Iran-Backed Militia Refuses to Comply with Orders to Withdraw from Nineveh Plain, Stages Protest

August 5, 2019 protest against Iraqi PM's order for Brigade 30 to withdraw.

Hundreds of protestors believed to be affiliated with Brigade 30 of the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) set up blockades in parts of the Nineveh Plain today, blocking the main roads between Mosul and Erbil. Some of the protestors were Brigade 30 soldiers dressed in civilian clothing. The protest was held in response to the Iraqi Prime Minister’s July 2019 decision ordering PMU Brigade 30 and Brigade 50 (“Babylon Brigades”) to withdraw from Hamdaniya District and Tel Keppe District, respectively, in the Nineveh Plain.

In order to block roads, protestors formed human barricades and also used vehicles as well as fires and dirt barriers. They subsequently blocked the deployment of Iraqi Army soldiers in the area.

The protest was a major disruption for locals, particularly for those who work in neighboring provinces and were unable to travel. Many locals were also distressed by the protest, fearful that it may lead to armed conflict in the region.

Brigade 30 is presently stationed in Hamdaniya District, namely in the Assyrian town of Bartella. It is a Shabak-majority force affiliated with the Shabak Democratic Assembly; however, both Brigade 30 and Brigade 50 operate under the leadership and command of the Iran-backed Badr Organization with the backing of powerful nonlocal PMU forces. The force has gained a reputation for perpetrating abuses and harassing local Assyrian populations.