An investigation of the Shia militia combatting ISIS has revealed a terrifying reality. The militias formed to fight ISIS but have taken control over the region and are now more feared by the locals than ISIS, itself (Navai, 2016). After examining all that has happened, it is not hard to see why.

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Before escapees are allowed to join the refugee population, the men are screened for possible ISIS affiliation (Navai, 2016). This is done first by looking for their names on a database of ISIS affiliates, then the escapees are interviewed (Navai, 2016). In the documentarty, one escapee is taken away for threatening fellow escapees if they do not pay what they owe to him (Navai, 2016). Suspects are held in militia prisons, allegedly being taken to the authorities for a proper trial, although the holding time appears to be up to three months or more (Navai, 2016). Sunni men are not allowed sanctuary until the militia determines that they are not likely to be ISIS affiliates.

Larger scale abuses of human rights are performed by larger and more powerful militia organizations such as Badr and the Hezbola Brigades. In 2016, 643 men from Saqlawijah were kidnapped and tortured with metal pipes and shotgun butts (Navai, 2016). Few male Sunni were left in the refugee camps, most very young or very old (Navai, 2016). More than 40 died in custody before being returned to the refugee populace (Navai, 2016). Diyala is an entire province under the control of the Badr militia (Navai, 2016). The people live in fear as Sunni men are regularly kidnapped in plain sight, tortured, held for ransom, and killed (Navai, 2016). The Sunni mosques are destroyed and the people are afraid to even look at them for fear of retribution (Navai, 2016). The militia have created a state of fear in which no one is safe, kidnapping Sunni men without just cause.

Nothing has been done to combat these problems for two main reasons. The first is that the militia do not view ISIS members as people but as murderers, making torture and murder perfectly justified, in the words of a Badr spokesman named Haitham al Mayajhi (Navai, 2016). The second problem is that the militia vastly outnumber the police and the government is afraid to act against them (Navai, 2016). With the militia in power, Sunni refugees have no choice but to live in fear of their tyranny.

  • Wells, Patrick (Director). (2016). Iraq Incovered [Television series episode]. In R. Navai, (Producer), Frontline, Boston, MA: WGBH-TV.