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Popular articles Exodus, Assimilation, Eradication:
Iraq’s minority communities since 2003
A report from Minority Rights Group International.pdf
Translation Translation from English


Lebabon Dilay Star

"Iraq's Christian community fights for survival"

by Rayyan al-Shawaf (*)

Beirut. July 29, 2007 - Last month, a Chaldean priest, Ragheed Ganni, and three sub-deacons were murdered by Islamist terrorists in Mosul, Iraq.

Before being executed, they were informed that they would be spared on the condition that they converted to Islam. All refused. Ganni was one of many Iraqis killed since 2003 for no reason other than their Christian identity. Additionally, thousands of Christians have been expelled from their homes, extorted, harassed, beaten, raped and ordered to covert to Islam, spawning a frantic and ongoing exodus. As a result, Iraq's Christian community stands on the verge of extinction.

Other religious minorities have also been persecuted, including the Yazidis of the north and the tiny Mandaean community of the south. Until recently, the Iraqi diaspora was relatively small. The 1980-1988 war between Iraq and Iran, which was accompanied by an economic boom, did not prompt mass emigration of Iraqis. Large-scale emigration began with Saddam Hussein's 1988 Anfal campaign against Kurds, and skyrocketed with the 1991 Gulf war, Saddam's crushing of a Shiite rebellion, and international sanctions. The resulting economic deterioration led large numbers of Christians to leave. Saddam's post-war Islamization drive provided an added incentive.

Most of Iraq's Christians are Chaldo-Assyrians, an ethnic group comprising several Christian sects, including Chaldean Catholics (the largest), two factions of the Assyrian Church of the East, and Syriac Orthodox and Catholics. Iraq is also home to Armenian Orthodox and Catholics, and smaller groups like Anglicans, Protestants, and Roman Catholics. On the eve of the invasion of Iraq in 2003, the number of Christians was often generously estimated at 800,000; the real figure was likely no higher than 500,000. The violent and anarchic period following the invasion has proven disastrous; some estimates indicate that in the past four years, the Christian population of Iraq has halved. Although bombings of churches receive media attention, assassinations and kidnappings go largely unnoticed. Recently, however, expulsions and large-scale harassment of Christians, such as those under way in the southern Baghdad neighborhood of Al-Daura, have been reported. "The Islamic State of Iraq," a Sunni terrorist umbrella group which includes Al-Qaeda, ordered Christian residents of Al-Daura to pay a jizya, the Islamic poll tax historically imposed upon non-Muslims. The money would go to financing the very activities that threaten the future of Christians in Iraq. Seventy percent of the neighborhood's Christians subsequently fled.

It is crucial to understand that Christians in Iraq are not simply suffering from the general violence and anarchy plaguing the country, but are being targeted as Christians by Islamists as well as criminal gangs. While Islamist terrorists openly aim to rid Iraq of all "infidels," criminals seek to exploit the perceived wealth of Christians. Thus, many Christians who were middle-class are now destitute, having paid exorbitant ransoms for kidnapped loved ones - some of whom were killed nonetheless. Though Christians have been persecuted by Muslims in the past, today's Islamist onslaught against Christians in Iraq has led to something virtually unprecedented in the history of Islam in Mesopotamia: Christians must hide their identity so as to avoid being harassed or killed. Christian women routinely don the hijab, and men and women with identifiably Christian names have taken to concealing them. Concomitantly, Christians have been forced to remove the cross from public view, including church steeples and domes as well as from around their necks. This is a hugely symbolic act that powerfully illustrates the tragic position of Christians in Iraq today.

Church services are regularly cancelled; when held, many parishioners are understandably too scared to attend. During parliamentary elections, Chaldo-Assyrian political parties didn't dare to mount a public election campaign, for fear this might be deemed "provocative." Physical danger stalks Christians everywhere; Islamist groups have launched sectarian cleansing operations against Christian enclaves in virtually all Iraqi cities. Christians are targeted by both Sunni and Shiite violence. Though some have sought sanctuary among coreligionists in the Kurdish-controlled north, for many there is no option but to leave Iraq altogether. Women are especially vulnerable. Theological justifications for the rape of non-Muslim women and their forcible betrothal to Muslims are widespread - Mandaean women have been specifically targeted - as are rulings permitting the summary murder of all non-Muslims who violate Islamic law. Violations can be selling liquor, dressing "immodestly," refusing to pay a jizya, expressing a political opinion, or even just professing one's faith openly. In the worst circumstances, the very act of being non-Muslim is perceived as an offense; many Islamist militias simply present non-Muslims with the choice of converting to Islam or being killed.

