linked to ISIS. Incredibly arbitrary, the process often leads to captives going permanently missing, Amnesty research explains.
“The Hashd (militias) took our men away saying this was payback,” said Salma, whose real name was withheld by Amnesty to protect her identity.
The PMUs, despite not being formally trained and recruited by the Iraqi military, were made a part of the ISF after an order was issued by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi in February, 2016. While the order technically subjects the units to military law, it is well-known that many of them are funded and directly supported by the Qods Force, Iran’s paramilitary force responsible for foreign covert operations.
Approximately 4.2 million Iraqis were forced to flee their homes due to ISIS, with potentially thousands missing and killed due to revenge attacks from the PMUs.