Iraq’s Christian paramilitaries split in IS fight

by Peter Henderson, AL-Monitor.com  |  published on November 1, 2014

In the town of Alqosh, at the northern limit of the Ninevah Plains, uniformed and armed members of the Assyrian Democratic Movement’s (ADM) force once patrolled the streets. The town of around 10,000 Christians sits on the first hills to emerge from the plain, with a single road leading into it.

The ADM is one of Iraq’s main Christian political parties, with two deputies in the Council of Representatives in Baghdad and two members in the Kurdistan parliament in Erbil. The party has had armed forces since the 1980s, when it mobilized against Saddam Hussein’s regime in alliance with the Kurds. Currently, the armed forces are thought to number around 2,000 men, most of whom provide security in party offices.

In Alqosh, there are now around 40 members of the ADM force — an increase from before the Islamic State’s (IS) arrival in the area. In early August, IS’ advance precipitated an evacuation of the town’s civilians. While they were away, the ADM force patrolled the town, mainly to prevent theft and looting. Since the people came back, the forces have restricted their activities to observing the plains from their office rather than patrolling the town, with plans to safeguard any future evacuation. ADM force members told Al-Monitor that their ending of patrols was due to a desire not to intimidate local people. There is perhaps some truth in this, although it is also true that the ADM is not universally popular in Alqosh, and that for many people the ADM force is somewhat irrelevant.