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Islamic Rioters Attack Christian Shops in Northern Iraq

First widespread violence against Christians in
once-safe Kurdish region.

December 7th, 2011

By Damaris Kremida

ISTANBUL – Attacks against Christian Assyrian businesses in northern Iraq over the weekend, which local sources said were organized by a pro-Islamic political party, marked the first such destruction of Christian establishments in the Kurdish region. The rampage threatens the frail security of Iraq’s dwindling Christian population, sources said. After mullah Mala Ismail Osman Sindi’s sermon claiming there was moral corruption in massage parlors in the northern town of Zakho on Friday (Dec. 2), a group of young men attacked and burned shops in the town, most of them Christian-owned.

The businesses included liquor stores, hotels, a beauty salon and a massage parlor, according to Ankawa News. “The interesting thing with this incident is the place where it happened,” Archdeacon Emanuel Youkhana of the Assyrian Church of the East said. “KRG [the Kurdish Regional Government] is, for the most part, safe and secure, and all inhabitants enjoy prosperity and security, until now at least. The future is, by all means, bleak for the Christians and other minorities living there.” Some of the assailants waved banners stating, “There Is No God but Allah,” according to Ankawa News.

Sources said local authorities were slow in responding, resulting in heavy financial losses. Thousands of Christians had fled to the Kurdish region since the U.S.-led military intervention in Iraq in 2003. Mullah Sindi denied accusations that he provoked the violence against northern Iraq’s Christian community, according to Ankawa News. After Sindi’s sermon, a man reportedly stood up in the mosque and said that since there were un-Islamic massage parlors in Zakho, Muslims should go destroy them.

The mob started with the town’s only massage parlor and continued to stores selling liquor and three hotels, where they lit fires, according to Ankawa News. Later on Friday, the mob tried to attack the Christian quarters of Zakho, but authorities stopped them. Violence also erupted on Saturday morning (Dec. 3) on the outskirts of Dohuk in two Christian neighborhoods, where groups attacked liquor stores and burned a Christian cultural club.

Yesterday (Dec. 5) small pockets of violence against Christian communities were quickly extinguished near the Kurdish capital, Erbil, and in the center of Sulaymaniyah, 200 kilometers (124 miles) south. In Zakho, near the border with Turkey, owners of liquor shops and other establishments whose shops were burned and vandalized found leaflets on the walls of their destroyed shops yesterday (Dec. 5) threatening to kill them if they re-opened, according to Ankawa News. Some of the shop owners were Yezidis, a local religious sect.

The attacks were reportedly organized by the Kurdistan Islamic Union party, which is inspired by the Muslim Brotherhood, one of the region’s oldest Islamist parties and founded in Egypt. The Muslim Brotherhood strives to influence governments in the region toward more Islamic values. In retaliation for the Zakho attacks, members of the Kurdish ruling party, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), on Friday evening (Dec. 2) burned an Islamic Union office in Zakho. Over the weekend, KDP members ransacked and destroyed 10 Islamic Union offices in Dohuk province.

The KDP claimed the Islamic Union planned the weekend attacks, and the Islamic Union blamed the KDP for storming their offices in retaliation, according to Ankawa News. The unrest in the KRG in the last few days is a reflection of the unrest in the region, and as commonly happens, Christians were caught in the middle as innocent victims, Christian sources told Compass. “I think these attacks were organized,” Chaldean Archbishop of Kirkuk Louis Sako said. “They might be connected not only to domestic issues, but also to events outside the country. Unfortunately, it’s always the Christians who pay the price.”

The motives of the mobs in Zakho were not purely religious, according to General Secretary of the Chaldo-Assyrian Student and Youth Union Kaldo Oghanna. Some of the young men may have attacked the mostly Christian establishments out of religious motives, but Oghanna said many of them joined the attacks only out of frustration toward the government. Others probably joined for personal benefit, as some members of the mob stole money and even liquor from the shops they destroyed, he said. Most importantly, however, the attacks reflect the attitude of intolerance and discrimination that threaten the stability, safety and democratic process of the Kurdish region, Oghanna said. “This attack is not a normal attack,” Oghanna said. “It threatened our businesses, and it is threatening the situation in Kurdistan.

They attacked the democracy of the Kurdish region, its safety and security. Of course, we think there are international and domestic influences that made this situation escalate, but we also think this is in the mentality of those people: that they do not tolerate those who are different. This is our real struggle here.” The greatest challenge of Iraq’s Christian Assyrian community since 2003 has been its dwindling population.

The waves of the Iraqi Christian exodus have usually come after violent attacks on their communities. Archbishop Sako said he fears this attack may inspire more to leave. “Now, maybe, because Christians are shocked and afraid, they will start to emigrate, and this is a bigger challenge,” he said. “We are encouraging them to stay."  






