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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

 
 

Thrown to the Lions


By Doug Bandow
July 2, 2007

Someone in the U.S. government finally has noticed the plight of Iraqi Christians. A congressional appropriations subcommittee has voted to spend $10 million to aid displaced religious minorities within Iraq. That mostly means Christians.

Although Islam long has been in the ascendancy in Iraq, the Assyrians, who speak a neo-Aramaic language, represent a distinct religious minority, generally grouped in the Chaldean, Apostolic Catholic, and Syriac Orthodox churches. The Assyrians predate the rise of Islam, representing a 7,000 year-old civilization. They have survived numerous episodes of war and catastrophe. Today, however, the Iraqi Christian community faces possible extermination.

If there is good news, it is that most Iraqi Christians are being driven from their homes rather than being massacred. But if they do not flee, they increasingly risk slaughter. The irony is extraordinary: Christian America has inadvertently loosed the vicious forces bent on destroying Iraqi Christians. Persecuted by Islamic extremists and targeted for their frequent cooperation with occupation authorities, Christians have ever less hope in a nation that has fallen into violent chaos.

The Assyrian International News Agency has released a new report (pdf) entitled "Incipient Genocide: The Ethnic Cleansing of the Assyrians of Iraq," written by Peter BetBasoo. It makes for dreadful reading. Washington's ability to influence events in Iraq is rapidly waning, but so long as the U.S. is present it should attempt to protect people who have been the best friends and strongest advocates of America in Iraq.

Since the American invasion, several hundred Assyrians have been murdered. Even more have been kidnapped. Dozens of churches have been bombed or otherwise attacked. Hundreds of Christian businesses have been torched because of the faith of their owners, wrecked for being non-Islamic (such as liquor stores) or ruined by criminal attacks and kidnappings. Christian women are being threatened and attacked for failing to follow Islamic law.

As sectarian violence has risen and the insurgency has surged, Christians have been targeted for retaliation. They long were despised by jihadists for their faith. Then many Christians, who disproportionately spoke English, signed up to serve the U.S. military and occupation authorities. For them, the U.S. connection is a potential death sentence.

Yet Washington has done essentially nothing. In hopes of demonstrating impartiality, Washington has refused to help Christians, even when they have been literally placed under siege in their homes and neighborhoods. Their abandonment by Washington has had tragic consequences.

IRAQI CHRISTIANS HAVE RESPONDED in the only way possible: running away. Roughly half of the pre-war Christian community is thought to have fled Iraq. Reports BetBasoo: "Assyrians comprised 8% (1.5 million) of the Iraqi population in April of 2003. Since then 50% have fled the country. Of the 750,000 Iraqi refugees in Jordan up to 150,000 are Assyrians. Of the 1.2 million Iraqi refugees in Syria, 70,000 to 500,000 are Assyrians."

That Iraqi Christians have fared poorly in the midst of Muslim radicalism, whether Shia or Sunni, comes as no surprise. Christians possess no military forces, no militias organized for their defense. Nor are their enclaves large enough to offer protection.

Less expected was Kurdistan's mistreatment of the Assyrians. Indeed, writes BetBasoo, the "systematic campaign of persecution ... began in the Kurdish regions of north Iraq shortly after the first Gulf war and spread to Baghdad and Basra after the liberation of Iraq in April of 2003. In the last three months it has intensified and is now openly declared in some areas of Iraq."

Unfortunately, there is little hope that the violence will abate. To the contrary, members of the Assyrian community are now worried about genocide, essentially the complete destruction of Assyrian Christians. Contends BetBasoo: "Being unarmed, oppressed and disadvantaged by centuries of prejudice and dhimmi [official minority] status, the Assyrians have become the targets of persecution country-wide, from Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis." He adds: "since Assyrians are not capable of defending themselves and are targeted as a class because of their distinct identity, what is now unfolding in Iraq can be termed an incipient genocide."

Using the term is inherently controversial, but Christianity is disappearing from Iraq. A distinct ethnic, language, and religious community is being driven out.

Although the violence appears to be more anarchic than concerted, it has had the same effect as an organized campaign to destroy Iraq's Assyrians. Virtually every member of the community is under siege.

For instance, the first Christian church was bombed in June 2004. Since then another 32 Christian churches have been attacked. Numerous ministers and deacons have been kidnapped and murdered.

