By Sulome Anderson, Foreign Policy
The northern Iraqi village of Bashir has been all but flattened by war. Abandoned houses lie in heaps of rubble along the eerily quiet streets. Upon first glance, the village appears uninhabited, but every now and then a solemn-looking child will appear in a doorway. Down one dusty alley, a teenage boy plays with a live electrical wire, causing showers of sparks to dance across the ground.
A man emerges from a nearby building, rolling a wheelbarrow full of broken stones. He moved back to Bashir after the Kurdish Peshmerga liberated the town in May from the Islamic State, also referred to by the Arabic acronym Daesh. The Hashd al-Shaabi, or Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), a collection of Shiite volunteer militias with varying ties to Iran, also participated in the battle in a support role. Following the liberation of Bashir, though, the Peshmerga ceded control of the village, with its Shiite Turkmen population, to the PMF, which is now completely responsible for administration and security in Bashir.
“I am not afraid,” the man with the wheelbarrow stops to say. “Daesh still attacks us sometimes, but the Hashd al-Shaabi are here to protect us. Besides, it’s been two years now since we fled…
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