As Shi’ite Militias Hit Iraq’s Front Lines, Their Death Toll Rises

With Army in Shambles, Iraq Relies on Volunteer Fighters

With Iraq’s military morale plummeting after last month’s routs at the hands of ISIS, the “call to arms” by Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani has mustered a large force of militias and volunteers to defend what remains of Shi’ite Iraq.

The militias have massed north of Baghdad, and are doing a lot of the heavy lifting in the ISIS war. As you’d imagine, that’s taking its toll on the volunteer fighters, many of whom are untrained, and dozens of bodies return home daily.

Eager young volunteers, full of religious fervor, flocked northward for a clash of historic proportions, unprepared for the rigors of what they’d actually be facing. Now, a fleet of golf carts painted black shuttle the slain around Najaf for burial in a massive Shi’ite cemetery.

Exactly how many volunteers have been slain overall remains unclear, as their tolls are not widely reported to the media. The daily procession suggests the losses are significant and mounting, and for ramshackle militias thrown together at the last minute, it remains to be seen how long they can hold ground while taking such losses.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is senior editor of