Shi’ite Militias Redraw the Map in Central Iraq

Mixed Towns Face Sectarian Pressure on Both Sides

Much of Iraq was already a victim of sectarian cleansing during the US occupation, with Sunni and Shi’ite Arabs each ending up the vast majority in their own cities across the nation as the war grew.

Central Iraq, one of the last places you’ll find a number of mixed towns with significant populations of both religious sects, is now facing the same pressures, with ISIS and Shi’ite militias redrawing the map dramatically.

ISIS’ harsh treatment of Shi’ites has most of them retreating out of ISIS-held towns to the Shi’ite homelands further south, while Shi’ite militias violently crack down on Sunnis in “liberated” towns, forcing many of them to flee into ISIS territory.

In both cases, fleeing civilians are often accused of being enemy infiltrators as they try to escape, and are subject to detention and harsh interrogation. Neutrality is increasingly a luxury civilians don’t have, and waiting out the war is rarely an option, with either the Shi’ite militias, ISIS, or both breathing down everyone’s neck.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is senior editor of