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

Iraq’s Mosul celebrates first post-IS Christmas

Mohammed Salim writes for AFP:

Hymns and cries of joy filled a church in Iraq's second city Mosul on Sunday as worshippers celebrated Christmas there for the first time in four years after the end of jihadist rule.

Mass opened with the Iraqi national anthem as women ululated, despite the modest decorations inside the church and the armoured cars and police outside.

"This is a sign that life is returning to Mosul," said wheelchair-bound Hossam Abud, 48, who returned earlier this month from exile in Iraqi Kurdistan.

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Judge Sides With ACLU, Ruling American Detainee In Iraq Has Right To Lawyer

Amy Held reports for NPR:

"Somewhere in Iraq, a United States citizen has been in the custody of the U.S. armed forces for over three months."

That is how a federal Judge on Saturday begins her ruling, describing the situation of a never-charged American classified as an enemy combatant, as she ordered the Pentagon provide the prisoner with "immediate" access to a lawyer.

The still-unnamed man was captured by the Syrian militia in mid-September and handed over to the U.S. military as a suspected member of the Islamic State.

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The men saving history from ISIS

Lesley Stahl reports for CBS News:

We have come across an unlikely band of brothers on the battlefield against terrorism. They are men of the cloth, a pair of padres, who go into harm's way to find and protect ancient religious books and manuscripts.

We joined them in a region of Iraq that was once Mesopotamia where human culture and learning really began. It's believed to be the birthplace of mathematics, writing and agriculture and recently, the scene of some of the fiercest battles in the U.S.-backed war against ISIS.

Father Columba, a Benedictine monk from Minnesota and Father Najeeb Michaeel, a Dominican friar from Iraq decided to partner up to rescue what old documents they could from places like this monastery, Mar Behnam, in Northern Iraq that goes back to the 4th century. It was occupied and defaced by ISIS.

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Mosul’s morgue men endured worst of Islamic State butchery

Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Maggie Michael write for AP:

The young man ended up on the morgue’s examining table in two parts.

The morgue in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul was where atrocity met bureaucracy, the processing point for the machine of butchery that the Islamic State group created across its territory in Iraq and Syria. Every day, the doctors and staff witnessed the worst of what the militants were capable of inflicting on a human being, constantly fearing they could be next.

Yet the morgue men of Mosul found ways large and small to defy their captors by honoring the dead as best they could.

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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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