A new, Christian-only brigade of the Iraqi military was given one mission after completing its training this week — eradicate the country’s Islamic State presence.
Instead of answering to Baghdad, these recruits will take their orders from Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region, whose fighters seem to be the only ones making any headway against the terrorists, according to AFP via the Daily Mail.
The brigade’s graduation ceremony, held near the Syrian and Turkish borders, was unlike any in recent history. Not only did the Christian troops proudly parade for onlookers, but they jumped through hoops of fire to demonstrate their dexterity and bravery.
The Christian community has good reason to want Islamic State out of Iraq. Most of the country’s Christians were concentrated in the Nineveh plain before the terrorists swept in, killed men, made off with women and created bloody havoc seven months ago.
“Around 600 peshmerga from our Christian brothers in the Nineveh plain joined this course, which focused on physical training, military lectures and shooting exercises,” Abu Bakr Ismail, the commander of the training academy, told AFP. “All the participants are volunteers … and want to liberate their land from IS and then protect it.”
The new brigade is called the “Tiger Guards” and was formed out of the remnants of an Assyrian force first created in 2004 to protect churches in the region.
Up to 100,000 Christians fled their homes overnight in early August when IS fighters who had already conquered large parts of Iraq thrust into areas controlled by the peshmerga.
The exodus has been described as the worst disaster to befall the minority, which is one of the world’s oldest Christian communities.
The brigade’s ostentatious display marks a departure from the community’s typically modest profile. But many believe the time has come to fight back. Those who have not fled to other countries like Jordan appear more willing to take up arms against the Islamic State.
Onward, Christian soldiers.
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