People from mixed communities are coming together to commemorate the predominantly Shia Muslim festival of Ahura in Nineveh Province, Iraq.
The Nineveh Province of northern Iraq represents one of the most diverse areas of the country, where Christians, Sunni Muslims, Shia Muslims, Arabs, Kurds, Shabak, Turkmen live together, among others. The focus in the past week was on the Ashura commemorations among the Shia communities, which included the Shabak and Turkmen.
Much of Nineveh Province was under the occupation of ISIS for years until the liberation efforts of 2017. The terrorist group discriminated against Shia groups in Nineveh and in other parts of Iraq. One episode that empitomised this discrimination was the Speicher Massacre of over a thousand Shia Iraqi Air Force Cadets in Tikrit in 2014.
Since the liberation, thousands of Shia Muslims returned to their homes in Nineveh and are now practising their religious rites freely, one of the most important of which is Ashura, the commemoration of the death of Hussein, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad, in the Battle of Karbala. The Ashura commemorations this year brought together various sects who expressed their desire to leave in a peaceful coexistence:
“We are conveying our message today to the whole world that Iraq is united, and that the multiplicity of sects in Iraq are points of strength, not weakness. We are united in diversity here”, said Alaa Ghanim, a civil society activist.
The army, the police, and the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) set up 3 perimeters in order to secure the areas where the commemoration takes place. The plan was put in place several days ago in anticipation of any emergency.
The Shabak people are known to be a confederation of tribes who speak Shabaki, a language that belongs to the Kurdish Zaza-Gorani continuum. The majority of Shabak people are Shia. The Turkmen are mixed between Shia and Sunni Muslims and speak a language fairly close to the Turkish spoken in Turkey.