A video that appears to show a young boy being deliberately crushed under a tank by armed forces in Iraq has been widely shared over the weekend in the country. In the shocking footage individuals in military uniform, allegedly the ‘Popular Mobilization Units’, a collection of Shia militias engaged in the fight against Daesh, can be seen dragging a child through the desert and firing shots at him before placing him head-first under a tank.
The victim was named on social media as Muhammad Ali Al-Hadidi from a village south of Mosul. In the video, the soldiers use anti-Sunni sectarian slurs against the terrified child. Meanwhile, individuals on Twitter claimed that the child’s family were moderate and not involved with Daesh.
The response to the attack on Iraqi social media has revealed the deep sectarian divides facing the country, with many using divisive language to refer to the Popular Mobilization Units, and the army.
Added to that, accusations have been flying as to whom is really depicted in the horrifying images. The Middle East Monitor has reported that the uniforms of the troops perpetrating the horrific crime appear to be those of the Iraqi army, and to bear the insignia of the Iraqi Special Forces. Others have suggested on social media that the video is propaganda produced by Daesh against Iraqi forces, citing the lack of an Iraqi flag on the tank and clothing resembling that of the Islamist group in other videos.
The hashtag “crushed by a tank” was used by Iraqis to share responses on Twitter:
Activists using the hashtag #CrushedByATank to highlight the crime of the running over of a displaced boy by Iraqi government troops #MosulNow
#السحق_بالدبابه هذا ماشاهدتموه فقط ...وما لم تشاهدوه يبقي أكثر فضاعة ولا يخطر علي قلب بشر ..— جمال البرغوثي (@albargothyjamal) November 11, 2016
#CrushedByATank This is only what you have seen... What you don't see is still more disgraceful, and inconceivable for a human heart.
يقولون ان فيديو السحق بالدبابة خدعة من داعش لتشويه صورة الحشد وهل الحشد يحتاج لتشويه...هو التشويه بعينه!— ناصر التميمي (@nasertamimi) November 12, 2016
They say that the video of the tank crushing has been faked by Daesh to tarnish the image of the [Popular Mobilization Forces] but they don't need their image to be tarnished... it is already fully warped!
This comes as the Iraqi federal police have denied accusations in an Amnesty International report of the torture and extrajudicial killing of six people in Mosul last month. In a statement on his Facebook page, the Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi described the Amnesty report as publishing “incorrect information”. He added that the killings were carried out by local civilians against members of Daesh, and claimed that such reports were “endangering the security” of civilians.
At a time when al-Abadi is calling for the country to unify behind the armed forces in the fight to liberate Mosul, such incidents, and the response to them, threaten to undermine confidence in the military and to feed the divisions between sectarian militias in the country. With the army, representing the Shia-majority government, Christian, Sunni and Shia militias and the Kurdish Peshmerga all engaged against Daesh in Mosul, it remains to be seen how tensions between the groups will work out once Daesh has been defeated in the country.
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