Secretive Iraqi minority bears brunt of sectarian violence

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Azzaman, October 29, 2012

You are unwanted in Iraq if you belong to a minority. But one could even be cursed if they were part of a secretive community like Shabaks.

The Shabaks are ethnically and religiously abhorred by other communities and they have been target not only of anger but persecution of the powerful in Iraq, namely Arabs and Kurds.

The issue is you can only survive as a Shabak in Iraq if you profess and proselytize. That means if you have to be one of us otherwise “you are against us.”

And because the Shabaks, numbering about 500,000 people and mainly inhabiting villages outlying the northern city of Mosul, are not Kurds, are not Arabs, are not Muslim Shiites, are not Muslim Sunnis and are not Christians, nobody loves them.

Their villages have been the scene of devastating bombings in which thousands of people were either killed or injured. More than 1,000 of this very small and secretive community have been brutally murdered since the 2003-U.S. invasion of Iraq.

Only a few days ago, a whole Shabak family was ruthlessly butchered in a neighborhood of Mosul.

They are so vulnerable and weak that they are shunned even by Iraqi Christians in the area of Mosul, though Iraqi Christians, like other minorities, have themselves been repeatedly targeted and forced to flee.

It is not clear where from the Shabak came to Iraq and historians have always wondered about their origins.

What is clear is that they have developed their own brand of religion, a distinctive culture and a distinctive language in the centuries they have been settling in their areas in northern Iraq.

Their demands for recognition have gone unheeded.

The Kurds want to add their villages, with strategic locations in the plateau of Mosul and plenty of resources, to their semi-independent enclave in northern Iraq.

Kurdish militias and security organizations exercise a heavy hand on their areas, compelling the Shabaks to read Kurdish in their schools.

Sunni Arabs, the majority in the area of Mosul, see them as a threat because many of them have allied themselves with Shiite political parties in the south or Kurds in the north.

Thousands of Shabaks were forced to flee Mosul, the capital of the Province of Nineveh.

Traditionally, members of this community have been considered a low class in Iraq, much like the Yazidis, another secretive and persecuted people.