Saturday, November 1, 2008

Christians In Mosul Update

As report earlier, Christians in the northern city of Mosul came under attack in early-October 2008. The first incident occurred on October 4, and in total twelve people were killed. As a result, up to 2,200 families, roughly 13,000 Christians, fled the city according to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees. That was almost half of the city’s Christian population. Around 400 families went to Syria, but most went to Christian villages north and south of Mosul, where their brethren have their own local security forces, while others fled to Dohuk, Irbil, and Tamim provinces.

By mid-October the flight had ended, and now there are reports that a few have begun to return. First, Baghdad sent 1,000 extra police to secure the city. Then the government began encouraging Christians to come back. By October 28, a government official from the Ministry of Displacement and Migration said that 80 families had gone back to Mosul. The sole Christian parliamentarian said the number was up to a few hundred. To facilitate the process, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki offered each family $800 if they returned and registered with the government.

No one has officially been blamed for the attacks. Security forces have arrested ten suspects, but nothing about their identities or motivations have been disclosed. That has opened the door to a plethora of theories. Initially, most reports focused upon Islamist insurgents that have targeted Christians before. The Iraqi paper Azzaman however, reported that an Interior Ministry official denied Al Qaeda in Iraq was involved, while Iraq’s Alsumaria TV said that Al Qaeda fighters had in fact been arrested in Mosul preparing attacks. The TV report also said that gunmen were working with members of the Iraqi Army to carry out their attacks. Now there are increasing stories claiming the Kurds as the culprits. All of the attacks but one, for example, have occurred in the Kurdish controlled part of Mosul. A leaked government investigation points the finger at the Kurds, while a Christian member of a local council in Ninewa province said that Kurds were the ones arrested for the incidents. Allegedly, Maliki ordered the Kurdish army units out of the city as a result. The government inquiry into the attacks supposedly said that the Kurds carried out the attacks to expand their control over Ninewa, the northern portions of which the Kurds wish to annex. Weakening the Christian population there would eliminate one opponent of the Kurds’ plan. If the government released information about those that they arrested, the whole issue could be put to rest, but the political ramifications could mean those details may never be revealed.

For more on attacks on the Christians:

Bad Times For Iraq’s Christians

SOURCES

Adas, Basil, “Kurds seen behind attacks on Christians,” Gulf News, 10/30/08

Alsumaria, “New pointers in displacement investigation,” 10/18/08

Associated Press, “Few Iraqi Christians returning to Mosul despite government support,” 10/23/08

Azzaman, “Qaeda not involved in forcing Christians to leave Mosul, government says,” 10/16/08

Flintoff, Corey, “Some Displaced Iraqi Christians Ponder Kurds’ Role,” Morning Edition, National Public Radio, 10/28/08

Goode, Erica and al-Salhy, Suadad, “Violence in Mosul Forces Iraqis Christians to Flee,” New York Times, 10/11/08

IRIN, “Christian displacement slows in Ninevah,” 10/26/08

Kenyon, Peter, “Christian Security Forces Growing Stronger In Iraq,” Morning Edition, NPR, 10/6/08

Mohammed, Mujahid, “Iraq pours in police to protect Christians,” Agence France Presse, 10/12/08

Reuters, “Hundreds of Iraq Christian families return: MP,” 10/29/08

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