Ex-Shi’ite militia member speaks of committing war crimes in Iraq while on Iran salary
A 41-year-old Iraqi who allegedly served in Iran-backed militias in Iraq and Syria witnessed massacres, rapes and more war crimes by these groups, according to an interview published Monday by the Middle East Center for Reporting and Analysis (MECRA).
A former member of the Iraqi army during Saddam Hussein’s reign, in 2014 he joined Asaib Ahl al-Haq (The League of the Righteous), one of the Iranian-backed paramilitary groups in Iraq, spurred by the rise of ISIS. While with the group, he said in the interview, made $400-$500 a month and served in an administrative role.
He claims he was a member of Iraqi Shia cleric Muqtada Sadr’s political organization in 2008 when he met an Iraqi working for Iran’s intelligence and joined the Shi’ite-allied Iranian bloc. He met and befriended Qais and Laith al-Khazali, whom the US named terrorists early in 2020.
It was under Laith, he said, that the group attacked innocent civilians in Sunni towns al-Dour and Abu Ajeel as retribution for a commander killed, or martyred, as his group thought.
“I witnessed the massacre on May 4, 2015,” he said. “They brought shovels, and then brought people, and buried them, some still alive, women, children, old men, and men between al-Dour and al-Alam near the telecommunication tower.”
Iranians conceived and led operations in the area he maintained, yet the Iraqis carried them out.
Later, he joined another Iran-backed militia present in Syria and Iraq known as al-Nujaba, where the pay was at least $900 a month. After going to Iran for training, he was separated for having previous military experience and placed in an administrative role.
“The goal was to bring back Iranian domination to Syria,” he said, “not Bashar’s regime. The ultimate goal was to complete the Shia crescent.”
The Shia crescent refers to Iranian hegemony in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, the Arab Gulf states and Yemen, which have a significant Shi’ite population and form a crescent on the map.
“The Iranians are the leaders of Nujaba forces in Syria,” he said. “They give the order and the Iraqi soldier obeys it.”
They would operate in Sunni areas opposing Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria, where he said he witnessed rape twice and other crimes. He would accompany gunman to operations but stay in the car while they were underway.
“Mostly, Iraqis were raping and doing such crimes,” he said, which included destroying mosques and looting.
He asked MECRA to withhold his name for his safety but authorized its publication if he is killed by pro-Iranian forces.
Haidar Mohammed Ali (AFP)An Iraqi fighter of the Shiite militia Asaib Ahl al-Haq (The League of the Righteous) stands guard outside the militia’s headquarters in Basra, on May 18, 2015 (illustrative)