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  • Writer's pictureMECRA

Protest after PMU's 30th Brigade in Nineveh asked to withdraw

Updated: Sep 1, 2020

Protests broke out near the town of Bazwaya just east of Mosul on August 5. The protesters held signs in support of the local Hashd al-Sha'abi (Popular Mobilization Forces) unit demanding it not be ordered to withdraw from this area of Nineveh plains.

Over the last weeks there have been increasing controversies over the 30th Brigade of the Popular Mobilization Forces and demands by the Prime Minister's office of Adil Abdul-Mahdi that local PMF units follow government orders and end unauthorized activity. "The existence of any armed faction operating secretly or openly outside these instructions is forbidden, and is to be considered outside the law and accordingly prosecuted.” From March to July some of these orders have been ignored, specifically by this unit.

A Shabak member of the PMF in April 2017. (Seth J. Frantzman)

The 30th Brigade is called Liwa al-Shabak/Quwat Sahl Nineveh and has in the past worn patches of the Badr Organization. Despite recruiting among members of the minority Shabak (Shebek) group in Nineveh, a group persecuted by ISIS, the 30th Brigade has been accused of abuses. Members of the nearby 50th Brigade have also been accused of being an impediment to the return of IDPs. The US has taken note. Sanctions were imposed in July. This has increased pressure on the 30th Brigade and figures related to other local units.

The area of the protests, on the Mosul-Erbil road near Bazwaya is an area rich in diversity and history. Bazwaya has been highlighted before because the village is an area where Shi'ite Shabaks have sought safety but also an area where Shabaks have clashed with neighboring Christian villages. A research in 2017 suggested segregating Christian and Shabak areas here. This has led to accusations of "demographic change" in Nineveh at the expense of Christian groups who have just begun returning after ISIS was defeated in 2017.

The result of the tensions has been protests by members of the brigades and local supporters. On August 5 at ten in the morning men turned out to block the road from Mosul to Erbil. They stood near a local PMF checkpoint.

Images from August 5 posted on social media and shared online show tired burning. K. Botane writes "Now: Brigade 30 of Hashd Al-Shabi and it’s supporters coming out for a protest against new released decision from Iraqi PM by withdrawing brigade 30 of Hashd Al-Shabi in Nineva plain.. protesters blocked the road between Erbil and Mosul." Ali Baroodi, a local academic, notes "Mosul-Erbil road is blocked by these PMF guys to protest against the PM decision on the 30th brigade of the PMF."

Signs held by the protesters said that the 30th Brigade "guarantees security and stability of governance of city of Mosul." Another relates to a local tribe called Abu Morad (ابو مراد) that says it condemned the Prime Minister's decision to ask 30th Brigade to withdraw.

The Prime Minister, reportedly in Diyala when news of the protest broke, had received complaints about the decision from MP Hunain AlQaddo of the Fatah Alliance. Federal Police may be deployed after the protests. Later in the afternoon on August 5 protesters clashed with Iraqi army and police on the same road where they had been protesting all day.

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