Hundreds of supporters of the Shiite paramilitary Popular Mobilization Forces PMF known as Hashid Shaabi and close to Waad Qaddo, a Shabak lawmaker, organized a gathering in Bashiqa district in the Ninewa plain demanding services for their area, while the district mayor insists that "the protests were politically motivated.”
The demonstration, led by Waad Qaddo, also known as Abu Jaafar Shabaki, a former PMF commander and Shabak MP, criticized the Iraqi government and Ninewa Governor Najim Al-Jiburi, just four days after the governor's debate and Waad Qaddo whom exchanged accusations in presence of the Iraqi Premier.
In a meeting in Mosul on July 9, chaired by Prime Minister Mustafa Kadhimi, Al-Jiburi accused Qaddo of causing unrest in the Ninewa Plain and "targeting Erbil with missiles, " while the later vowed, “I promise you that you will not remain in your position.”
No missiles were fired at Erbil from the Ninewa Plain
On July 13, just four days after the debate, supporters of PMF and Qaddo of the Shabak community gathered at the stadium of Bazwaya community in Bashiqa subdistrict, which was led by Qaddo himself.
Murtaza al-Bajdali, a civil activist and one of the participants of the rally, told Kirkuk Now, "The aim of the rally was to address several demands, including the renovation of schools, roads, health and lack of electricity and drinking water.”
"Another purpose of the gathering is that no missiles were fired at Erbil from the Ninewa Plain and we reject these accusations," he added.
Local officials believe the gathering was a show by Qaddo to show his power to the governor of Ninewa he vowed to replace.
"There was a political hand behind the rally. Hashid Shaabi officials wanted to explain the tensions between Najim Al-Jiburi and Waad Qaddo," said Dhanun Younis, the mayor of Bashiqa.
"Another part of the rally was to protest against the construction of a number of housing projects that they (participants of the rally) are not satisfied with the construction of the project, on the pretext of demographic change and settlement of people not originally from the subdistrict.”
At a meeting on July 9, the governor accused Qaddo of preventing people from building houses in their areas in the Ninewa plain saying it was a demographic change, even though the people had official documents proving their real ownership of the lands.
Hashdi Shaabi officials wanted to show the tensions between Najim Al-Jiburi and Waad Qaddo
The Shabak community in Iraq, an ethno-religious group, are estimated be about 300,000 or 350,000 people. 60% of them follow the Shi’a sect, while the rest are Sunnis. The community’s religious practices blend elements of Islam and local beliefs.
They are scattered in the regions of Bashiqa, Bartella, Hamdaniya, Tilkef, a number of neighborhoods of Mosul and some villages of the Nineveh Plain.
According to the statistics of the Bashiqa local administration, 64% of the population of the district are Shabak and live in the center of the district and 24% in the villages.
Saado Qaddo, a leader of Hashd al-Shaabi in the Ninewa Plain, told KirkukNow that the rally had no political purpose. It was only to improve the situation of the people Families have water shortages and buy water. They have no jobs.”
Following the war against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria ISIS in 2017 and taking control of the area, the General Board of Hashd al-Shaabi created a force for the local Shabak community and settled in Bashiqa in the Ninewa Plain and led by Waad Qaddo, who won the quota seat for the Shabak in last October General Elections.
KirkukNow contacted Waad Qaddo on July 13, but he refused to be interviewed over the phone and asked for the questions which has been sent to him but he has not responded up today.
The PMF has been formed back in 2014 per calls of Shiite Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani mid of 2014 to fight the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria ISIS following the collapse of the Iraqi army which has later adopted the al-Hashid.
Back in July 2019, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated two militia figures, Rayan al-Kildani and Waad Qaddo, and two former Iraqi governors, Nawfal Hammadi al-Sultan and Ahmed al-Jubouri, as perpetrators of serious human rights abuse and corruption.
Qaddo was designated for being a foreign person who is or has been a leader or official of an entity that has engaged in or whose members have engaged in serious human rights abuse relating to the leader’s or official’s tenure.
No political motives behind the gathering
"Qado is the leader of the 30th Brigade militia. The 30th Brigade has extracted money from the population around Bartalla, in the Ninewa Plain, through extortion, illegal arrests, and kidnappings," US treasury said then.
"The 30th Brigade has frequently detained people without warrants, or with fraudulent warrants, and has charged arbitrary customs fees at its checkpoints. Members of the local population allege that the 30th Brigade has been responsible for egregious offenses including physical intimidation, extortion, robbery, kidnapping, and rape."
Brigade 30 was deployed in the plains of Ninewa following the ousting of Kurdish Peshmerga from the disputed territories in October 2017.
In August 2019, Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi has ordered the Shabak mobilization to evacuate Ninewa plain yet its supporters took to the streets and blocked Mosul-Erbil highway.
"Our demonstration was not to remove or oppose Najim Al-Jiburi. We demand the renovation of Mosul airport as soon as possible and the construction of health centers. The people who participated in the rally only demanded services, including water and electricity," said Saado Qaddo.
"We are certainly against the construction of housing projects because this will change the demographics of the region and we do not want people from outside to live in Bashiqa," he added.
The Shabak community in 2014 has been subject to the atrocities by the extremist militants of ISIS which took over large swathes of Iraq and almost the entire province of Ninewa.
Out of 664,000 Internally displaced people IDPs, 10% are Shabak, Kaka’i, Turkmen and Assyrian living in 26 IDP camps in Iraqi Kurdistan Region IKR.
The region as part of Ninewa province has suffered severe damage to its utilities.
"As the Shabak community, we are for peace and we have no problems with anyone... Unfortunately, the projects for the Ninewa Plain are being deliberately not implemented and have been completely ignored," said Murtaza al-Bajdali, one of the participants of the protests.
"The responsibility for this situation falls on the Iraqi government and the governor of Ninewa. We ask Najim Al-Jiburi to make a serious effort to solve our problems," al-Bajdali added.
The mayor of Bashiqa affirmed they are sparing no effort to provide better public services.
"We have asked the authorities to solve the problems of the people, but we must also know that compared to other areas of Ninewa, the situation in Bashiqa is better in many ways than other parts. Bashiqa was run by Daesh for three years but after the liberation, hundreds of projects have been implemented for it," said Bashiqa mayor.
"It is true that the main problem of the villages is the lack of water and electricity, but we are trying to solve these two problems with the relevant parties, but this requires budget.”
Ali Omar, one of the deputy governors of Ninewa, said there were some political differences between the Waad Qaddo group and the governor of Ninewa.
“The demonstration is part of the dispute between Najim Al-Jiburi and Waad Qaddo and is a political issue. No one can remove the governor. It is only in the power of the federal government to remove the governor or replace him with someone else," Omar said.
On the same day, July 13, Ninewa Governor announced the "Najim al-Jiburi represents me" campaign on his Facebook page, with supporters showing solidarity for him.
Although Saado Qaddo denied that the aim of the rally was to remove the governor, but the mayor of Bashiqa said, "Even if Al-Jiburi is replaced and someone else becomes governor, the problems will not be solved, and it may be worse."