Christian women are particularly vulnerable. BetBasoo writes: "Often incidents do not end with the prisoner's release. In one case in Baghdad, the victim committed suicide after the ransom was paid and she went home, because of the torture and sexual violence she suffered. In another case, a young woman talked to her family by phone and told them: 'I'm dead,' referring to being gang-raped. She eventually committed suicide whilst still in the hands of her tormentors."

A systematic effort to impose Islamic law has most affected Christian women, who have been ordered to adopt Islamic dress, including the veil. In one instance, the al-Mahdi Army (loyal to Moqtada al-Sadr) drafted a letter warning that "special committees have been established to follow up on this matter." Individual Christian women have been attacked, with some murdered or disfigured with acid.

Christian businessmen have proved to be prime targets. One aspect of the problem is simple crime: Christian entrepreneurs are thought to be wealthier and more likely to have rich foreign relatives. Moreover, explains BetBasoo, "Assyrian businesses are systematically targeted and attacked, particularly businesses that are perceived to be 'un-Islamic'." At most risk are liquor stores, cinemas, music stores, and retailers who sell radios and televisions.

Even universities have not provided safe havens for Christians. Christian students have been beaten, shot, and threatened with expulsion. Women have been ordered to veil themselves and stop attending classes. In the city of Mosul, BetBasoo writes of a letter sent to church leaders which "announced Muslims' intention of killing one person in every Christian family, as punishment for the women not covering their heads and going to university. This followed pressure from Islamic extremists against all women in Mosul requiring them to cover their head with the hijab." These demands were preceded by attacks on individual women.

Today there is no safety even in Christian neighborhoods, since Islamist forces can invade them with impunity. Whatever the virtues of the current U.S. military surge, safeguarding Christians is not among them. Writes BetBasoo:

In early March, 2007, al-Qaeda moved into Dora, a predominantly Assyrian neighborhood in south Baghdad, and began imposing strict Islamic law. The Christian Assyrians were being forced to pay the jizya, the poll tax demanded by the Koran which all Christians and Jews must pay in exchange for being allowed to live and practice their faith as well as being entitled to "Muslim protection" from outside aggression.

Those who remain are subject to Islamic practices, such as use of the veil by women and disconnecting satellite dishes. The only other alternatives offered were death or flight -- or delivering a daughter or sister to the mosque for marriage to a local Muslim man. Reports BetBasoo: "Families that could not pay this sum were told to send one family member to the mosque on Friday to announce their conversion to Islam. Families who refused to do this were told they must leave their homes immediately and not take any of their belongings with them because 'your properties belong to the mosque.'" Families who did leave were charged an "exit fee." A majority of Christians fled from several areas, as jihadists applied the tactics used in Dora to other neighborhoods.

THREATENED CHRISTIANS APPEALED to both the Iraqi government and U.S. military, without result. "Nobody really cares," one of them despaired in an email to the Assyrian International News Service. And nothing in the behavior of the authorities contradicts that assertion.

Perhaps most disappointing is the behavior of Kurds in their territory. Although friendly to the U.S., the Kurdish authorities routinely intimidate and victimize the Christian minority. Property has been confiscated; resources such as water have been diverted from Christian to Muslim communities; Christian villages have been blockaded; young Christian women have been kidnapped; and individual Christians have been harassed, mistreated, beaten, and murdered.

BetBasoo includes as an appendix a chronological listing of murdered Assyrians, including short biographies and photos of many of the victims. This turns them into real people rather than numbers.

He concludes his report with photos of ruined churches. It is an appropriate end, for it illustrates what the sustained attacks on the Christian community really mean: the eradication of an entire religion and people from Iraq. Islamic fundamentalists once feared that the U.S. invasion of Iraq presaged an attempt to convert Muslims to Christianity. In fact, it has triggered a sustained if not exactly organized campaign to convert, kill, or exile Christians from their historic home in a majority Muslim nation.

Unfortunately, the worse the situation in Iraq, the less hope there is to save Iraqi Christians. The Assyrian community has called for creation of a protected enclave, though its survival after a future U.S. military withdrawal is doubtful. While American troops remain on station, however, Washington has an obligation to protect the most vulnerable minorities, especially those who have aided America.

