Human Rights

The Shabak, persecuted by ISIS, live peacefully with other communities


There are currently 300,000 Shabak still living in the Nineveh Plains with people of other communities despite ISIS persecution.

The Shabak are a group of people in Iraq who have lived in the northern regions of the country for over five centuries. They are an ethnic group of around 300,000 people living in 35 villages in the Nineveh Plains.  The Shabak have also traditionally coexisted alongside Christians, Yazidis and other minorities in Taklif, Bashiqa, Bartla, Qaraqush and some suburbs of Mosul.

The group also speak their own language, ‘Shabaki’, a a Northwestern Iranian language of the Kurdish Zaza–Gorani group and have their own distinct culture and religious practices.

Although a majority of the Shabak people identify as Shia Muslims, and a minority identify as Sunni Muslims, their practices differ slightly from orthodox teachings of Islam. In reality, the Shabak practice a syncretic faith with elements of Islam, Christianity and Yezidism, and are particularly influenced by elements of Sufi teachings.

As a result of their unorthodox religious beliefs, they were heavily persecuted by ISIS militants, upon their occupation of large parts of Nineveh in the summer of 2014. When ISIS occupied Mosul and the Nineveh plains, there were reports of massacres in Shabak villages at the hands of the militant group. No accurate reports exist concerning the number of casualties, but it’s estimated that hundreds were affected. The kidnapped several families, many of whom remain missing and some fear that they are dead.

Furthermore, more than 6000 Shabak families lost their homes and were forcefully displaced as a result of the horrific actions by the group. Many others fled their homes. The vas majority of these people fled to Shia-majority areas in central and southern Iraq.

Iraq is home to some of the world’s rarest minorities, who’s very existence were threatened by the emergence of ISIS. The Shabak are one of the rarest minority groups in Iraq and as a result have faced a history of violence and oppression at the hands of extremist groups.

However, following the liberation of Nineveh last year, many Shabak people have begun returning to their villages and areas once more and have started to rebuild their lives and community again.