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December = Kanoon I

Islamic Rioters Attack Christian Shops in Northern Iraq
Dec. 7. 2011

An 'Arab Winter' Chills Christians Dec. 5. 2011

Kurdish leader: Clerics 'instigated acts of sabotage, against Assyrians Dec. 3. 2011

Nov. = Tishreen I I

Thousands of Muslims attacked and besieged Copts
Nov. 30, 2011

Damage to the Assyrian archaeological since the 2003-U.S. invasion Nov. 26, 2011

As the Arab Spring turns into winter of Islamic discontent
Nov. 26, 2011

Does the Crucifix 'Provoke' Muslims?
Nov. 04, 2011

Al Nujaifi: Attacks against Christians affect all Iraqis
Nov. 04, 2011

Maronite Patriarch Rai heads to Iraq to express solidarity
Nov. 01, 2011

Sept. = Eilool

A Young Assyrian Car Designer Sept, 18, 2011

The Martyred Church- History of the Church of the East Sept, 16, 2011

Assyrian Professor Awarded for High Performance Computing Work Sept, 12, 2011

The Arab Spring and Christian Persecution Sept, 10, 2011

Muslims Blockade Christian Village in Egypt, Demand Demolition of Church Sept, 9, 2011

Muslim Persecution of Christians: August, 2011

August = Tubbaq

The Jihad Against the Armenian, Assyrian, and Greek Christians August 9, 2011

Iraq Church Bombing Wounds At Least 23 August 2, 2011

July = Tamuz 2011

House of Representatives House Considers Creation of Religious Freedom Envoy in Middle East, Asia
July 28, 2011

When Is an Ideology Responsible for Murder? July 28, 2011

FAITH UNDER FIRE Christians facing 'deletion' on Nineveh Plain July 24, 2011

Al-Qaeda Cell in Baghdad Smashed July 24, 2011

Director uses art to educate about his culture July 24, 2011

Iraqi paper claims Jews kidnap Christians to convert
July 21, 2011

Statement by Iraqi Parliament Speaker Disappoints Assyrians July 21, 2011

June = Khziran

Kabul Siege Signals Time To Get Out June 29, 011

Yaar = May

Iraq Assyrian Killed, Mutilated in Northern Iraq May 17, 2011

Armenian Parliament Calls for Recognition of Armenian, Assyrian, Hellenic Genocides May 03, 2011

Nissan = April

Worldwide Islamic Anti-Blasphemy Measure Laid to Rest April 1, 2011

Assyrian Patriarch Meets With Turkish PM April 1, 2011

Adaar = March

Muslim Jihad in Christian Ethiopia: Lessons for the West March 27, 2011


The Life and death of Lina Yakubova March 23, 2011

Should we give aid to states riven by human rights abuses? March 23, 2011

Assyrian Genocide Research Center Welcomes Scholar to Its Board March 21, 2011

INTERNATIONAL Extinction of Iraq’s Christians must be Prevented March 21, 2011

Muslim World: Democracy (for Muslim Arabs Only)
March 19, 2011

Turkey's confiscation of Land belonging to The St. Gabriel Assyrian Monastery March 19, 2011

Donny George, protector of Iraq's ancient riches Died March 18, 2011

American Muslims Versus Congressman, Peter King March 8, 2011

Iraqi Archbishop Blames lack of Liberty, and Security for his Flocks Suffering March 6, 2011

Iraqi Christians to Congress: Please Help
March 2, 2011

Were Iraqi Security Forces Involved in Baghdad Church Massacre? March 2, 2011

Egyptian Armed Forces Shoot to Kill Christians at Monasteries, 19 Injured March 2, 2011

February = Eshvat

Film About Assyrian Genocide in Iraq to Debut in Michigan Feb 28, 2011

Christian town in north Iraq offers refuge
Feb 27, 2011

Iraq Abuse Worsening for Women and Minorities Feb 23, 2011

Iraq's Christian Leaders Unhappy With Lack of Action on Nineveh Plain Feb 23, 2011

Global Islamic upheaval takes toll on Christians Feb 23, 2011

Turkish Judicial System Does Not Meet EU Standards Feb 23, 2011

Anger over court’s decision to acquit suspects in Coptic killing case Feb 23, 2011

Reconciled By the St. Gabriel Assyrian Monastery in Turkey Feb 20, 2011

‘Religicide’ in Iraq Feb 16, 2011

Truth About Sharia Law and Women Feb. 16, 2011

Persecuted Iraqi Christians Reach Out to US.
Feb. 15, 2011

Australian MP Calls Attention to Persecution of Iraq's Assyrians Feb. 10, 2011

Campaign to separate the Syrian Orthodox Church from its Assyrian Heritage
Feb. 9, 2011

Iranians Crack Down on Christian Churches Feb. 9, 2011

Who will defend Mideast Christians? Feb. 8, 2011

Christians of Iraq are in danger Feb. 2, 2011

Failing Christians is damaging EU credibility, says Italy Frattini Feb. 1, 2011

January = Kanoon II

Church to build hospital and university in Iraq
Jan, 31, 2011

“Syria Opens the Gateway to Humanity for the Assyrian Medical Society, the Mission Continues.”
Jan, 28, 2011

Assyrians Without Borders Announces Scholarship Awards Program Jan, 28, 2011

Hearing in Washington about attacks against christians of Iraq and Egypt Jan. 27, 2011

Babylonian cuneiform tablets document Syria’s history Jan. 26, 2011

As the left sides with Muslims, Christians search for support Jan. 24, 2011

Congress to Press Obama on Religious Persecution
Jan. 21, 2011

Abrogation in Islam and The Persecution
of Christians

Jan. 21, 2011

Last Christians Ponder Leaving a Hometown in Iraq Jan. 20, 2011

Assyrian Youth Black March Movement Conference in Detroit Jan. 19, 2011

Who Are the Real Hijackers of Islam? Jan. 10, 2011

Why Christians and Jews are Being Massacred in the Middle East Jan. 10, 2011

Restricted Freedoms in the Iraqi Christian Green Zone
Jan. 8, 2011

France asks for coordinated European Union response to threats against Christians in Middle East Jan. 5. 2011

Violent attacks against Christians could return in Egypt
Jan. 4. 2011

Egyptian Security Guards Withdrew One Hour Before Church Blast Jan. 2. 2011

We may be witnessing a new age of Christian persecution
Jan. 2. 2011