Residents in the city of Miqdadiyah in Iraq’s Diyala Governorate have confirmed to IranWire that an all-out assault by Iran-affiliated militia groups has forced Sunni civilians to flee the area. Meanwhile, local authorities have refused to intervene.
Local public figure Sheikh Ammar al-Azzawi told IranWire that the militants’ attacks came in retaliation to an armed incursion in the majority Shiite Muslim town of Al-Hawasha. “The armed factions of the Badr Organization [previously the Badr Brigades] and the Khazali Network launched reprisal attacks in Miqdadiyah in response to an armed attack carried out earlier by ISIS,” he said. In reaction, Al-Azzawi explained, Shia groups had tried to force locals out by setting fire to their properties and sabotaging agricultural land.
“Around 500 families have been displaced in Al-Miqdadiya district as a consequence,” Al-Azzawi added. The militants’ attempts to push Sunni citizens out of the city, he said, were similar to those witnessed in a previous assault on the city of Jaraf Al-Sakher.
A journalist in Miqdadiyah, who asked not to be named, told IranWire: "Security forces did not intervene to restore order, but instead left members of the armed factions from the Badr Organization and the Khazali Network to take action on sectarian grounds, which led to the burning of houses and people being displaced.”
He added that the Badr Organization and the Khazali Network had previously stormed several predominantly Sunni villages, including Nahr al-Imam, Al-Amiriya and Al-Rashad, forcing hundreds of families to leave their homes at gunpoint while setting fire to homes, buildings, and crops in front of their owners.
Asma Hamid, the newly-elected MP for Diyala, told IranWire the Iraqi government’s silence towards what was happening in the wider Al-Miqdadiya district was “shameful”. “The local government in the Diyala Governorate, represented by Governor Muthanna Al-Tamimi remained silent about the displacement of families,” she said, adding that she had tried to contact district security forces herself only to be told they were “unable to contain the situation”.
Several residents in the city of Adhamiya organized a protest in front of the city’s Imam Abu Hanifa al-Numan Mosque, calling on Mustafa al-Kadhimi as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces to stand with the people of the Al-Miqdadiya district and help the displaced return to their homes, and to hold those responsible for the onslaught accountable.
Meanwhile, Geneva-based advocacy group the Al-Rafidain International Center for Justice and Human Rights has issued an urgent call to the United Nations Security Council to prosecute all those involved in forced uprooting of citizens from villages in Diyala, calling it a “crime against humanity”.
The reprisal attacks by the Shia militias are thought to relate to an incident on October 26 in Al-Miqdadiya district, in which ISIS-affiliated militants attacked a large gathering of young people in Al-Rashad village. A police officer in Diyala Governorate, who asked to remain anonymous, told IranWire that the final death toll stood at 15 while more than 17 others were injured, with the latter transported outside Diyala for proper medical treatment. Earlier that same day, he said, three civilians from the Al-Rashad area had been kidnapped by ISIS members who demanded a ransom for their release. This proved to be a trap as families of those kidnapped were then attacked.