Following the capitulation of Iraq’s Security Forces in the wake of the fall of Mosul, Shia paramilitary forces have helped to fill the security void and to protect many cities including Baghdad. Grand Ayatollah Sayed Ali Al-Sistani’s fatwa (religious edict) called on Iraqis to volunteer for the armed forces as an act of national duty. Heeding the call, men of all ages have swelled the ranks of Iraq’s paramilitary groups such as the Peace Brigades, League of the Righteous, Badr Corps and more. These men of all walks of life have left their loved ones to serve on the frontlines and take the fight to ISIS. These dedicated individuals are giving their lives in a battle to defend not only Iraqis but the entire human race from the primordial evil that is ISIS.
ISIS hail from a long line of oppressors that have raped and pillaged Iraq’s holiest sites for centuries. In the seventh century AD the Prophet Muhammad’s granddaughters were held captive in the court of the Ummayad Caliph Yazid after beheading the Prophet’s grandson Imam Hussain on the plains of Karbala. The followers of Imam Hussain bore the brunt of similar brutality for centuries after. Karbala was ransacked in 1802, populations were massacred, and woman were kidnapped and raped – exactly as we see today. French eyewitness J.B. Rousseau recounts, “12,000 Wahhabis suddenly attacked the mosque of Imam Hussain…they put everything to fire and sword…The elderly, women, and children—everybody died by the
barbarians’ sword. Besides, it is said that whenever they saw a pregnant woman, they disemboweled her and left the fetus on the mother’s bleeding corpse.”
The Shia fighters today hail from an ideology comprehensively opposite to that of ISIS. While ISIS fighters justify the slavery of Yazidi women, Shia are actively rescuing Yazidi girls and returning them to their families. As ISIS expelled Christians from north Iraq, thousands sought refuge in the Shia holy city of Najaf – inside the very shrine of Imam Ali, the Prophet’s cousin & son-in-law. Finally, ever since the unrest in Anbar in 2013 and all the way through to the ISIS chaos today, Sunni families have made the Shia holy city of Karbala their home. The Imam Hussain shrine serves 6000 meals daily to Christian, Sunni, and Shia Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). In opening their own homes, Iraqi Shia have proven they are not sectarian.
Images on social media have surfaced of Christian fighters joining the ranks of Shia paramilitary groups. A Shia pilot died saving Yazidis on Mount Sinjar after his helicopter crashed. Sunni tribes of Albu Nimir and Jubur have requested the help of Shia volunteers to fight alongside them in expelling ISIS out of the Sunni province of Anbar. Accordingly, Muqtada Al-Sadr and Hadi Al-Amiri have sent thousands of volunteers that they command to help. These examples, along with the others from the heat of battle, illustrate the non-sectarian nature of Iraq’s Shia.
Iraq’s Shia have proven themselves to be the most selfless and nationalistic population in the country. The Shia provinces give the most lives on the frontlines, host half a million IDPs according to UN Refugee Agency in Iraq, and represent the most effective anti-ISIS movement in the world – not a single Shia-majority town or city has ever fallen to ISIS. Amerli, a town of 20,000 Shia residents, held off an ISIS siege for over three months. Having been surrounded by 36 villages that had fallen to ISIS, Amerli emerged victorious in the midst of starvation and without water & power. Amerli became Iraq’s Stalingrad or as Dr. Abbas Kadhim put it, “The battle of the Alamo with a much happier ending”. Shia mothers have sacrificed thousands of their sons on the frontlines and in the daily car bombings that predominantly target Shia neighborhoods.
Iraq analysts and commentators are eager to provide a Shia equivalent to ISIS even whilst the differences are glaring. ISIS invaded large swaths of Iraq in an effort to establish a global caliphate; Shia militias have no such ambition nor philosophy and have maintained a defensive approach throughout. ISIS enslave, rape, and murder Yazidi, Christian, and Shia women and justify the actions as part of their belief system; Shia forces do not abuse women nor have they systematically targeted minorities. ISIS view Yazidis, Shia as heretics while Shia scholars demand Yazidis be protected. To compare Shia fighters to ISIS terrorists is completely disrespectful and an outright travesty given their sacrifices. The media is doing an incredible injustice to these men fighting ISIS on behalf of the world. Instead of hailing these selfless individuals as heroes, the media attacks and dehumanizes them in a bid to equate them to ISIS.
Shia militias have proven to be the most effective fighting force against ISIS in the entire world. ISIS hate Shia more than any other group on the face of the planet; who better to serve up the victory than the Shia themselves? Iraqi Shia are battling against those vowing to exterminate the Shia identity. Shia militiamen fight with conviction and honour. In a sectarian environment where droves of Sunni scholars preach for the extermination of Shia everywhere, the Shia grand scholarship has declared that Sunnis shouldn’t be viewed as “brothers” but even further than that – as “our own souls”. It is to this decree that hundreds of thousands flocked to volunteer at the frontlines. Shia volunteers are not driven by a mentality of terror, but that of honour that trickles down from Grand Ayatollah Sayed Ali Al-Sistani.