Urdu Journalist Who Admires ISIS Finds No Proof of Killings of Shias and Destruction of Shrines in Iraq
New Age Islam Edit Desk
30 June 2014
Target ... the ruins of a shrine in Samarra, Iraq. Photograph: Khalid Mohammed/AP
The Sunni majority among Muslims in India appears to be developing sympathies for the transnational Wahhabi-Salafi terrorist organisation ISIS and its local Sunni affiliates that are fighting the Shia government of Iraq. One clear reason is that Al-Maliki government can no longer be called secular and democratic, though it had started as such, following months long negotiations after an election. On the other hand the local oppressed Sunnis, who had fought Al-Qaeda in Iraq, at great cost to themselves, in their quest for democracy, have now joined what is essentially the same al-Qaida with a different name, out of frustration at Maliki's pro-Shia sectarianism. Reports that Indian Shia organisations are organising volunteers to go to fight against Sunni Jihadis of Iraq has also not helped matters.
Writing in Akhbar-e-Mashriq, an Urdu journalist Nihal Sagheer feigns ignorance of any ‘reliable’ report on the killing of Shias and destruction of Shia shrines in Iraq. He doesn't try to hide his admiration for the advances of the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS). Indeed, he seems very impressed.
To him, ISIS is the God’s army that is following the Qur'anic and prophetic traditions while capturing territories of Iraq. Hundreds of reports on international media, particularly mainstream media or US, UK, India and Middle East have appeared on the ruthless behaviour of the ISIS fighters in Iraq who kill in cold blood their opponents including women and children. Mr Nihal Saghir, however, claims to have not come across any news of the developments so much so that he blames a section of Indian religious organisations for adopting a suicidal approach towards the Iraq war. A paragraph of his article title, ‘Iraq Ke Masla Me Hamari Baaz Muslim Tanzeemon Ka Afsosnak Rawaiyya’ (the unfortunate attitude of some Muslim organisations on Iraq issue), published in Akhbar-e-Mashriq, June 30 reads thus:
“The advances of the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham have frightened even our self proclaimed friends and well wishers. I tried very hard to access reliable reports that the ISIS has started killing Shias in Iraq or are destroying religious sacred places there. But I could not come across solid proof or clear hint about it. But some people spread rumours here which created tensions in Lucknow but the people acted with tact and controlled the situation.”
The job of journalists should be simply to give objective information. As Urdu journalists do not have their own sources of information, they can give whatever information is available in the diverse international media and refrain from sectarian comments. Let us understand that none of the parties in Iraq are blameless and it is not our job to go to war to sort out problems of other societies even if we share certain ideological affinities. Short of joining the fight, if we can help the oppressed Shias and Sunnis of Iraq in any other way, we should. But fighting among ourselves here in India or elsewhere in the world will hardly be helping any one.
Some reports from international and national media houses are quoted with urls for Mr Nihal Sagheer and other Sunni journalists and intellectuals like him so that they can be aware of why the world is worried about the sectarian killings and Takfiri approach of the fighters of the ISIS. Both Shia and Sunni activists in India should avoid exploiting the multi-dimensional tragedy of Iraqi for creating tensions here. Let us have a look at some of the news that has been emerging in the media in different parts of the world:
Iraq: What It Feels Like To Be On the Receiving End of ISIS's Pickup Truck Killing Party
A man who hid from Isis for eight hours in a stack of straw tells Richard Spencer of the horrific day when the Iraqi jihadists came to his village, murdering his son, brother, nephew and sister-in-law
The Isis death squad came in the morning, and were merciless on their Shia victims. One man who survived crawled through fields of wheat for a mile on his hands and knees, with the gunmen following, looking for him.
He had left his son dying in the road behind him. He heard the shots as his brother and nephew, who had run the other way to hide in a building site, were killed with two other men.
He hid for eight hours in the middle of a stack of straw from Iraq's early summer harvest, not daring to look out.
The next day, the villagers went back for the bodies. There were 21 in all, scattered through the streets and in the looted, burning embers of their houses. The bodies of his brother, nephew and two other men in the building site had not just been shot but stabbed in the head and body, on both sides, having been turned over and over as the rampage proceeded.
His brother's finger had been cut off, to remove his ring.
"I served in the army, in the war against Iran and in Kuwait," the survivor, Fadl Moussa Hassan said. "But I never saw anything like this. Even if you captured a prisoner and killed him, you did it cleanly, with one shot."
As Isis, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, extends its control over Sunni areas of the country, the politicians in Baghdad and the world's diplomats ponder a negotiated response. They do not trust the Iraqi army's ability to regain control of the country, nor wish to commit foreign troops in the numbers required to take on the common enemy.