Equally important, the U.S. should welcome Christians fleeing the violence. Muslim refugees may have some hope of returning to a future Iraq that becomes stable if not liberal. The Assyrians are far less likely to find a tolerant and tolerable environment. With Jordan and Syria overwhelmed with fleeing Iraqis, it is time for America to open its doors. These are, after all, people who favor the U.S., have been endangered because of American policy, and have no where else to go.

http://www.spectator.org/

 

 


 


 



 

 




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Tamuz = July

Assyrians Thrown to the Lions July 02, 07

Video of ABC Report about Iraqi Assyrians

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

Khzeerun = June

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

More than a thousand Christian families forced to flee home
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

U.S. Worth an Arduous Journey for Iraqi Assyrian Family
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

Yaar = May

Christian Population Dwindling Due To
Threats, Attacks
May 31, 07

Ashur T.V.Interview with President of the
Assyrian Aid Society
May 31, 07

SAFE ASYLUM FOR ASSYRIANS May 31, 07

Demonstration in Stockholm Against Ethnic
Cleansing of Christians in Iraq
May 31, 07

Christian Minorities in the Islamic Middle East
May 30, 07

A Final Appeal: to Save Christian Iraq
May 30, 07

Mehdy Army imposes the veil on
Christian women
May 30, 07

In North Iraq, Sunni Arabs Drive Out Kurds
May 30, 07

Russia Supports the Rights of Iraq's Christians
May 27, 07

Out of Iraq, a flight of Chaldean Assyrians May 27, 07

Meetings with The Asutralian MP, Minister for
Foreign Affairs
May 25, 07

Blood of Iraqi Martyrs May 25, 07

Assyrian craftsman prefers life in the saddle May 24, 07

Iraq's Legal Commission Statement about Persecution
of Assyrians in Baghdad
May 24, 07

Attempts to Ethnic Cleanse Assyrians in Northern Iraq
May 24, 07

Areas in Iraq Are Being Emptied of Christian
Assyrians
May 24, 07

Iraqi government offers its “full support” to the persecuted
Christians of Baghdad
May 24, 07

Armed Muslims Begin 'Ethnic Cleansing' in Baghdad
May 23, 07

Protect Us, Say Egyptians Christians May 23, 07

Iraqi Government Issues Statement concerning the
Persecution of Assyrians in Baghdad
May 21, 07

Freed Chaldean Priest May Have Been Beaten
May 21, 07

Baghdad: three lives under duress May 21, 07

Baghdad Assyrian District Emptied; Churches, Monasteries
Abandoned
May 21, 07

High” ransom demanded for Priest kidnapped in
Baghdad May 21, 07

The Swedes have bad knowledge about the
situation of the Iraqi Christians
May 21, 07

A Chaldean priest is kidnapped in Baghdad May 19, 07

Muslim Riots Over Church Construction in Egypt Were
Preplanned
May 19, 07

The Situation of Christians in Iraq is Dire May18, 07

Muslims Burn Assyrian Church in Baghdad May18, 07

Ashur T.V. Interview Satruday may 19, 07
May18, 07

Told to Convert or Die, 21 Assyrian Families Seek
Shelter in Baghdad Churches
May18, 07

‘Islamic’ prince collects taxes in Baghdad’s Christian
neighbourhood
May18, 07

Sectarian cleansing spreads to Christians in Iraq
May17, 07

Sesame Oil and Baklava date back to the Assyrian period
May16, 07

Egyptian Muslim Intellectual Criticizes Egypt's Treatment
of Christians
May16, 07

What is going on in the Syriac Orthodox church?
May16, 07

Christianity in Turkey May16, 07

Iraq: A New Age Of Genocide? May14, 07

The Church in Iraq is in Great Danger: Bishop
of North Iraq
May14, 07

Iraqi Leaders Indifferent to Endangered
Christians
May 14, 07

Iraqi Christians facing persecution May 11, 07

Defenseless in Baghdad: Anti-Christian Violence in Iraq
May 10, 07

Iraqi Christians Fleeing Persecution May 10, 07

Christian leaders join in Patriach Delly’s Iraq appeal
May 10, 07

IRAQ: ARMED GROUPS TARGET CHRISTIANS IN
BAGHDAD
May 10, 07

Iraqi Christians Flee Baghdad May 9, 07

Christians fleeing Iraq after death threats May 9, 07

Christians of Iraq Persecuted
By Iraqi Government and Foreign Troops
May 7, 07

The Assault on Assyrian Christians in Iraq May 5, 07

Iraq's Christian Minority Flees Violence;
50 Percent May Have Left Country
May 5, 07

