When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Already a subscriber? Log in .

You've reached your limit of one free article.

Get unlimited access to Worldcrunch

You can cancel anytime .


Exclusive International news coverage

Ad-free experience NEW

Weekly digital Magazine NEW

9 daily & weekly Newsletters

Access to Worldcrunch archives

Free trial

30-days free access, then $2.90
per month.

Annual Access BEST VALUE

$19.90 per year, save $14.90 compared to monthly billing.save $14.90.

Subscribe to Worldcrunch

In Baghdad, Shia Militias Strike As Much Fear As ISIS

In this file photo, Shia militia march through the holy city of Najaf, Iraq
In this file photo, Shia militia march through the holy city of Najaf, Iraq
Benjamin Barthe

BAGHDAD — Ten years ago, this was a park for children. The young boys of Adhamiya, a Sunni district in Baghdad, used to come here to play soccer.

Now, this bare patch of land on the bank of the Tigris river is a makeshift cemetery. A forest of tombstones grew during the darkest years of the civil war, between 2006 and 2008. At the time, the people in this neighborhood, surrounded by Shia houses, did not even dare set foot outside.

“All the people buried here are martyrs, victims of the militias,” sighs one of the cemetery’s employees. “There are about 8,000 of them.”

In the shade of a eucalyptus tree, Abdel Rassoul Mansour is waiting patiently for the women of his family to be done washing the body of his cousin. The 50 year-old taxi driver was shot dead the previous evening as he was coming out of a mosque in Dora, a Sunni district in southern Baghdad.


Located in the “Triangle of Death,” where the fights between U.S. troops and al-Qaeda militants were concentrated during the 2000s , the site is locked down by security forces and Shia militias, who think it is infested with sleeping cells of the Islamic State — the jihadist militant group previously known as ISIS. When asked about the murderer of his cousin, Abdel Rassoul gives a wry smile. “You know better than me,” he replies.

Baghdad is not Benghazi. Militiamen do not hurtle down the streets at breakneck speed in weapons-packed pickups. They know how to work discreetly, in unmarked cars and either ordinary clothes or uniforms. This make it difficult to distinguish, for instance, members of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s private army Asa’ib Ahl Al-Haq (“the League of the Righteous”) from official security forces.

The group, which pretty much has free rein over the area, is everywhere: at the gates of the Green Zone — a fortress within the fortress, where most government buildings are located — and at the cities most troubled checkpoints, in Dora, Hamadia and Saadiya, the former strongholds of the anti-American rebellion regularly beset by violence.

Its young fanatical Shia members, freed from all control except that of the prime minister, have become an obsessive fear for Sunnis. “We are more scared of the Shia militias than of ISIS jihadists,” admits an employee from a Western embassy, who wished not to be named.

The ordeal of Liqaa Salman, a small woman with her hair tied in a bun, says a lot about this silent terror. She welcomes us in her house’s kitchen, the smell of fried eggplants still lingering in the air. Since a group of men wearing balaclavas came to arrest her brother Nabil in the middle of the night, on May 2, she has not heard from him. Not a word. Every police and intelligence service officer she went to for help told her they knew nothing about that case.

Nabil, who owns a small supermarket, had already been arrested by the police two weeks before the elections of April 30, along with many people from their district of Zayouna. He was then released the day after the elections. “Who could have an interest in arresting him again, ten hours after he was released?” Liqaa asks, tormented by anguish. “I pray he’s not in the hands of Asa’ib.”

At the end of 2013, the marja’ (Shia Islam’s highest authority) had urged al-Maliki to put behind bars all the leaders of the militias that had committed abuses. Only Wathiq Al-Battat, the head of the Shia military group Mukhtar Army and a well-known anti-Sunni provocateur, had been arrested; the procedure was cancelled a few days later, officially because no charges could be brought against him.

At the same time, the Baghdad Governorate was working on a project to install security cameras all over the capital. “Several companies had been contacted,” explains a person close to the matter. “When the prime minister got wind of it, he ordered all security forces in the governorate to retreat. The following day, the project was suspended.” Al-Maliki’s militias are untouchable.

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.


Look At This Crap! The "Enshittification" Theory Of Why The Internet Is Broken

The term was coined by journalist Cory Doctorow to explain the fatal drift of major Internet platforms: if they were ever useful and user-friendly, they will inevitably end up being odious.

A photo of hands holding onto a smartphone

A person holding their smartphone

Gilles Lambert/ZUMA
Manuel Ligero


The universe tends toward chaos. Ultimately, everything degenerates. These immutable laws are even more true of the Internet.

In the case of media platforms, everything you once thought was a good service will, sooner or later, disgust you. This trend has been given a name: enshittification. The term was coined by Canadian blogger and journalist Cory Doctorow to explain the inevitable drift of technological giants toward... well.

The explanation is in line with the most basic tenets of Marxism. All digital companies have investors (essentially the bourgeoisie, people who don't perform any work and take the lion's share of the profits), and these investors want to see the percentage of their gains grow year after year. This pushes companies to make decisions that affect the service they provide to their customers. Although they don't do it unwillingly, quite the opposite.

For the latest news & views from every corner of the world, Worldcrunch Today is the only truly international newsletter. Sign up here.

Annoying customers is just another part of the business plan. Look at Netflix, for example. The streaming giant has long been riddling how to monetize shared Netflix accounts. Option 1: adding a premium option to its regular price. Next, it asked for verification through text messages. After that, it considered raising the total subscription price. It also mulled adding advertising to the mix, and so on. These endless maneuvers irritated its audience, even as the company has been unable to decide which way it wants to go. So, slowly but surely, we see it drifting toward enshittification.

Keep reading...Show less

The latest