Significantly, however, it isn't just terrorists who target Christians. A previously latent anti-Christian animus among large sections of the Muslim populace has manifested itself. There are many recorded instances of politically unaffiliated Muslims turning on their Christian neighbors, of others refusing to pay debts owed to Christians, and of acts of individual extortion. Fatwas authorizing the seizure of abandoned Christian property inevitably encourage Muslims to expel Christians or intimidate them into fleeing, while invidious rumors of wholesale Christian "collaboration" with the occupation forces prompt anti-Christian violence. This is part of the general Islamization engulfing Iraq, turning ordinary Muslims against their Christian compatriots, who are denigrated as "unclean" and physically threatened for being "Crusaders." Western countries, terrified of being perceived as biased toward Christians, have maintained a studied indifference, while the Iraqi government and security services have been heavily infiltrated by members of anti-Christian Shiite militias. Unlike Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds, Christians field no militias and are easy prey for their oppressors.

Iraqi Muslim leaders' condemnation of sectarian violence is woefully insufficient, as they refuse to acknowledge - let alone confront - the extremism in their midst. Influential Muslim clerics like the Sunni cleric Hareth al-Dari and the Shiite Muqtada al-Sadr flatly deny that their communities produce extremists; instead, each blames the other community and the American military for all outrages. This doesn't apply only to anti-Christian violence. Incredibly, Sunni leaders accuse Shiites of being behind attacks on Shiite holy sites, while Shiite leaders straight-facedly accuse Sunnis of the mass kidnappings and executions of unarmed Sunnis. As a result, there is little introspection and no self-criticism on the part of either community. Indeed, Muslim leaders often condemn the atrocity while exonerating the perpetrator. The tragedy is that we will likely soon find ourselves writing the epitaph of Iraq's Christian community. Indeed, even if the situation were suddenly to improve - a highly unlikely prospect - it is already too late to reverse the effects of the hemorrhaging. Massive emigration has altered Iraq's demography irrevocably, and certain groups will never recover. Figures for members of the Assyrian Church, for example, have plummeted, and the Armenians of Iraq have virtually disappeared. Other minorities besides Christians are also endangered; according to the Mandaean Society of America, 85 percent of Iraq's Mandaeans have fled since 2003.

Eventually, the violence in Iraq will subside and a modicum of security will return. Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds will arrive at a modus vivendi, however imperfect. In attempting to forge some semblance of unity, a nationalist historiography will likely blame the occupation forces for Iraq's post-Saddam violence. And this will be the second crime perpetrated against Iraqi victims of Islamist terror. After all, there can be no greater insult to the murdered than to exonerate their murderers. For the Christians of Iraq, indeed, for all Iraqis who have been killed or otherwise persecuted for their religious affiliation, this would mean exonerating the Islamist purveyors of holy war, Sunni or Shiite, who incite against one another and against non-Muslims. It would mean "moving forward" without ever confronting the Islamist theologies of murder, rape and genocide, whose adherents have forever disfigured Iraq.

(*) - Rayyan al-Shawaf: The Daily Star, Lebanon






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Contact info to write your senators or member of Congress, or simply Copy, Paste and Send them an articles about the plight of the Christians of Iraq

church on fire

Dear Visitors

Hundreds of you everyday come to this site because you are troubled about the suffering of the Iraqi Christians.

Your compassion is admirable but such concerns are of little help unless you are willing to assist these unfortunate people either by donating to the organizations which help them or by writing, calling or signing petitions asking the politicians to protect them.


Please Sign this Petition: Save Christians of Iraq

Tamuz = July

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Ashur T.V. 3-hour program this Saturday, July 28, 2007 July 26, 07

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New Schism within Christianity caused by the Vatican July 26, 07


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The Death of Iraq's Christians July 23, 07

Vilification of the Assyrians by the Naked Archeologist July 21, 07

Demonstrations in Los Angeles July 21, 07

In refuge in US, Iraq museum chief dreams of peace July 20, 07

Kurdish Soldiers Kill Assyrian Boy in Drive-by Shooting July 20, 07

Ashur T.V. Program July 21 July 20, 07

The Destruction of Iraq's Christians July 20, 07

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US Commission Hearing on Threats to Iraq's Minorities July 19, 07

Swedish Report Reveals Kurdish Campaign Against Assyrian Women
July 18, 0

Kurdish Bribe as a Mean of Ethnic Cleansing July 18, 07

Christians Feeling Brunt Of Wrath in Iraq July 17, 07

Australian Contractors Killed As Assyrian Christians Face Daily Persecution in Iraq July 17, 07

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Christian Assyrians head north to live uneasily among another minority. July 16, 07