One argument is that the Iraq crisis has a political root, in the discrimination suffered by Sunni Muslims at the hands of a Shia-led government. Many ordinary, non-Jihadi Sunnis themselves say the insurgency is a popular uprising more than extremist terrorism.
That may be true, but it does not mean those with a will and a gun cannot use the crisis to promote their own strategies.
At the opposite ends of the religious sectarian spectrum, that strategy is ethnic cleansing.
An Amnesty International report on Friday made clear that murder and mayhem is not limited to the Sunni jihadists. Iraqi security forces or allied Shia militias killed scores of Sunni prisoners in the towns of Tal Afar, Baquba and Mosul in the last two weeks as they came under attack from the Isis-led alliance.
The aim appeared to be to prevent them escaping and, if sympathetic, joining up with the attackers.
But the jihadists' attacks on Tuesday, June 17, on the Shia villages of Barauchili, Karanaz and Chardaghli, near Tikrit, and Bashir, further north south of Kirkuk, have a raw, sectarian quality previously associated with the Alawite "Shabiha" militias of neighbouring Syria.
The villages' residents are not just Shia but from the Turkmen minority, a vulnerable minority within a minority.
But ethnicity seemed to be less important than religion: the attackers were shouting "God is Great" as they roared up to the village in their pickup trucks, captured American Humvees and armoured personnel carriers, waving their black flags, and Mr Hassan and other survivors said that they could even make out Turkmen voices among the attackers.
Mr Fadl, his brother, Elias, and other villagers from Barauchili gave The Telegraph a clinical description of what it feels like to be on the receiving end of a pickup truck killing party. Their accounts have yet to be assessed by independent experts, though they have been confirmed by Iraqi security forces, but the accounts of those interviewed separately matched.
The villages were attacked from either end: they came from the north, to Chadaghli first, then just as men were rushing there to defend it, they arrived at Barauchili from the south, the flag-flying Jihadi column pouring up the road from a neighbouring Sunni district.
It sped through the road-hump checkpoint. Some villagers tried to fire from nearby rooftops, but they were outgunned. Najaf Kahir, 41, a local teacher, was one of them - shot and killed, his father, Abdul Wáhid Reza Kahir, said.
Realising there was nothing they could do, the villagers fled, but too late. When Mr Kahir's 86-year-old cousin, Kamal, and his sons Mustafa, 34, and Abbas, 28, staggered from their house, the gunmen were already there, and they killed them on the spot.
Another cousin, Abdullah Reza Kahir had a better idea. Instead of fleeing north to the other Turkmen villages, he fled south to the Sunni Arab one, Albu Hassan, where he had friends.
They took him and his family in, but Isis came knocking.
The family's would-be protectors came out holding up a Koran. "For the sake of this holy book, let these men go," they said. There was some haggling, and the man's wife and daughters were allowed to remain inside.
But the father and his 15-year-old son, Hussein, were dragged out and shot in front of their hosts.
Meanwhile, the Hassan family were trying to head north. Fadl and his family were on foot, and straggling behind the rest of the villagers, which is why Isis caught up with them first.
"There were lots of other families, but we were behind them," he said.
Meanwhile his brother, Elias, was in his car with his wife Amina, heading in a different direction, west towards Karanaz. But when they reached the junction, Isis were already there - two men in a pickup, and one on the road with a sniper rifle.
As he tried to speed away, two shots rang out, and his wife's head slumped on his shoulder. When he finally made it to a hospital, she was dead.
Fadl Hassan said that while he was hiding in the field, his pursuers came close enough for him to hear their voices. Far from being the foreign fighters he had been taught to fear, some voices were local; some were even Turkmen.
The willingness of their neighbours to join the onslaught, including men from Albu Hassan, whose children were their own children's classmates, shocked the villagers. But then the sectarianism of modern Iraq is not new. While some say that the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein, however brutal, kept a peace between the sects, it also fostered the resentments.
Saddam had an Arabisation policy that took land and gave it to Sunni Arabs. In the town of Jalula, to the south-east near Baghdad, The Telegraph saw Kurdish Peshmerga forces who are taking on the insurgents and have driven them back into one corner of the town.
That corner is the corner occupied by a Sunni tribe which supports Isis - a tribe that was given the land there by Saddam and has no intention of giving it up.
A similar conflict underlies another massacre. The town of Bashir was once Turkmen, and was then handed by Saddam to Sunni Arabs in the 1980s as punishment for opposition from the Shia who lived there.
After he fell, the Turkmen returned, and the two lived side-by-side, uneasily.
