Monday, April 2, 2012

Increased attacks against Shabaks in Nineveh

ERBIL, April 2 (AKnews) – Militant groups have increased attacks against Shabaks who are being actively targeted in the northern province of Nineveh amid failure of security forces in the province to protect the minority group.

Over the last month, there have been at least six deadly attacks against Shabaks in Nineveh province. Some of them have been covered by media outlets, which are mainly Kurdistan-based, while others have kept the public in the dark.

On Sunday, a Shabak secondary school headmaster in Mosul was shot dead by a gunman in the school library - the story was not covered by the media. Zakariya Yahya al-Ali was the headmaster of al-Mas'oudi Secondary School for Boys in Mosul's al-Ta'mim neighborhood.

"A gunman pretending to be the guardian of one of the school boys, who wanted to talk to the headmaster, entered the school and asked where he could find Mr Ali.

"The man was shown the way to the library where Ali was. He shot him three times. One of the deadly bullets went through his throat," said one of Ali's brothers.

Media coverage of the Shabak killings has been relatively low and officials have withheld information or avoided mentioning the ethnicity of the victims.

All the attacks against Shabaks have targeted civilians, in the majority of the cases, ordinary self-employed people unlike assassinations in Baghdad and Anbar where mainly security personnel and government employees are targeted.
  • Last month, an explosion in Mosul's Nabi Younes area left five casualties. One of the dead was later revealed to be a Shabak student from Jilwa Khan village. Nabi Younes is located in an area known locally as Souk al-Akrad (Marketplace of the Kurds) because the majority of the residents are Kurds and Shabaks.
  • On March 4, a Shabak man was gunned down with a silencer in the North Garage area in Mosul. He was identified by Shabak News as Husam Al-Dean Shehab Mawlood .
There were also at least nine deaths among Shabaks after two separate attacks in January this year.

On January 16, at least 8 Shabaks were killed and four others injured in a car bomb attack in Bartilla district, east of Mosul city.

The car went off in the Al-Ghadeer residential complex that is resided predominantly by the Shabaks. A second car bomb set to explode in a nearby neighborhood was disarmed by security forces.

On January 18, militants in Mosul city shot dead a Shabak man and wounded his brother as the two were leaving home for work.
Shabaks are a mainly civilian and peaceful minority, who are not much involved in the government. The only motive for armed groups to attack them is that they are Shiites and support Kurdish nationalism.

There are an estimated 450,000 Shabaks in Iraq, according to the United Nations, with 90% of them living in Nineveh, the provincial capital of Mosul - which is one of Iraq's most dangerous cities.

Since 2003, the area has witnessed some of the deadliest militant attacks, and in recent months has become the scene of daily armed attacks.

"In general the Shabaks are targeted because they belong to Kurdish nationalism and the Shia Shabaks are the most targeted," said Salem 
Khudr al-Shabaki, the head of the Shabak Advisory Board in Nineveh.

"The al-Qaeda and remnants of the Baath Party are behind these massacres," al-Shabaki added.

Shabaks are not only suffering at the hands of the armed groups. They also complain about discrimination by, and Arabization policies of the mainly Arab Nineveh Provincial Council.

Khudr al-Shabaki says Nineveh Provincial Council is deliberately Arabizing areas inhabited by ethnic Shabak people through the distribution of land to Arabs.

In June 2011, Nineveh provincial council handed out approximately 6,000 residential lots among state employees in the Nineveh Plain district. Shabaki said the land was largely given to Arabs at the expense of Kurds and Shabaks.

The council said the lots were allocated through a random draw. However, if this was the case this would still result in a large number of Arabs moving into Shabak areas because the number of Arabs across the region is higher than those of the minority group.

There is great sensitivity around the issue of demographic shifts in the province.

During Saddam Hussein's rule thousands of families from minorities were pushed out of their homes to be replaced with Arabs.

Shabak families were forced to migrate to Harir in Kurdistan region in the 1980s, after refusing to register their nationality as Arab.