Christian men are joining local militias in Iraq to fight ISIS and take their towns back, after the group's campaign of terror across the region.
Those who have just about had enough of ISIS and their brutal tactics are taking up arms, in the hope of rooting out the ruthless thugs who are trying to overtake the country. It's no small task and the consequences could be deadly, if they fall into the hands of the insurgents.
Hundreds of Christian men have taken arms to fight ISIS in Iraq and are now training at an old U.S. base in the northeast mountains. Despite the appearance to the rest of the world, that ISIS is free to rule without opposition, there are groups who are getting ready to fight them.
Those who are just joining the fighting force say that their families were abandoned by the government when the militants made their push through the Nineveh area last year. "I want to defend our own lands, with our own force," said Nasser Abdullah, 26, who is helping lead younger recruits in training, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Sunni fighters assigned to protect their neighborhoods supported the ISIS militants as they took town after town and left the population vulnerable to their brutal rule. Kurdish forces also fled, which allowed the rapid advance and fall of major Iraqi cities, which U.S. troops fought hard to take in the first part of the U.S. campaign.
Now, as the world is awakening to the reality that ISIS not only targets westerners, but Muslims as well, Christian men in Iraq are creating militias and training to face this evil. Christians are a minority in Iraq, and have been targeted by ISIS since the campaign of terror began this past summer, after Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki stepped down. Reports of beheadings, crucifixions, and death if they don't convert are coming out of Iraq in recent months.
"Those who betrayed us won't be allowed to live among us," Firas Metr, a 27-year-old electrician and recruit with no military experience.
"We need to protect ourselves, now and in the future."The Assyrian Democratic Movement has announced the formation of the Nineveh Plain Protection Units (NPU), a militia, largely composed of Christian volunteers, created to defend civilians from ISIS. The NPU also hopes to recapture land that was taken over by the Islamic State.
"As the NPU grow in strength and size, they will become part of the official security forces of the proposed province, ensuring protection for the lands, homes and lives of Iraq's minority populations," according to the press release.
It is estimated that around 30,000 Christians have been forced to flee their homes in the Nineveh Plains. Across Iraq, the figure is about 150,000 displaced people, according to the nation's community leaders.
It is not clear whether the Christian militias have enough money to train new recruits in Iraq, and leaders are seeking financial help from the U.S.
"One of the biggest problems is that when ISIS leaves an area, it leaves it full of roadside bombs and mines and traps everywhere, which makes the place uninhabitable for anybody who wants to move back," according to Michael Stephens, a Middle East expert at the Royal United Services Institute for Defense and Security Studies.
According to the U.S. National Defense Authorization Act -- which was approved in December -- local security forces in Iraq are potential beneficiaries of as much as $1.6 billion to train and equip fighters against ISIS. The money could go to support "local forces that are committed to protecting highly vulnerable ethnic and religious minority communities in the Nineveh Plain and elsewhere."
"We need help from the international community to get heavy weapons to defend our land," said Michael, a 28-year-old Christian militiaman from Iraq.
[Image via Mackenzie Knowles-Coursin for the Wall Street Journal]