Iraq has been ignored for long enough. I do not mean that it is not in the news, because it almost always is. From almost daily bombings in Baghdad and other Iraqi cities, to shootings, murders and detainment of political dissidents and to the seemingly never ending cascade of corruption scandals, Iraq is almost always in the media. However, Iraq as a cause, as a people and as a blood-soaked reminder of what humanity looks like when it has failed needs to stop being ignored in the very hearts, souls and imaginations of people around the world.
Much of the world has rightly gotten behind the Palestinian cause. Even before the formation of the State of Israel and the horrible events of the Nakba in 1948, Palestinians were treated with contempt and cruelty by their British colonial masters who facilitated mass immigration of European and other Jews to Palestine as part of a political, and not religious, Zionist project. British actions led to the rise of Jewish militias and terrorist organisations, such as the Stern Gang, the Haganah and others who eventually perpetrated the Nakba and murdered thousands of Palestinians while displacing countless more who now form part of the six million strong Palestinian diaspora.
Supporters of the Palestinian struggle naturally feel horror whenever they revisit the Nakba and the Palestinian tragedy. The thought that the modern state of Israel – described as an "invention" by the anthropological Israeli historian Shlomo Sand – was built on so much Palestinian blood, despair and oppression drives many to incandescent outrage that fuels them to take action to try and bring justice and peace to the Palestinians. These people include not only activists who number in their millions, but also academics, politicians and even celebrities.
Iraqi suffering as equivalent to Palestinian suffering
Like the Palestinians, the Iraqis also have a diaspora with staggering numbers of people who have been forced from their homes due to war and sectarian bloodletting. Although a lack of interest means that accurate numbers are hard to come by, the Iraqi diaspora is currently estimated to be over seven million people since 1990 – a shocking figure.
Contributing to this number is a significant proportion of Iraq's educated classes, intelligentsia and people who could be the nation-builders of tomorrow but are instead running for their lives. Due to incessant violence, Iraq has suffered a brain drain to the point where it has become clinically brain dead – a quick glance at Iraq's current political and religious elites puts the truth to that claim.
Domestically, and particularly since the conflict against Daesh extremists began in earnest in 2014, more than ten per cent of the entire Iraqi population has become internally displaced, or are at great risk of becoming IDPs. Iraqi IDPs number more than three million people, with that figure expected to rise by a further million or more according to the International Committee of the Red Cross, and all as a result of the ongoing operation to recapture Mosul.
Iraqi IDPs – like Palestinians in refugee camps in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip – are refugees on their own land. Palestinians were displaced by continued and sustained Israeli aggression, and a lack of international action has prevented them from their right to return to their homes (though there are promising signs that the tide is finally turning against the apartheid state). For millions of Iraqis, their analogue to the Palestinian's Israelis is the Iranian regime and their scores of sectarian Shia militias, as well as the Iraqi Green Zone government themselves, all backed by the "Great Satan" who facilitated Iran's power in Iraq, the United States.
Iraq's list of "Zionists" (or perhaps apocalyptic Shia millenarianists) does not absolve Daesh of its crimes, and it must surely answer for them. However, Daesh is a symptom of the persecution, suffering, rape and murder that has been perpetrated against the Iraqi people, Sunni, Shia, Christian, Yazidi, Arab, Kurd, Assyrian and Turkmen alike. Every crime that has been perpetrated by Daesh, including its sexual enslavement of women and burning people alive, has long been perpetrated and practiced by sectarian Shia militias who have the blessings of Tehran's mullahs.
More recent examples of this are during the fighting last year, where Shia militiaman Abu Azrael, who has achieved "celebrity" status in the West and is lionised despite his war crimes, featured in a video where he used a sword to casually slice strips of flesh from a charred and burnt corpse as it hung upside down over a fire "like a shawarma".
In terms of sexual enslavement, these violent militias have not even spared their Shia female coreligionists from their wanton disregard for the value of human life and dignity. The Iraqi Al Sharqiya news channel aired a video report just over a month before Daesh took Mosul in 2014. The video exposed how Shia militias were forcing Iraqi women in the Shia holy city of Najaf to have sex with foreign Shia fighters and others as a kind of reward for their military services. These are the same militias who support Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad in his genocide against the Syrian people, and who criticise Sunni groups for encouraging "sexual jihad" which was later found to be a disinformation and smear campaign orchestrated by the Assad regime.
The list of crimes committed by Iran and its proxies in Iraq, including the Baghdad government, are lengthy, pervasive and sickening (a more recent report by Amnesty International can be found here), and it is time people stood in solidarity with the Iraqi people who have had enough of this brutality. Over the past few days alone, social media has been rife with videos of Iraqi soldiers, meant to save their citizens from Daesh, were instead torturing children.
The aim of this article is not to say that Iraqi suffering trumps Palestinian suffering, not at all. The Palestinian people have suffered untold and agonisingly long torment under Israeli occupation, and for far too long. What I am trying to do here is to instead demonstrate that there is equivalence in all human suffering, whether Palestinian, Iraqi or anywhere else in the world.
Mosul will be the latest milestone in the Iraqi Nakba, and a continuation of an excruciatingly long, drawn-out and well-engineered Iraqi Holocaust that has claimed millions of Iraqi lives since 1990. If you are outraged at what is happening in Palestine, be outraged at what is happening in Iraq and stand by its people.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.