Iraq Oil Report's Daily Brief compiles the most important news and analysis about Iraq from around the web.

How ISIS Changed the Yezidi Religion

Cathy Otten writes for The Atlantic:

On a recent Friday afternoon, Yezidi musicians led a procession of worshipers toward a newly rebuilt temple on a hillside in northern Iraq. Women burned incense and the congregation threw handfuls of sweets at the flute and drum players. Hundreds of local Yezidis from the town of Behzane, near Mosul, had gathered to reopen one of the temples blown up by ISIS.

“We are so excited to be back,” said a flute player, Arean Hassan. The spiraling, rhythmic music played by Yezidi musicians, known as Qawwals, had been absent from the hills of Behzane for three years under ISIS. Around the newly rebuilt temple stood the charred stumps of olive trees that ISIS had burned to the ground.

But there’s an unavoidable question at the heart of the happiness and defiance of the worshipers, who not long ago were targeted for genocide precisely because of these religious practices. How do you rehabilitate a religion that’s been singled out for such intense trauma and displacement?

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Iraqi Shi’ite paramilitaries deploy to Syrian border

Ahmed Aboulenein writes for Reuters:

Iraqi Shi‘ite paramilitary groups have deployed to the frontier to back up border guard forces who came under fire from within Syria over the past three days, one of their commanders said on Friday.

There was no immediate word on who opened fire from Syrian territory, but forces arrayed against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria expect the group will resort to guerrilla warfare after losing its urban bastions earlier this year.

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Mosul is a graveyard: Final IS battle kills 9,000 civilians

Susannah George, Qassim Abdul-Zahra, Maggie Michael and Lori Hinnant report for AP:

The price Mosul's residents paid in blood to see their city freed was 9,000 to 11,000 dead, a civilian casualty rate nearly 10 times higher than what has been previously reported. The number killed in the nine-month battle to liberate the city from the Islamic State group marauders has not been acknowledged by the U.S.-led coalition, the Iraqi government or the self-styled caliphate.

But Mosul's gravediggers, its morgue workers and the volunteers who retrieve bodies from the city's rubble are keeping count.

Iraqi or coalition forces are responsible for at least 3,200 civilian deaths from airstrikes, artillery fire or mortar rounds between October 2016 and the fall of the Islamic State group in July 2017, according to an Associated Press investigation that cross-referenced independent databases from non-governmental organizations.

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Kurdistan Region of Iraq: 350 Prisoners ‘Disappeared’

Human Rights Watch reports:

More than 350 detainees held by the Kurdistan Regional Government in the Iraqi city of Kirkuk are feared to have been forcibly disappeared, Human Rights Watch said today.

Those missing are mainly Sunni Arabs, displaced to Kirkuk or residents of the city, detained by the regional government’s security forces, the Asayish, on suspicion of Islamic State (also known as ISIS) affiliation after the regional forces took control of Kirkuk in June 2014. Local officials told Human Rights Watch that the prisoners were no longer in the official and unofficial detention facilities in and around Kirkuk when Iraqi federal forces regained control of the area on October 16, 2017.

“Families in Kirkuk are desperate to know what has become of their detained relatives,” said Lama Fakih, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “The secret, incommunicado detentions raise grave concerns for their safety.”

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U.S. concerned by KRG security raid on local broadcaster: embassy

Reuters reports:

The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad said on Wednesday it was concerned by the closure of a local Kurdish broadcaster at the hands of Iraqi Kurdish security forces a day earlier.

“We are concerned by recent actions to curb the operations of some media outlets through force or intimidation, specifically yesterday’s raid by Kurdistan Regional Government security forces of the NRT offices in Sulaimaniya,” the embassy said in a statement.

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Associated Press figures on Mosul deaths are horrifying but not surprising

Amnesty International reports:

Responding to an investigation from the Associated Press news agency showing that between 9,000 and 11,000 civilians were killed in the battle for Mosul earlier this year, Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty International‘s Head of Middle East Research, said: “We are horrified, but not surprised, by these new figures."

According to the Associated Press investigation, which cross-referenced information from various NGOs (including Amnesty), Iraqi or coalition forces were responsible for at least 3,200 civilian deaths from airstrikes, artillery fire or mortar rounds between October 2016 and the fall of ISIS in Mosul in July. Many of these newly-reported deaths were a direct result of civilians being killed or crushed under buildings damaged in attacks by the coalition and Iraqi government forces that were disproportionate or otherwise indiscriminate.

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Back in business: River cruise weddings return to war-torn Iraq’s Basra

AFP reports:

To the sound of drums and trumpets, an Iraqi groom and his bride this week stepped hand-in-hand onto a speed boat on the river in Basra to celebrate.

Their wedding on Monday was the first such celebration to be held on the Shatt al-Arab waterway running through the southern city since the 1980s.

Aboard the small speed boat decorated with tinsel and balloons, laborer Hussein Ali Jabbar and his wife donned captain hats and posed for the camera.

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Iraq patriarch looks to life after war with IS

Sinan Salaheddin writes for AP:

As Iraq emerges from more than three years of war with the Islamic State group, battling an extremist “mentality” will be the key to peaceful coexistence among the country’s religious and ethnic groups, the top Chaldean Catholic Church official tells The Associated Press.

Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako, leader of the Iraq-based church, also appealed for an end to discrimination against Christians in Iraq and the reconstruction of Christian areas in the country’s north left in ruins by the war to enable Christian families to return.

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Reporters Without Borders: 65 journalists, media workers killed in 2017

CBS News reports:

A total of 65 journalists and media workers were killed in 2017, the lowest toll in 14 years, according to figures released on Tuesday by Reporters Without Borders. The non-governmental organization said 60 percent of those killed were murdered. It added that 326 people working in media -- including 202 professional journalists -- are also being detained.

Syria was the deadliest country for journalists, with 12 killed, one more than in Mexico where many journalists have "either fled abroad or abandoned journalism."

Behind Syria and Mexico, the deadliest countries for reporters were Afghanistan, where nine journalists were killed in 2017, and Iraq, where eight perished. With four journalists gunned down, the Philippines was Asia's deadliest country.

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Germany ties Iraq aid to peaceful resolution of conflict with Kurds

Andrea Shalal reports for Reuters:

Germany on Monday said its continued support for Iraq and the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government was contingent on peaceful efforts by both sides to resolve their differences.

“Our support is for Iraq as a unified state,” Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel told reporters after meeting with KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani in Berlin.

“We want to continue that, but the precondition is that Iraq solves its internal conflicts peacefully and democratically, and that we find a way out of the tense situation we are in now.”

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