ASIA/IRAQ - ‘Babylon Brigades’: Christians in Nineveh Plains should on no account be included in the upcoming Referendum for the independence of Iraqi Kurdistan

Friday, 4 August 2017 middle east   oriental churches   kurds   nationalisms   paramilitary groups  

Mosul (Agenzia Fides) – The region of the Nineveh Plains and in particular the areas in which the country’s Christian communities are concentrated should on no account be included in the territories for the upcoming referendum scheduled for 25 September regarding proclamation of independence for the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan. This is the peremptory warning issued by what are called the “Babylon Brigades”, a local armed group or ‘mobilisation unit’ ,comprising also local Christians. With a statement issued on 3 August, Babylon Brigade leaders said they are totally against the involvement of local Christian communities in the independence project pursued by the government of the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan. The statement reads: "We respect the will of the Kurd nation expressed in the decision to exercise self-determination with the referendum convoked for 25 September, but this cannot be imposed on Christians and other residents living in Nineveh Plains by means of collections of signatures obtained under intimidation”.
For the leaders of the Babylon Brigade, those areas in the Nineveh Plains with the most concentrated number of Christians must not be involved in any dispute between the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan and the central government in Baghdad. The Kurd forces promoting the referendum aim to include in the consultation also the areas of Kirkuk and Nineveh Plains. The Babylon Brigades statement accuses certain Christian politicians, said to support the involvement the Nineveh Plains in the referendum, of seeking only personal gain. “As Babylon ” – the statement reads - “we refuse to negotiate decisive questions such as the unity and sovereignty of Iraq”.
The controversial Babylon Brigades operate as a special division of Hashd al-Shaabi militia, a Shiite “mobilisation unit’” which took part in military actions to retake Mosul from the so-called Islamic State jihadists. In the past, as documented by Fides (see Fides 15/3/2016), Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako distanced himself from armed groups on the Iraqi scene seeking to claim affiliation with Iraq’s Christian communities, affirming in particular that the local Chaldean Church is “ in no way, directly or indirectly, involved with the so-called, Babylon Brigade, or any other armed militia groups claiming Christian identity”. (GV) (Agenzia Fides 4/8/2017).