Iraqi-Sunni tribes recruiting children to fight IS, says HRW

Iraqi-Sunni tribes recruiting children to fight IS, says HRW
With ongoing fears that Iraqi-Shia militias could massacre civilians in Mosul, Sunni tribal fighters taking part in the government offensive have also been accused of human rights abuses.
3 min read
21 Nov, 2016
Iraqi tribal fighters have been accused of human rights abuses [AFP]
Iraqi militias are recruiting children from refugee camps to fight against the Islamic State group in Mosul, Human Rights Watch has claimed.

Fighters from the Hashd al-Ashaari - Iraqi-Sunni tribal groups - have also been accused of kidnapping and beating civilians during an offensive to take Mosul from IS.

It is part of ongoing worries about major human rights abuses being committed by pro-government forces during its campaign against IS.

The accusations is the latest PR blunder for the government's anti-IS coalition, which includes Shia militias that human rights groups say have committed "war crimes" and massacres.

"Civilians in IS-held territory in and around Mosul are asking themselves what will come next. The answer to that question should be greater respect for human rights," said Lama Fakih, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.

"For some civilians who have come under the control of Hashd al-Ashaari militias, however, the change in guard has not meant protection from rights abuses."

Hashd al-Ashaari were chosen to take a leading campaign in the Iraqi government offensives in north Iraq due to the Sunni-tribal make-up of the militias, which matches the demographics of areas under IS control.

For this reason, it was thought that they would be a reassuring presence for civilians in areas captured from IS, rather than the Shia fighters in the Popular Mobilisation Forces.

However, the tribal fighters also appear to abusing their position of power.

On 30 October, Hashd al-Ashaari militias detained 20 men from Tal al-Shaaeer village, beating some of them until Iraqi security forces rescued the civilians.

Two weeks area, the militias detained 50 people from a northern Iraqi village with some of the men missing and thought to have been transferred to another location.

Human Rights Watch who documented these suspected crimes have called on the Iraqi government to investigate these cases.

Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch also reported three recent cases were child soldiers were recruited by the group from among refugees near south of Erbil.

At least eight children were recruited by Hashd al-Ashaari commanders from the Debaga camp, including one who is just 14-years-old, Human Rights Watch said.

It followed earlier reports by the human rights group of children being signed up by the militias to fight IS.

Hashd al-Ashaari are part of the Sunni tribal militia force is playing a leading role in the Battle for Mosul, and their wages paid for by the Iraqi government.

Despite Iraqi-Sunnis making up a large chunk of the IS leadership and rank-and-file, some tribes have opposed the militants with horrific consequences.

At least 300 Sunni civilians from the Albu Nimr tribe in western Iraq were murdered by IS militants in 2014.

Some Sunnis tribes were part of the US-sponsored Anbar Awakening alliance.

This began a major revolt against IS' earlier incarnation al-Qaeda in Iraq, due to the brutal, arrogant and puritanical rule of the militants in north and west Iraq.