This article about the Christrian militias in northern Iraq first appeared in the Winter 2018 issue of Providence‘s print edition. To read the original in a PDF format, click here. To receive a complete copy of future issues as soon as they are published, subscribe for only $28 a year.
Religious and ethnic minorities live a precarious existence during civil wars. In a war between the incumbent state and an insurgent challenger, minority group leaders may pick one side over the other. However, if they choose the loser they will be open to charges of collaboration and become vulnerable targets of vengeance. On the other hand, if the minority chooses to stay out of the fight altogether, the failure to mobilize may itself leave them defenseless. Moreover, some civil wars and insurgencies are more complicated than others. Multiple actors fighting or competing for control of the state make things even more complicated, especially if minority groups themselves fragment into multiple factions.