(JNS.org) Iraqi Assyrian Christians have formed the country’s first Christian militia to defend their ancient villages and to fight the Islamic State terror group.
The militia, which calls itself Dwekh Nawsha—an Assyrian phrase meaning self-sacrifice—was formed in August following the rapid advance of Islamic State jihadists on their ancient homeland in northern Iraq’s Nineveh Plains.
“We are small in size but big in faith,” said Lieutenant-Colonel Odisho, the former Iraqi army officer in charge of the militia’s new recruits, AFP reported.
According to the Assyrian International News Agency, it is estimated that up to 200,000 Christians and other minorities such as the Yazidis fled their villages in northern Iraq after the assault by Islamic State during the summer.
The decision to form the militia came after many Assyrians blamed the Kurdish Peshmerga fighters for abandoning Assyrian towns as Islamic State jihadists launched their swift assault last summer.
“The Kurds did not protect us, the Iraqi government did not protect us,” a Christian fighter told AFP.
On Dwekh Nawsha’s Facebook page, the Christian militia has posted several pictures and videos of armed fighters wearing military fatigues similar to that of the Kurdish Peshmerga, but instead emblazoned with the Assyrian flag arm patch. Other videos on the group’s YouTube page show the Christian fighters on military exercises in and around villages in northern Iraq.
It is estimated that the Christian militia has about 2,000 volunteers, according to the Assyrian Democratic Movement, Iraq’s top Christian political party. These Christians will likely fight alongside the Peshmerga, which has been buoyed by military and financial support from the West in its fight against Islamic State.