WASHINGTON, DC — Some factions of a Baghdad-sanctioned organization of mainly Iranian-backed Shiite militias are engaging in egregious violations such as torture, extrajudicial detentions, rape, extortion, and kidnappings in northern Iraq’s Nineveh province, where persecuted religious minorities like Christians are struggling to recover from the Islamic State atrocities, top U.S. officials said this week.
Kristina Arriaga, the vice-chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), cautioned on Tuesday that the organization known as the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), or Hashd al-Shaabi in Arabic, could “finish what ISIS started,” referring to the Sunni terrorist group’s efforts to annihilate religious minorities.
The comments from Arriaga came during the second Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom, a three-day summit at the U.S. Department of State this week that began on July 16.
On the first day of the ministerial summit at State, Arriaga lambasted Baghdad’s support for the PMF, adding that the international community is ignoring the abuses by the Iran-allied group.
AT USCIRF, we do not feel we have a good partner in the Baghdad government. Baghdad has not been supporting genocide recovery efforts and has not been respectful of its international commitments. This is all while the international community turns a blind eye towards the PMF’s criminal behavior against religious minorities in Iraq. The PMF currently operates in ways that are not conducive to religious freedom. They hover over minority communities.
The vice-chair warned that an attack on religious minorities at the hands of the Shiite fighters could reverse the U.S. gains in favor of Christians, Yazidis, and other groups.
“Our [U.S.] government has received reports of numerous incidents of [PMF criminal behavior],” the Arriaga said. “If there’s a single attack on these minorities, these minorities will leave Iraq.
In some of its recent annual International Religious Freedom Report, the State Department condemned the PMF for abuses against religious minorities in Nineveh province, the historical homeland of Christians in Iraq that is also home to the largest concentration of religious minorities in the country.
Nineveh Plain, located in Nineveh province, is considered to be the cradle of Christianity.
During the second Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom, a three-day summit at the U.S. State Department this week that began on July 16, Vice President Mike Pence declared on Thursday:
Of course, Iran’s leaders aren’t content to persecute only their own people. They routinely export terrorism and chaos to countries throughout the region, including its neighbor Iraq. To this day, Iranian-backed militias extort and terrorize the people of the Nineveh Plain, which is still recovering from the days of ISIS’s brutal reign.
The United States will not stand idly by while Iranian-backed militias spread terror.
Under U.S. President Donald Trump, the United States has devoted $340 million to help religious minorities in Iraq alone, particularly victims of ISIS’s genocide campaign, mainly Yazidis and Christians, but also Shabaks and Turkmen, all of whom reside in Nineveh.
Breitbart News learned from representatives from Christians and Yazidis that the Trump administration is bypassing Baghdad and the United Nations and directly providing aid to genocide victims through U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and faith-based partners. The religious minorities welcome the move, noting that Baghdad has diverted U.S. aid intended for them away towards other projects.
“The government of Baghdad must be treated like an international pariah until they stop funding the Iran-backed militias and support genocide recovery, we should be careful about any funding that goes through the central government,” Arriaga proclaimed.
“The Prime Minister of Iraq has mentioned publicly he wants to come to Washington, DC. He seems to be operating under the assumption that the United States does not care for his support of the PMF,” she added.
Although the PMF is predominantly made up of Shiite fighters, it also includes Sunni tribesmen, Kurdish fighters, and even some Christians. The U.S. has repeatedly described some PMF units — Kata’ib Hezbollah (KH) and Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq (AAH), accused of killing many U.S. troops between 2006 and 2011— as terrorist groups intent on pushing the U.S. troops out of the region in and around Iraq through any means necessary.
As they helped local forces and the U.S.-led coalition push Sunni ISIS out of their major stronghold in Iraq, however, Baghdad legalized the entire PMF as a component of the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF).
The Iraqi government has struggled to rein in the Shiite fighters ambition to expand their power, influence, and territorial control.
Suggesting that it does not believe Baghdad has full control of the PMF, the U.S. Department of State sanctioned the Harakat Hezbollah al Nujaba (HHN) unit as a terrorist group in March.
In May 2018, State accused a Shabak Shiite minority PMF unit of harassing and sexually assaulting Iraqi Christians who survived the recent genocide campaign by ISIS.
On Thursday, Pence announced that the United States has placed sanctions on two leaders PMF leaders, including a Shabak leader and a Christian chief over corruption and violations of religious freedoms and other human rights in Nineveh province, the historical homeland of followers of Christ and home to the largest concentration of minorities in Iraq.
The U.S. Treasury Department on Thursday identified the two PMF leaders, both allegedly guilty of “serious human rights abuses … in areas where persecuted religious communities are struggling to recover from the horrors inflicted on them by ISIS” as Rayan al-Kildani (Shabak) of the 50th Brigade militias unit and Waad Qado (Christian), the chief of the 30th Brigade wing.