Anbar refugees 'forced into militias to fight IS group'

Anbar refugees 'forced into militias to fight IS group'
Councillor and human rights group says all displaced men aged 18 to 50 are being forced to join militias before being sent back to Anbar to fight against IS.
2 min read
08 May, 2015
Shia militias are powerful in the south of Iraq [AFP]

Refugees fleeing the Islamic State group in Iraq's Anbar are being forced into militias and sent back to the province to fight, a human rights group and a local politician have said.

Men aged between 18 and 50 who arrived in the Babylon local district were being told they must either join a militia or would be sent back to their home province, said Mohammad al-Hali, a member of the Babylon local council.

"The council held a closed session to discuss how to manage the large numbers displaced from Anbar," he said. "Anyone who refuses to be conscripted will be returned to Anbar and not allowed to leave again," he said.

     Men are being forced to join up even though many are too ill to take part in the training.

An Iraqi lieutenant colonel in military intelligence told al-Araby:
"Local governments in Babylon, Najaf, Karbala, and Basra have all agreed to conscript displaced men and push them into the frontlines of battles against the IS group, even though they fled IS rather than joining the group."

The colonel said that the militias were behind the illegal and unconstitutional decision. Many of the militias were Shia, whereas most refugees from Anbar were Sunni.

The Anbar tribal council criticised the decision as an attempt to push the displaced people out of the southern provinces.

Sheikh Mahmoud al-Jamili, a member of the Anbar tribal council, told al-Araby: "Those displaced from Anbar and other provinces are guests in the hosting provinces, and should be treated well."

Jamli said the forced conscription was an attempt to tarnish the image of the people of Anbar and show they were unable to fight. "The people of Anbar have been fighting IS for over a year, and without their efforts IS would have taken Baghdad," he said.

There are 80,000 to 100,000 displaced Iraqis from Anbar in southern cities living with friends and relatives, especially in Babylon, Basra and Karbala.

Ibtihal al-Zaidi, head of the Hayat Human Rights organisation in Iraq, described the decision as unacceptable.

Zaidi told al-Araby that men were being forced to sign up even though many were too ill to take part in the training.

This article is an edited version from our Arabic edition.