Then, Isis arrived there too, on the same Tuesday, and with such speed that Qassem Ibrahim Ali was overwhelmed. He put his son, who though only 13 could drive, in one car with his wife, two teenage daughters and their three-year-old, then followed driving his neighbours to safety.
He never saw his family again. He rang his son when he arrived at the neighbouring village of Taza without passing them, but all his son could do was sob.
Five days later, the jihadists who had seized Bashir sent trucks pulling metal sheeting on which lay the decomposing bodies of 17 people, including his two daughters, Masuma, 19, and Nerjis, 12, both of whom had been shot in the back. His wife, Zahra, 13-year-old son Mohammed, and the three-year-old, Ali, are still missing.
A resident who hid inside his house for several days before escaping to Taza said there were still bodies decomposing in Bashir. In all, 13 people are unaccounted for.
"Isis said when we rang my son's phone that they had not deliberately killed my daughters that they had died in the crossfire" Mr Ali said. "But there were no clashes as they were driving. There is no doubt they were executed."
Human Rights Watch has begun to document the sectarian cleansing and suspected murders by Isis of Turkmen Shia from other parts of northern Iraq, including Mosul.
"Isis has embarked on a campaign of forced displacement of minority communities," Letta Taylor, a researcher, said. "There is a clear pattern."
There may be underlying political causes for the Sunni insurgency.
There may be a pragmatic alliance between Sunni tribes, ex-Baathists and Isis, which will break down as time passes.
The tribes believe they can see off the jihadists sooner or later.
But there seems little hope of stitching Iraq into a single, multi-ethnic, multi-sectarian state again. In that case, the three parts will be Sunni, Shia and Kurds, and minorities will only get in the way. Maybe, some seem to think, it is better to get rid of them now.
Iraqi Christians, already reduced by three quarters since 2003, are again on the move, heading north to Kurdistan and then, in all likelihood, to Germany, Sweden and Michigan, where many already live.
Ten per cent of Turkmen have left the country in that time too, said Hasan al-Bayati, head of the Iraqi Turkmen Front.
The head of the Kirkuk city council - made up of Arabs, Kurds and Turkmen, Sunnis and Shia - was a Turkmen Sunni until last week. Munir al-Qafili was shot dead, clinically by gunmen who were well-trained enough to pump seven bullets into his head without scratching the body of the car in which he was a passenger.
It was a warning to all the Turkmen, said a fellow council member, who understandably asked not to be named. Mr Qafili had told colleagues not long before that he had received a warning from Iraqi intelligence his name was on an Isis hit list.
His was a death foretold, and it will not be the last.
The video shows five unarmed soldiers, their hands tied behind their backs, sitting on the ground as they are berated by one of their captors. They all appear terrified and one has a bloodied face.
When asked where the government forces are, one soldier replies they have left.
The extremist, carrying an assault rifle, shows the camera the badges on the uniforms of his prisoners. He then grabs them one after the other by the hair and makes them repeat the Isis slogan ‘Baqiya’, which is thought to mean "(Isis) will remain in existence" or "Islamic state will stay”. One of the men, a corporal, appears to be more reluctant than the others to repeat the slogan, and has to be ordered several times to say the word before he obeys.
Off camera, the corporal’s tormentor forces him to lie on the ground and shoots him.
The video then shows the militant gloating over what he has done, and holding the dead man's identity card up to the camera.
He asks a captured soldier sitting beside the dead body: “This dog I killed, where is he from?”
Told that the man he killed was a Shia from Sinjar, in northern Iraq, he says: “He is a Shia, praise to Allah, the lord of the universe!
“Praise to Allah, whether he is a believer or not, I killed him. I killed a Shia! I killed a Shia!”
Responding to the video, and others which appear to show Isis militants killing unarmed prisoners, Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said: "It appears hundreds of non-combatant men were summarily executed over the past five days, including surrendered or captured soldiers, military conscripts, police and others associated with the government.
"This apparently systematic series of cold-blooded executions, almost certainly amounts to war crimes."
Iraq: ISIS Kidnaps Shia Turkmen, Destroys Shrines
Pillaging, Threats In Capture of Villages near Mosul
June 28, 2014
Forces of the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS) kidnapped at least 40 Shia Turkmen, dynamited four Shia places of worship, and ransacked homes and farms in two Shia villages bordering the Iraqi city of Mosul, Human Rights Watch said today. The assaults took place during a violent three-day spree that began on June 23, 2014.
ISIS ordered all 950 Shia Turkmen families to leave the two adjacent farming villages of Guba and Shireekhan, according to nine displaced residents, two local activists, and local journalists. The displaced residents told Human Rights Watch they heard from the few remaining villagers, all Sunni, that ISIS had killed at least some of the kidnapped men, but none had seen bodies or could provide other confirmation. ISIS, an armed extremist Sunni group, remains in control of the two villages.