The Plight Of The Iraqi Assyrian Christians in Jordan
May 5, 07

Iraq's Chaldean Bishop's Appeal to the
Sharm El-Sheikh Summit
May 4, 07

Invitation to Sakai Community conference May 4, 07

Anniversary Party of the Assyrian Democratic
Movement in Ankawa, Iraq
May 4, 07

Assyrian/Syriac Genocide might be taught in Swedish
schools
May 4, 07

Iraqi leaders indifferent to 'endangered' Christians
May 2, 07

Lectures by Dr. David Gaunt in California May 2, 07

Banquet to honor rev. John Koury May 1, 07

Iraqi Priest Recalls Kidnapping Ordeal May 1, 07

Neesan = April

Iraqi Christians forced to pay 'protection tax' Muslims April 29, 07
enforcing Islamic law requiring tribute or conversion

Turkey destroys evidence of the Assyrian Genocide April 28, 07

A Memorial Monument in Armenia for the Assyrian
'Seyfo Genocide,'
April 27, 07

IRAQ: CHRISTIANS FACE MOUNTING THREATS, MP SAYS
April 27, 07

Bishop of Northern Iraq: “ Church in Iraq is in great danger”
April 24, 07

Iraqi Prime Minister Supports Assyrian Christians in Iraq April 23, 07

IRAQ Bishops appeal: Save Iraq’s Christians! April 23, 07

Forbidden Love Ends With Multiple Deaths in North Iraq April 23, 07

Gunmen kill 23 members of Yazidi religious minority April 22, 07

Assyrian community speaks Aramaic, provides a warm
welcome to Israelis
April 22, 07

Assyrian Mass Grave Investigation in Turkey April 22, 07

Protestant Pastor: “secular” Turkey; enough mockery!
April 17, 07

92 Years of Denying the Massacre of the
Assyrians, Armenians and the Greeks
April 17, 07

A Swedish 'Valhalla' for Iraqi Refugees April 15, 07

More on Muslims Forcing Christian Assyrians in Baghdad
to Pay 'Protection Tax'
April 15, 07

Arab American Institute is Deliberately Misrepresenting the
Assyrians Identity
April 15, 07

The Plight of the Christian refugees in Turkey April 13, 07

“The Assyrians of Northern Iraq” April 13, 07

We Say No to a Medieval Kurdish Constitution April 13, 07

Assyrian Case Presented At Washington's Iraq Conference
April 12, 07

IRAQ: KURDISH PRESIDENT DID NOT OFFER KIRKUK BRIBE,
SAYS SENIOR OFFICIAL
April 11, 07

Assyrian Village in North Iraq Terrorized By Kurd April 11, 07

Kurdish Attack on Assyrians Leaves Two Dead in Syria April 10, 07

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki Supports Assyrian Province!
April 10, 07

THE ASSYRIAN NEW YEAR 6757 CELEBRATION IN SYDNEY- AUSTRALIA
April 8, 07

A New Assyrian Blog April 8, 07

Forget 2007 - for Iraqi Assyrians this is 6757 April 8, 07

Assyrians along with other Christians celebrated Easter in Jerusalem
April 8, 07

Iraq's Christians celebrate Easter and hope peace will prevail April 8, 07

Easter Message From Rev. Ken Joseph Jr. April 7, 07

Graffiti Mars Church: Worship Places to Get More Patrols April 7, 07

An Evening of Poetry April 7, 07

Turkey's Ancient Assyrian Christian Community Looks to the Future April 7, 07

Easter Greetings April 6, 07

Assyrian Engineer Kidnapped by Armed Militia April 6, 07

Interview with Yonadam Kanna April 6, 07

Iraq's Christians Plan Easter Liturgies Despite Violence April 4, 07

Church Attendance Steady in Mosul Despite Bombs and Gunfire
April 4, 07

Assyrian New Year celebration in Australia April 4, 07

EU Conference Calls on Turkey to Recognize
Assyrian Genocide
April 3, 07

Iraq's Christians Flock to Lebanon April 3, 07

The Christian victims of Iraq April 1, 07

Assyrian New Year Greeting April 1, 07

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