The Fall of Acolytes and the Rise of Holy Men

The Fall of Acolytes and the Rise of Holy Men

Zackary Mejia, Staff Writer

The Islamic State has found itself under attack from all fronts since October of last year. While they have gained the allegiance of dozens of terrorist groups in the African continent and Arabian Peninsula, the caliphate’s territory is shrinking as each month passes.

In Iraq, government forces and an alliance of paramilitary groups known as the Popular Mobilization Units recaptured Ramadi, the capital of the Anbar province, in December and are poised to retake Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city. Based on the trend of defeats in both Iraq and Syria, the Islamic State’s days are numbered. Yet with the decline of one theocratic state occupying territory in Iraq, another may rise to take its place.

As more territory is reclaimed in Iraq, the power vacuum that is left behind by the Islamic State is not being filled by the national government, but selective Shiite militias within the PMU. These militias have been accused by human rights groups of committing crimes against humanity with the use of torture, extrajudicial executions, ethnic cleansing and revenge murderers against the Sunni minority.

Despite the growing list of the PMU’s victims, no criminal action has been taken against the militias by the Iraqi government, which not only makes the government look incapable of controlling these paramilitary groups, but sets a precedent of intolerable actions becoming, apparently, tolerable.

There are over 20 Shiite militias in the PMU that have different political agendas for a post-Islamic State future. The prominent groups that have political backing in Iraq or special funding from Iran are the Badr Organization, Muqtada al-Sadr’s Peace Companies and Promised Day Brigades, Knights of Hope, League of Righteous and the Hezbollah Brigade.

It is fitting for these groups to retain names of divinity while they reign terror to the civilians who find themselves under their control. It illustrates the perfect analogy of how a perceived religious cause can not only raise armies from a divided population, but absolve the inhumane actions committed by the men serving said cause, since they are doing “the Lord’s work.”

The Badr Organization currently holds the most political power of the groups listed. They maintain twenty-two seats in Parliament and have members holding key positions in the government. Most notable is the Minister of Interior, which controls the PMU, thus granting the Bard Organization political leverage over the other militias.

The organization first became a power player in Iraqi politics during the American occupation of Iraq. It was originally the military wing of another political party called the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution of Iraq, an Iranian proxy party seeking to establish an Islamic republic similar to Iran’s.

The group broke away from the SCIRI in 2003 and established itself as a political party. Its members have since infiltrated and hold power in the Iraqi army, police and interior minister.

The organization’s prominent members and leaders have been accused of war crimes during their terms as Iraqi officials.

Former member of Badr Organization and Interior Minister from 2005-06, was accused by the UN chief in Iraq, John Pace, of having secret prisons and sectarian killings.    

Pace told the Independent newspaper that during Jabr’s tenure as minister of interior, “that up to three-quarters of the corpses stacked in the city’s mortuary show evidence of gunshot wounds to the head or injuries caused by drill-bits or burning cigarettes.”

He claimed that Jabr had secret death squads within the police force, committing revenge assassinations for the bombings of Shiite holy sites in Iraq.

The current head of the Badr Organization, Hadi Al-Amiri, is accused of overseeing flights from Iran that passed through Iraq, carrying weapons to support the Assad regime in Syria during his tenure as Iraq’s Transportation Minister from 2011-2014.

According to a leaked cable from the State Department, “One of [al-Amiri’s] preferred methods of killing allegedly involved using a power drill to pierce the skulls of his adversaries.”

Al-Amiri’s criminal conduct is no secret to the Iraqi government, as he continually flaunts his perverse nature as a show of Shiite dominance and to strike fear into the Sunni minority, which find themselves the victims of both the Islamic State and this rogue government wing.

In fact, a report from the Counter Extremism Project states that the national government has appointed Al-Amiri the head of the PMU and given him command of the Iraqi Army’s 20th Battalion.

This merger between the national military and what is essentially a mercenary army of the religious nature makes the national government culpable in the human rights crimes committed by the PMU. It additionally makes the Sunni and Kurdish minorities feel disillusioned that the government’s claim of representing the whole country as false when it makes sectarian policy decisions like that of Saddam Hussein’s regime.

From the military actions and political moves of the Badr Organization, the group, like many of its fellow Iraqi political parties, is nothing more than a proxy of Iran’s attempt to politically polarize the Shiites and Sunnis.

The Shiite movement in Iraq isn’t a nationalistic one, it’s Islamic. There is no doubt that these militias fight to protect Iraqi soil, but they hold their fantasy of a Shia theocracy at a higher value than the welfare and preservation of the Iraqi State. Their actions prove this so. They are primarily supported by Iran and have reportedly sent fighters to Syria to fight on behalf of the Assad regime. These actions further allude that their struggle isn’t just with the Islamic State but the whole Sunni populace in the Levant. So they play the role of foot soldiers and outspoken clerics to appease their God and spead Shiite dominance across the Middle East. While the Shiite militias are a major force in defeating the Islamic State, the Iraqi and Western governments are allowing the rise a Shiite Islamic movement that will prove to be a greater problem than the Islamic State in the imminent future.  

Zackary Mejia
Aaron Martinez
Zackary Mejia