Abuses by militia allied with Iraqi security forces in Sunni areas have escalated in recent months. Residents have been forced from their homes, kidnapped, and in some cases summarily executed, Human Rights Watch reported on Sunday.
At least 3,000 people have fled their homes in the Muqdadiyya area of Diyala province since June 2014 and, since October, been prevented from returning.
Human Rights Watch is conducting an investigation into more recent allegations that militia and SWAT (Special Weapons And Tactics) forces killed 72 civilians in the town of Barwana, also in Muqdadiyya.
Residents told Human Rights Watch that security forces and allied militia began to harass residents in the vicinity of Muqdadiyya, an area 80 kilometres northeast of Baghdad in June, shortly after the extremist group Islamic State (also known as ISIS) took over Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city.
The abuses escalated around October, witnesses said, the month after Hayder al-Abadi took over as Prime Minister, pledging to rein in abusive militias and to end the sectarianism that fed the cycle of violence under his predecessor.
“Iraqi civilians are being hammered by ISIS and then by pro-government militias in areas they seize from ISIS,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director of Human Rights Watch. “With the government responding to those they deem terrorists with arbitrary arrests and executions, residents have nowhere to turn for protection.”
Human Rights Watch spoke to displaced residents of villages near Muqdadiyya – a largely rural region in central Diyala with a diverse population of about 300,000, including Sunni and Shia Arabs, Kurds, and Turkoman.
Photo courtesy: Human Rights Watch