KRG wary Iran-backed militia is looking to recruit Kurds

KRG wary Iran-backed militia is looking to recruit Kurds
In particular, Kurdish authorities have expressed concern that the controversial Popular Mobilisation Forces are running a recruitment drive in the volatile, ethnically mixed city of Tuz Khurmatu, near Mosul
2 min read
02 April, 2017
The Popular Mobilisation Forces have been accused by rights groups of war crimes [Getty]
Kurdish authorities are wary that the Iran-backed Popular Mobilisation Forces (Hashd al-Shaabi in Arabic) militia is seeking to recruit Kurds in areas close to Kirkuk, as Iraqi forces battle Islamic State militants for control of the northern city of Mosul.

Officials from the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) - co-founded by former Iraqi president Jalal Talabani in 1975 - say that Kurdish security forces have questioned a number of locals in Sharazur, a lowland area located between Sulaymaniyah and Darbandikhan, in the southeastern part of Iraqi Kurdistan, believed to be running recruitment drives aimed at enticing Kurdish youths to the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF)

Speaking to Kurdish news agency Rudaw, Ahmad Qadafari, a PUK official in Sharazur, said that one of those arrested was a police officer.

PUK officials have in particular expressed concern that the Shia-dominated PMF - which has faced accusations of commiting war crimes - has formed an all Kurdish brigade in the city of Tuz Khurmatu, located around 88 km south of Kirkuk in a mixed area where Kurds, Shia Turkmen, and Sunni Arabs have all staked territorial claims.

Tuz Khurmatu has witnessed sporadic violent clashes between armed Kurdish groups and Shia Turkmen over the past two years.

According to a 2016 Human Rights Watch report armed groups involved in fighting in the ethnically mixed city have, on occasion, appeared to target "civilians on the basis of their ethnicity".

Kirkuk is also currently the scene of a dispute between Kurdish officials and Baghdad which is increasingly concerned that the Kurdistan Regional Government may be looking to annex the city.

The dispute comes amid growing mutual suspicion among the plethora of Iraqi forces battling IS - Iraqi army, Kurdish Peshmerga, PMF, and others - that one another are seeking to seize disputed territories within Iraq under their control.