‘We have not started a sectarian war’… but ‘we should have burned’ that mosque.

Journalist Ghaith Abdul-Ahad has reported from the front line between the Islamic State and the Iraqi state. Shia militias are defending their territory and reclaiming Sunni places for the Iraqi state – or simply claiming those places for themselves.

One Shia fighter told Abdul-Ahad: ‘We have not started sectarian war, we are just trying to secure our areas’ – but even that fighter wanted to ‘start cleansing Baghdad’. Another noted: ‘When I liberate an area from Isis why do I have to give it back to them [the Sunnis]? Either I erase it or settle Shia in it.‘ Even if that is an insistence on a principle of which they have so far been denied, it does not bode well. Though slaughter can sometimes be disguised as military, the erasure of civilian property confirms that there is a mirror movement towards ethnic cleansing of Sunni communities.

A Sunni village near the frontline was deserted, doors and windows smashed and many houses burned, the walls scribbled with pro-army slogans….
He [Shia fighter Mujtaba] looked at the small mosque, which stood intact. “It[‘]s a shame the mosque is still standing – we should have burned it.”


The Islamic State has also been known as the Caliphate, Da’ash, Da’esh, Da’ish, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

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