Militia group attacks spa center, migrant workers in Baghdad

The mob beat the two Asian women with batons. They also destroyed office equipment, footage posted on social media showed.

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – A Shia militia group, on Thursday, raided a massage center in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad. The group beat two migrant female workers and caused destruction to the center, according to video footage that is widely circulating on social media.

The video showed a mob of thuggish young men, who were clad in masks and wore black t-shirts, on which was printed Rab’allah (God’s Fellows.)

The violent youths attacked a massage center in the Karrada neighborhood of the Iraqi capital early on Thursday evening. Karrada is on the city’s Shia-dominated east bank.

The mob beat the two Asian women with batons. They also destroyed office equipment, as the social media footage showed.

According to one video, the brutal group of young men, gathered in front of the center, beat the two women on the sidewalk, while a cameraman recorded the violence.

Rab’allah later denied involvement in the attack, even as it described such places as “debauchery centers” and claimed that they have caused “social corruption.”

It also called for closing such facilities through “legal or popular ways.” according to a statement, which was published on the group’s Telegram account.

In mid-October, the same militia group burned down the Baghdad headquarters of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), the largest party in the Kurdistan Region, and it also set fire to the Kurdistani flag.

Read More: Hashd al-Shaabi supporters burn KDP office, Kurdistan flag in Baghdad

That attack drew domestic and international condemnation, including from Britain, which affirmed in a tweet: “addressing political difference through dialogue not violence is a fundamental element of a functioning democracy.”

The US also condemned the attack, blaming “Iranian-backed” elements. “The destabilizing activities of Iran-backed militias operating outside of Government of Iraq control are inflaming ethnic and sectarian tensions and undermining democracy,” State Department Spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said then.

Bayan Abdul Rahman, the representative of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Washington suggested to Kurdistan 24 that the attack was related to a recent agreement between Erbil and Baghdad on the Sinjar area.

Read More: KRG Envoy says burning of KDP office in Baghdad reaction to Sinjar agreement

The agreement is intended to provide security for Sinjar and allow Yezidis, who suffered a brutal, genocidal attack from ISIS in 2014, to return to their ancestral homeland.

The Sinjar area is now under the control of pro-Iranian militias, as well as the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK.)

The left-leaning PKK and the pro-Iranian Islamic militias are, thus, closely aligned in the area. They are, in principle, strongly opposed ideologically. But on a tactical level they cooperate, as they both see benefit for themselves in such an arrangement.

The Sinjar Agreement has yet to be implemented, as the Shia militias and the PKK do not want to give up the territory they control. They have even co-opted Yezidi elements, whom they have empowered, into supporting their position, even as the area’s chronic instability has inhibited the return of the displaced persons who remain, for the most part, in camps in the Kurdistan Region.

Last week, the head of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, called on Baghdad and Erbil to implement the Sinjar Agreement.

Editing by Laurie Mylroie