Australian Conference Calls for Protection for Iraq's Assyrians
July 15, 07

Last Rites in the Holy Land? July 15, 07

Christians face uncertain future in anarchic Iraq July 11, 07

Rally to Save Mideast Christians Draws Support from Vatican, Holocaust Survivor, Politicians July 06, 07

Exodus of Christians Hits Another Baghdad District July 06, 07

Lettr to President Bush by 73 Members of Congress July 06, 07

Iraq's Christians Cry: "Please Don't Leave Us" July 06, 07

Four Christians abducted while fleeing Baghdad July 05, 07

Rights group: Kurds torture detainees July 05, 07

Islamic Group in Mosul Demands Christians to Leave the City
July 05, 07

Iraqis fleeing the violence, seeking safety beyond Iraq's borders
July 04, 07

Assyrians Thrown to the Lions July 02, 07

Video of ABC Report about Iraqi Assyrians
July 02, 07

Video of Chaldean Assyrian Rally in San Diego in behalf of Christians of Iraq July 01, 07

Khzeerun = June

Christians Assyrians head north to live uneasily among another minority. July 16, 07

Ashur T.V. Saturday June 30, 07 June 29, 07

Danish Scholar Needs Better Scholarship June 29, 07

Turkish shelling spreads fear in Assyrian border villages
June 29, 07

Stop the Genocide against Iraqi Christians June 28, 07

Two more Christians killed in an attack in Mosul June 28, 07

US House Approves $10M for the Nineveh Plains in Iraq
June 25, 07

Iraqi church leaders: Iraqi gov’t failing nation’s Christians
June 25, 07

Survival of the Assyrian community in Basra June 23, 07

Cardinal Kasper On the Church of the East June 23, 07

Young Christian driver abducted on the road to Mosul
June 23, 07

Rather survive in a ghetto than be slaughtered in the streets of Baghdad June 21, 07

Pope Tells Assyrian Patriarch Christians in Iraq Must Work Together June 21, 07

Catholic Relief Services Assists Iraqi Refugees In Syria, Lebanon
June 20, 07

8 Christian students and teachers are kidnapped in the Nineveh Plain June 20, 07

Iraqi refugees in Syria face poverty trap June 20, 07

The newest kurdish fibs,fairy tales and lies June 19, 07

Demonstration in Sweden in behalf Assyrians of Iraq June 18, 07

Chaldean Priest Abducted in Baghdad is Free and in Good Health
June 17, 07

AUA and AANF of Australia lobby in behalf of Iraq's Assyrians
June 17, 07

U.S.: 60 pct of Baghdad not controlled June 16, 07

Iraqi Christians’ most urgent needs according to a Chaldean priest June 16, 07

Welcome to New Assyria, Sweden June 16, 07

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June15, 07

Imploring the EU Parliament discuss the Ethnic Cleansing of the Assyrians in Iraq June15, 07

Who will protect us? June14, 07

US Congress Takes a Step to Help Iraq's Persecuted Religious Minorities June13, 07

Far From War, a Town With a Well-Used Welcome Mat June13, 07

Congresswoman Eshoo Urges Bush, Congressional Members to Protect Iraq's Christian Population June12, 07

U.S. House Subcommittee on State Approves $10 Million for Religious Minorities in the Nineveh Plains of Iraq June12, 07

Report Outlines Ethnic Cleansing Campaign Against Iraq's Assyrians June12, 07

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June11, 07

Killers of Fr. Ragheed and the three deacons wanted their conversion to Islam June10, 07

They slaughter us because we are not muslims June10, 07

German Society for Threatened People Intensifies
Human Rights Campaign for ChaldoAssyrians
June 9, 07

Update of the Ashur TV program June 8, 07

Iraq War Hurting Local Assyrians June 8, 07

UN Refugee Agency Spotlights Plight of Iraqi Christian Couple
June 8, 07

A Safe Haven for Iraq's Christians Would Not Be an 'Assyrian Ghetto' June 7, 07

Hundreds Attend Funeral of Slain Assyrian Priest in North Iraq
June 4, 07

600 Assyrian families have fled their homes in Dora Iraq June 4, 07

The Chaldean Church mourns Fr. Ragheed Ganni and his martyrs
June 4, 07

Chaldean Priest and three Deacons Murdered in Mosul June 4, 07

Terrorists sack and occupy a Christian convent in Baghdad June 2, 07

Call the White House June 2, 07

A Message of Solidarity from Rosie Malek-Yonan June 2, 07

Christian Minorities in the Islamic Middle East: Rosie Malek-Yonan on the Assyrians June 1, 07

Plight of the Assyrians a UNA Report
June 1, 07


April - May 07

February - March 07

December 06 - January 07

October, November 06

August, September 06

June, July 06
March April May 06
February 06
December05 Januray 06