Iraq’s Christian men are taking up arms to fight ISIS

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Angie Chui 05 February 2015
(Photo: Reuters)
They have had enough of the terror and now Iraqi Christians are signing up to receive training to protect their homes and loved ones from the threat brought on by the Islamic State (ISIS).
According to a report by Newsweek, 3,000 Assyrian Christian men have registered for the Nineveh Plains Protection Units (NPU) while 500 are already being trained for combat. The NPU is a militia unit founded by the Assyrian Democratic Movement to counter the further advancement of ISIS forces on Assyrian lands.

“This is our last stand, if this fails then Christianity will be finished in Iraq,” said John Michael, a British American in Iraq.

In an interview with the Assyrian International News Agency, 26-year-old Nasser Abdullad shared that they joined the militia because government forces abandoned them last summer. “I want to defend our own lands, with our own force.”

Abdullah is among those who train the new recruits in the art of combat.

According to the Catholic Herald, the NPU is being supported by fellow Assyrians in the United States, Australia, and Sweden. The first to join are also reportedly receiving training from an American security company.

It remains unclear, however, whether the organisation could support the training of the rest of the recruits. Organisers expressed optimism that the US National Defense Authorization Act, passed last December by the US Congress could become a source of funds in the fight against the ISIS.

The USNDAA has earmarked roughly $1.6 billion funding for “local forces that are committed to protecting highly vulnerable ethnic and religious minority communities in Nineveh Plains and elsewhere.”

Of the territory, only Al Qosh, and three small villages remain free as most of the Christians have been forced out of the Nineveh Plains by ISIS attacks.

“It’s also important for the locals to send a message to ISIS that they are not going to allow the demographic change to become permanent. The Assyrians want their land back and they – as well as the Turkmen and the Yazidis – are sending a message that: ‘We are going to come back and we are not going to leave our villages and towns and our cultures to be destroyed. We want to come back to our homes and, no matter what we face, we’re willing to fight and take that back.’ I think that is a positive message for the entire nation,” Iraq expert Sajad Jiyad said.