“This ISIS rampage is part of a long pattern of attacks by armed Sunni extremists on Turkmen and other minorities,” said Letta Tayler, senior terrorism and counterterrorism researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The killing, bombing, and pillaging threatens to displace entire communities, possibly forever.”
Guba and Shireekhan are 5 kilometers north of Mosul, which ISIS captured on June 10. ISIS controls large areas of north-central Iraq and neighbouring Syria. In recent days, the group has sought to expand its control beyond Mosul, targeting nearby Shia communities of Turkmen and Shabaks, another religious minority. ISIS has stated that it considers Shia to be heretics and has frequently executed Iraqi and Syrian Shia on that basis, including en masse in Tikrit, a city it captured June 11.
On June 25 and 26, ISIS destroyed seven Shia places of worship in the predominantly Shia Turkmen city of Tal Afar, 50 kilometers west of Mosul, which it captured June 16, four sources from the area told Human Rights Watch. Since then, 90 percent of Tal Afar’s Turkmen have fled, residents and local activists said.
Human Rights Watch spoke to the nine residents who had fled Guba and Shireekhan on June 24 in villages north of Mosul controlled by Peshmerga, the armed forces of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan region. Many of those interviewed, still fearful of ISIS, asked Human Rights Watch not to divulge their names or new locations.
Four men who fled the night of June 24, two from each village, said they saw about 70 military vehicles filled with armed ISIS members roll into Guba and Shireekhan on the afternoon of June 23. They said the vehicles included Humvees that they thought must have been among the ones ISIS is widely reported to have confiscated from the Iraqi army earlier in June in Tal Afar and Mosul. Most of the fighters were unmasked. Two residents said that they later heard some of the fighters speaking Arabic with accents that were not Iraqi. They said at least seven of the fighters were local and wore black facemasks to disguise their identities.
Haider, a 40-year-old Guba farmer, was watching the fighters from a bluff overlooking his village:
They used loudspeakers to say bad things about Shia and told us, “All of you have to leave.” Then they rounded up the men and boys and checked their identity cards. The young local men who wore masks were helping them. They separated all those who they thought were Sunni and also the younger boys, and told them they could leave. Then they took away all the Shia in their vehicles. Until now we have no idea where they took them. But when ISIS takes people away like that they usually kill them.
The nine villagers told Human Rights Watch that ISIS had taken about 60 Shia men, all Turkmen. A worker with an international organization that operates in the area around Mosul told Human Rights Watch he had received reports that ISIS later released 20 of the captives, after determining that they were Sunni.
ISIS members removed all Iraqi state flags in the two villages and replaced them with black banners that bear the Islamic creed, “There is no god but God, Muhammad is the messenger of God,” the nine villagers said. ISIS also hoisted the banners over the Shia shrine in Guba, al-Imam al-Abbas, and three Shia mosques – al-Ridha in Guba, and al-Zahraa and al-Imam Hussein in Shireekhan, they said. “Every time they hoisted the banner they would shout, ‘Allahu Akbar [God is Great],’ and fire shots in the air,” said Mohsen, 49.
ISIS placed explosives in Imam Abbas’ shrine and the three Shia mosques, and on June 24 blew them up, said one witness from Guba and one from Shireekhan as well as the local activists. All others interviewed said they had heard from Sunni inhabitants of the villages, or relatives who had not yet fled, that ISIS had destroyed the places of worship. At that point any remaining Shia in the villages fled, they said.
On June 25, the armed militants went door-to-door through the Shia Turkmen homes, searching for remaining men and looting, residents told Human Rights Watch, citing Sunni inhabitants of the two villages. A woman who fled said that remaining villagers told her the gunmen took “everything they could find,” including from her home:
If the doors were locked, they broke them open. They took gold and money if there was any, and televisions and any other appliances. They also took cars and cattle and sheep. We are worried sick. We left our homes with nothing but the clothes we were wearing, and now we have nothing to go back to.
ISIS also took over the homes of prominent residents of the two villages, the residents said. They said they were certain that the fighters were ISIS because of their black banners and their destruction of Shia places of worship. Some of the residents said they or their neighbours had initially fled after ISIS took Mosul but subsequently trickled back into Guba and Shireekhan, lured by reports that the villages were calm and fears that if they did not return, ISIS would encourage Sunnis to occupy their homes.
