Persecution of Shias by ISIL

The persecution of Shia Muslims by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) took place in its formerly controlled areas in Iraq and Syria.

Persecution of Shias by ISIL
Part of the Iraqi Civil War (2014–2017)
Location Iraq
DateJune 2014 – December 2017
TargetShia Muslims, primarily civilians
Attack type
Genocidal massacre, ethnic cleansing, forced conversion
Perpetrators Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant
Defenders Iraq


MotiveReligious persecution, human trafficking, and forced conversions to Sunni Islam.[3]

Despite being the religious majority in Iraq, Shia Muslims have been killed in large numbers by ISIL. On 12 June 2014, ISIL killed 1,700 unarmed Shia Iraqi Army cadet recruits in the Camp Speicher massacre.[4][5][6] ISIL has also targeted Shia prisoners.[7] According to witnesses, after the militant group took the city of Mosul, they divided the Sunni prisoners from the Shia prisoners.[7] Up to 670[8] Shia prisoners were then taken to another location and executed.[7] Kurdish officials in Erbil reported on the incident of Sunni and Shia prisoners being separated and Shia prisoners being killed after the Mosul prison fell to ISIL.[7]

Amnesty International has held ISIL responsible for the ethnic cleansing of ethnic and religious minority groups in northern Iraq (Christians and Yezidis) on a "historic scale", putting entire communities "at risk of being wiped off the map of Iraq". In a special report released on 2 September 2014, it described how ISIL had "systematically targeted non-Sunni Muslim communities, killing or abducting hundreds, possibly thousands, of individuals and forcing more than tens of thousands of Shias, Sunnis, along with other minorities to flee the areas it has captured since 10 June 2014". The most targeted Shia groups in Nineveh Governorate were Shia Turkmens and Shabak, who have lived together for centuries in Nineveh, large parts of which came under ISIL's control from mid-2014 to late 2017.[9]

The fall of Mosul 2014

In summer 2014, Shia properties in Mosul and other ISIL-held areas were painted with the letter ر (resh) for Rafidah, a derogatory term for Shias used by some Sunni Muslims. Houses and shops owned by Shias were confiscated by ISIL and given to local ISIL supporters or foreign fighters.[10] Thousands of Shia Shabaks and Turkmen fled the cities of Mosul, Tal Afar, and the rest of Nineveh Governorate to safer Shia-majority areas in Iraq.[11]

Attacks against Shias in Bashir

Thousands of Shias from villages in Salahudin and Kirkuk governorates fled to neighbouring villages in Kirkuk after three Shia villages were attacked by ISIL and at least 40 civilians including children were killed near the town of Bashir.[10][12]

Destruction of Shia shrines and places of worship

ISIL views Shia Muslims as polytheists and heretics. Therefore, it started a campaign to destroy all Shia shrines, mosques and places of worship in Nineveh and all ISIL-held areas. Reports stated that at least 10 Shia shrines and hussiniyas including historical ones in Mosul and Tal Afar were demolished or blown up by ISIL during this campaign.[13] In July 2016, ISIL attacked a Shia shrine during the Muhammad ibn Ali al-Hadi Mausoleum attack, killing anywhere from 56 to at least 100 people, not including the attackers.

Genocide claims

On the 17th of March 2016, United States Secretary of State John Kerry declared that the violence initiated by ISIL against Shia Muslims and others in Iraq and Syria amounted to genocide.[14][15] He said:

“In my judgment, Daesh is responsible for genocide against groups in areas under its control including Yazidis, Christians and Shia Muslims" - John Kerry

Kerry's statement came the same week the US House voted 383-0 in favor of classifying the atrocities committed by ISIL as a genocide against certain ethnic and religious minorities in its territories.[14][15][16]

See also


  1. Elise Labott; Tal Kopan (March 17, 2016). "John Kerry: ISIS responsible for genocide". CNN. Retrieved March 17, 2016.
  3. "Islamic State Killed 500 Yazidis, Buried Some Victims Alive". Huffington Post. 10 August 2014. Retrieved 11 August 2014.
  4. "Terrifying execution images in Iraq; U.S. Embassy in Baghdad relocates some staff". CNN. Retrieved 2015-12-22.
  5. "Iraqi court sentences 24 to death over Speicher massacre". Middle East Monitor – The Latest from the Middle East. Retrieved 6 August 2015.
  6. "احصائية رسمية: 1997 العدد الكلي لمفقودي مجزرتي سبايكر وبادوش". Rudaw. Retrieved 6 August 2015.
  7. Harding, Luke; Irbil, Fazel Hawramy in. "Isis accused of ethnic cleansing as story of Shia prison massacre emerges". the Guardian. Retrieved 2015-12-22.
  9. "Iraq crisis: Islamic State accused of ethnic cleansing". BBC News. 2 September 2014. Retrieved 25 September 2014.
  10. "Iraq: ISIS Abducting, Killing, Expelling Minorities". Human Rights Watch. Retrieved 26 March 2016.
  11. "Iraq crisis: Islamic State accused of ethnic cleansing". BBC News. 2 September 2014. Retrieved 25 September 2014.
  12. Abigail Hauslohner (23 June 2014). "Shiite villagers describe 'massacre' in northern Iraq". Washington Post. Retrieved 26 March 2016.
  13. "ISIS demolish ancient mosques and temples in western Iraq". Mail Online. 7 July 2014. Retrieved 26 March 2016.
  14. "Remarks on Daesh and Genocide". U.S. Department of State. Retrieved 26 March 2016.
  15. Amanda Holpuch. "John Kerry: Isis is committing genocide in Syria and Iraq". the Guardian. Retrieved 26 March 2016.
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