ASIA/IRAQ - Qaraqosh, tensions and disputes around the role of the "Babylonian Brigades"

Thursday, 16 March 2023 middle east   oriental churches   area crisis   sectaniarism   armed groups   paramilitary groups   jihadists

Qaraqosh (Agenzia Fides) - In the area of Qaraqosh, a predominantly Christian city in the Nineveh Plain, tensions are growing between armed militias and local self-defense units composed largely of armed men who claim to belong to indigenous Christian communities. At the center of the tensions are the so-called "Babylonian Brigades", which have always insisted on claiming their label as paramilitary formations composed of Christians, even though they are usually considered as aligned with more consistent and powerful pro-Iranian Shiite militias, such as the Popular Protection Units (Hashd al Shaabi).
In recent days - local sources report - the Babylonian Brigades detained and seized seven Christian members of the so-called Nineveh Plain Protection Units (NPU). The seizure of the NPU members came after several dozen residents of Qaraqosh had taken to the streets to show their support for the NPU (see photo) and demand that the Babylon Brigades step aside and renounce their claim to present themselves as militias engaged in exercising law and order functions in the Nineveh Plain, an area of traditional rooting of Iraq's indigenous Christian communities. The abduction of the seven NPU members reignited tensions and triggered immediate calls for the release of the seven abductees.
The incident confirms the continuing instability and uncertainty weighing on the Nineveh Plain, even after years have passed since Mosul and a large part of the region had fallen into the hands of the jihadist regime of the self-styled Islamic State (Daesh).
The "Babylonian Brigades" were formed as an armed militia precisely in the context of the military operations against the jihadists of (Daesh) that led to the recapture of the northern-Iraqi areas that had fallen into jihadist hands in 2014. Led by Ryan al Kildani (Ryan "the Chaldean"), the "Babylonian Brigades" then gave life to the "Babylonian Movement", a political party that in the October 10, 2021 Iraqi parliamentary elections placed its representatives in as many as 4 of the 5 seats reserved for Christian candidates by the national electoral system (see Fides, 12/10/2021). Immediately after those elections, Christian politicians belonging to other parties cast suspicion on the election result, suggesting that the votes of Shiite voters had also been diverted from the candidates of the "Babylonian Movement", so as to place in the seats reserved for Christian representatives that in fact respond to Shiite political formations. (GV) (Agenzia Fides, 16/3/2023)