The disturbing footage depicts ululating Iraqi soldiers towering over a clearly terrified child, named as Muhammad Ali Al-Hadidi by activists, who is covered in sand and is raising his hands in fear in a vain attempt to defend himself.
Muhammad is then dragged through the desert before being hurled in front of a US-made Iraqi tank as the soldiers appear to be shouting sectarian slurs against the child, a Sunni. Muhammad is placed head first in front of the tank’s left-hand tracks.
The soldiers then open fire in Muhammad’s general vicinity, before ordering the tank driver to move his vehicle over the defenceless child while telling each other, “Film me! Film me!”
Social media reacts
The footage has caused uproar in the Middle East, with Arab Twitter users launching an Arabic hashtag of “#CrushedByATank” that was trending all throughout last night just after the incident was released.
An Iraqi journalist, Iyad Al-Dulaimi, tweeted: “#CrushedByATank isn’t anything new for the slaves of Qom and Tehran, as they also tore apart the body of an Iraqi prisoner by tying him to two trucks that each drove in opposing directions”
Saudi Arabian journalist Mansour Al-Mit’ib tweeted: “Sensible Sunnis always condemn both Daesh and the PMF, but why are the Shia not condemning the PMF’s crimes? #CrushedByATank”
Shia militias infiltrate the Iraqi Army
In an attempt to allay fears of sectarian atrocities and war crimes being committed against the Sunni Arab population in Mosul, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi has repeatedly stated that only the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) will enter the city.
However, the Iran-backed Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF) are already fighting near Tel Afar, 60 kilometres west of Mosul, and are also present on eastern and southeastern fronts.
Ahmed Almahmoud, an analyst with the Iraqi opposition and monitoring organisation, Foreign Relations Bureau – Iraq (FRBI), told MEMO that stills taken from the footage showed Iraqi army insignias on the uniforms, including badges that appeared to belong to the Iraqi Special Forces.
Iraq experts have repeatedly warned that the ISF has long been infiltrated by Shia militias loyal to ideological ally Iran rather than their home country. These militias, openly and extensively connected to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), have committed sectarian atrocities since 2003.
Not the first time Sunni children murdered
This latest footage comes after a slew of leaks that showed ISF personnel and allied Shia militias from the PMF – who fall under the aegis of the ISF – torturing and killing civilians.
Three days after operations against Daesh in Mosul began last month, MEMO broke the news of footage of sectarian Iraqi soldiers beating children with hammers, striking them on their knees and their heads, and later having slabs of concrete dropped on their fragile bodies.
The same report included footage of an Iraqi child called Ihab Muhammad being beaten by a soldier who was questioning him, just because the soldier did not like the answers he was given about where the child’s family were and which tribe he belonged to.
Late last month, MEMO also reported and published footage of Iraqi children being beaten and insulted by Baghdad’s forces. Two boys around the age of 10-years-old were placed into the back of a pickup truck, slapped around their heads while soldiers planted boots onto their spines, and had gun barrels shoved into their bodies as gleeful soldiers posed for photographs.
Allegations of war crimes
In light of these gruesome atrocities, international human rights organisations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have been releasing regular reports condemning the Iraqi authorities for violating the rights of civilians.
Amnesty’s most recent report slammed the ISF, of which the PMF militias are formally a part of, for grave human rights abuses such as executions, torture and violations that carried sectarian motives.
“Researchers from [Amnesty] visited several villages in the [Al-Shora] and [Qayyarah] sub-districts of Ninawa governorate, south-west and south of Mosul, and gathered evidence indicating that up to six people were extrajudicially executed in late October, apparently due to suspicions they had ties to [Daesh].”
“The Iraqi authorities must urgently investigate reports that fighters wearing Iraqi Federal Police uniforms tortured and extrajudicially executed residents in villages they captured south of Mosul,” added the report.
According to Amnesty, some victims were found beheaded, usually a trademark of Daesh, the extremist organisation the Iraqi government now claims to be attempted to liberate the people of Mosul from.
The adoption of Daesh’s execution methods by ISF and PMF units is, however, nothing new.
“Deliberately killing captives and other defenceless individuals is prohibited by international humanitarian law and is a war crime,” Amnesty International explained, urging the Iraqi government to take action to preserve civilian lives.
Rather than reining in his forces, yesterday Al-Abadi instead blamed Amnesty for endangering the lives of civilians. In a post on his Facebook page, Al-Abadi denounced the international human rights organisation, and said its reports were “endangering the security” of Mosul’s citizens.