In Tal Afar, ISIS on June 25 destroyed the Shia shrines of Imam Sa’ad and Khider al-Elias, a historic shrine on a site where Christians and Yezidis, a Kurdish minority sect, also worshipped, as well as the mosque of Hashim Antr, two journalists and an activist from the city told Human Rights Watch. The following day, ISIS destroyed four more mosques in Tal Afar – Imam Sadiq, , al-Abbas, Ar Mahmoud, and Ahl al-Beit, they said.
“ISIS should immediately free all captured civilians and stop its marauding,” Tayler said. “Killing civilians or captured combatants amounts to a war crime, and the ISIS fighters and commanders should be aware they will face justice for their crimes.”
4 Questions ISIS Rebels Use To Tell Sunni from Shia
Alissa J Rubin, NYT News Service | Jun 26, 2014
BAGHDAD: Whether a person is a Shia or a Sunni Muslim in Iraq can now be, quite literally, a matter of life and death.
As the militant group the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, has seized vast territories in western and northern Iraq, there have been frequent accounts of fighters' capturing groups of people and releasing the Sunnis while the Shias are singled out for execution.
ISIS believes that the Shias are apostates and must die in order to forge a pure form of Islam. The two main branches of Islam diverge in their beliefs over who is the true inheritor of the mantle of the Prophet Muhammad. The Shias believe that Islam was transmitted through the household of the Prophet Muhammad. Sunnis believe that it comes down through followers of the Prophet Muhammad who, they say, are his chosen people.
But how can ISIS tell whether a person is a Sunni or a Shia? From accounts of people who survived encounters with the militants, it seems they often ask a list of questions. Here are some of them:
What is your name?
A quick look at an Iraqi's national identity card or passport can be a signal. Shias believe that the leadership of Islam was passed down through the Prophet Muhammad's son-in-law Ali and his sons Hussain (or Hussein), Hassan and Abbas, among others. While some Sunnis and members of other Islamic groups may also have those names, ISIS would most likely associate them with the Shias.
Where do you live?
In every city and province, even majority Sunni ones, there are enclaves that are known to be Shia. People who said they came from one of those neighbourhoods would most likely be killed.
How do you pray?
Shias and Sunnis offer prayers in slightly different ways, with Sunnis generally folding their hands or crossing their arms in front of their stomachs and Shias leaving them extended, palms resting on their thighs.
In a chilling video that appeared to have been made more than a year ago in the Anbar Province of Iraq, ISIS fighters stopped three truck drivers in the desert and asked them whether they were Sunnis or Shias. All three claimed to be Sunni. Then the questions got harder. They were asked how they performed each of the prayers: morning, midday and evening. The truck drivers disagreed on their methods, and all were shot.
What kind of music do you listen to?
Recordings of religious songs could also be a tipoff. Similarly, even the ringtone on a person's telephone could be a clue because it might be from a Sunni or Shia religious song.
There are other clues, but none are completely reliable. For instance, a number of Shias wear large rings, often with semiprecious stones. But so do some Sunnis, and others.
Generally, Iraqi Shias and Sunnis are often indistinguishable in appearance. That is even more evident in many families and tribes in which there has been intermarriage for generations.
Given that the rigid views of ISIS are fairly well known, it is perhaps natural to wonder why hostages do not simply lie about their origins. It seems that many do, yet in very tense, perilous encounters; people can easily get tripped up. Sometimes another person in a group might inadvertently give someone away. Others refuse to lie about their faith.
By Zee Media Bureau/Biplob Ghosal
June 19, 2014
New Delhi: Zulfiqar Abbas, who returned from the war-torn Iraq on Thursday, gave a detailed account of the alarming situation there and termed the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants as 'ferocious' and worse than wild animals.
Speaking to ANI, Abbas said that the situation in Iraq is very dangerous and the ISIS militants are ruthlessly killing people of both Shia and Sunni communities. “The ISIS wants to create a different nation,” Abbas said.
In what will be a huge relief for the families of 40 Indians stranded in the Middle East country, Abbas informed that they are safe in Iraq and the Indian embassy is trying to secure their release?
However, he maintained that the situation is very tense in Iraq.
The government on Wednesday said that 40 Indian nationals working for a Turkish construction company have been abducted in violence-hit Iraq's Mosul area, which has been taken over by Sunni militants.
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj today sought to assure the families of the kidnapped Indian nationals, saying the government was making all possible efforts to resolve the crisis.
The MEA has also set up a round-the-clock control room to provide information on Iraq. The same can be reached at 011-23014104 (telephone), 011-23018158 (fax) or through email at email@example.com.
ISIS has taken control of several Iraqi cities from the state forces and is also posing a threat to the capital Baghdad. The Iraqi government has requested the US to launch air strikes against ISIS militants.