Last week, the Foreign Relations Bureau of Iraq (FRB), an Iraqi opposition group based in London, held a symposium gathering academics and experts to discuss the effect of extremist Shia militancy in Iran, Iraq and Syria and its wider impact on the region.
This symposium is one of the first of its kind by the Iraqi diaspora who are in opposition to the Baghdad government, with the FRB describing itself as a media monitoring organisation that provides news coverage from inside Iraq of events that are normally excluded from the English-language media.
On the subject of what the Iraqi people feel about Daesh and extremist Shia groups in the country, Sabah Al-Mukhtar, president of the Arab Lawyers Association and chair of the event, said Iraqis take issue with “the sectarian militias which are killing people, abusing people, torturing people”.
A recent report issued by Human Rights Watch last week states that the organisation had “received credible allegations of summary executions, beatings of unarmed men, enforced disappearances, and mutilation of corpses by government forces over the two weeks of fighting, mostly on the outskirts of the city of Fallujah.”
The Governor of Anbar, Suhaib Al-Rawi, also confirmed last week that a commission of inquiry has found sufficient evidence that members of the Iraqi Shia militia which is backing government troops in the battle to recapture Fallujah were involved in the killing of 49 civilians and the disappearance of 643 others.
Al-Mukhtar added that the Iraqi people are suffering from the effects of airstrikes and “bombing which is coming from the Iranians and the Americans and the Iraqis”, in reference to the international coalition against Daesh.
The event, comprising a number of academics and experts, also discussed how many Shia militants, who were weary of fighting for groups such as Hezbollah and other militias allied to the Syrian regime and Iranian Revolutionary Guard, took advantage of the influx of refugees into Europe and joined the exodus in order to search for a new life away from the war zones.
Refugee communities are never detached from the conflicts in their homelands due to modern technologies, Dr Bianka Speidl, a speaker at the event, said. Speidl added that this lack of detachment, in addition to the politicisation of refugee communities, has led to the Sunni-Shia sectarian conflict being imported to Europe.
Speidl added that the Iranian authorities were “instrumentalising Shia identity” to further their foreign policy objectives which has led to some Shia communities in Europe having “loyalty to sectarian leaders…such as Khamenei”, in reference to the Supreme Leader of Iran. However, she also pointed out that Iran was not the only guilty party in the region, pointing out that Saudi Arabia does the same thing with the Sunni identity.
Images courtesy of Foreign Relations Bureau of Iraq (FRB).