10/07/2020 Iraq (International Christian Concern) – Following last Wednesday’s incident where six rockets were launched from the border of Bartella towards Erbil, the 30th Brigade of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) has been ordered to withdraw 5 kilometers further south. They will instead be replaced by the Iraqi Army.
The PMF denies that they had any role in the rocket launch, saying that it occurred in a “no-mans’ land” controlled by no one. However, it occurred only 1,300 meters away from the 30th Brigade’s checkpoint and only a few days after the Central Government replaced the Brigade’s leadership. The brother of the now-former leader is a Member of Parliament from Nineveh. His response to the decision of withdrawing the 30th Brigade further south is accusatory in nature and warns that it will lead to renewed displacements. This warning can be interpreted as a veiled threat towards locals by the PMF.
This entire situation occurs within an area traditionally Christian and whose population was displaced by ISIS. Returning and rebuilding has proven difficult for many, in large part because of the challenges created by the 30th Brigade. This militia has a strong record of human rights abuses, including towards Christians. This current situation shows just how unstable and unpredictable Nineveh remains post-ISIS. It also illustrates the role the PMF plays in destabilizing this area. The threat of renewed displacements because of the PMF’s actions (as well as those affiliated with these militias) is doubly concerning.
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