ASIA/IRAQ - "Curfew for Ashura" imposed by Shiite militias in the Nineveh Plain, where the "return" of Christians remains weak

Tuesday, 10 September 2019 middle east   oriental churches   military   paramilitary groups   refugees   shi'ites  


Mosul (Agenzia Fides) - On the occasion of the Ashura Islamic feast celebrated mainly in Shiite Islam, the Shiite militiamen of Hashd al-Shaabi (People's Mobilization Forces) imposed a curfew on the Nineveh plain and in the Tal Afar district. The provision - as reported by - ends on Tuesday 10 September - the day on which the Ashura feast falls this year - and was justified as a preventive measure to avoid attacks and attacks against the processions with which the Shiites commemorate each year the massacre of Imam al-Husayn ibn Ali (Mohammad's grandson) and 72 of his followers, perpetrated in the city of Karbala by the troops of caliph Umayyad Yazid I.
The curfew imposed also in large areas of the Nineveh Plain by Shiite militias for the Ashura feast indirectly confirms the weight exercised in the area by those paramilitary groups, mainly Shiites, considered close to Iran, who claim the non-secondary role played they had in the struggle against the Islamic State and the liberation of Mosul from the jihadist regime that had established its base in Iraq from 2014 to 2017.
Between July and August, as reported by Agenzia Fides (see Fides, 7/8/2019), there was an insidious tug of war between the Iraqi army and Hashd al-Shaabi militiamen. Tensions had emerged after the Iraqi army tried to take effective control of all checkpoints in the area, still largely controlled by the militias of the People's Mobilization Forces.
The story of the "curfew for Ashura" confirms that the Nineveh Plain continues to represent an unstable area, above all from a security management point of view. This factor also complicates the hoped-for return to the area of tens of thousands of Christians who were forced to abandon their villages in the Nineveh Plain in the night between 6 and 7 August 2014, in front of the advance of Daesh jihadist militiamen. Recently, even Christian politician Yunadam Kanna, a leading exponent of the Assyrian Democratic Movement Al-Rafidain (political force linked to Assyrian Christian sectors) reiterated that the percentage of displaced Christians returned to their homes, in some of the villages of the Nineveh Plain, does not exceed the 1 percent threshold. (GV) (Agenzia Fides, 10/9/2019)