Since the beginning of the year the Christian community in the city of Mosul has been under siege. From January 2010 to the present 12 people have been killed. The last incident occurred on February 23 when militants stormed a house and killed three members of a Christian family. The first was when a Syriac Orthodox church was bombed. As a result, the head of the Syriac-Catholic church sent a letter to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki demanding that the government protect the Christian community and form an inquiry into the incidents. Pope Benedict XVI has also said he’s concerned about the Christian community in Iraq, and Human Rights Watch has called for the government to increase security in Mosul.
In the meantime, Christians are suspending their usual routines and leaving the city. Up to 61 families have fled Mosul and gone to other Christian towns to the north. The two leading Christian parties in Ninewa province, the Popular Chaldean Syriac Assyrian Council and al-Rafidayn have suspended their campaigns for the 2010 election, and hundreds of Christian university students are not going to school due to threats.
So far both Baghdad and the Ninewa government say that they are doing all that they can to protect Christians. Ninewa’s Governor Atheel al-Nujafi called on the Ninewa Operations Command to increase security and restore order. Maliki’s government has created a committee to look into the attacks. Christian politicians have been critical of both efforts. One said that Baghdad and the Kurdistan Regional Government do not coordinate, and that is creating security gaps that have been exploited by militants. Even under the best of conditions however, Mosul is the most violent city in Iraq per capita because it is the last urban stronghold of the insurgency.
This is very similar to the series of attacks that beset the Christians in Mosul in October 2008. That time, 40 Christians were killed and up to 12,000 fled the city. Both Arabs and Kurds were blamed for the attacks, but an investigation by Human Rights Watch concluded that the culprits were Arab insurgents. By mid-November 2008, the threats were over and up to 80% of the Christians had returned to the city to go back to their jobs and school. Both incidents came before Iraqi elections. In 2008 Christians were preparing for the January 2009 provincial elections, and this year voting is being held for Iraq’s parliament in March. Christians are also caught in the conflict between Baghdad and Kurdistan over the disputed territories. Driving them out of Mosul may be aimed at keeping their participation down, and punishing them for not taking sides.
Hopefully this will all be over soon as the parliamentary balloting is due in just a few more days. It still shows how vulnerable Christians are in Iraq, and that the government is incapable of protecting them from determined campaigns of intimidation and murder. Already thousands of Christians have left their homes and moved to either Kurdistan or to other countries. This latest round of attacks will surely lead to more of that.
Ahmad, Jareer, “Christians flee Iraq’s Mosul,” Azzaman, 2/24/10
AK News, “Escalation of targeting Christians in Mosul predicts more displacement,” 2/25/10
- “The non-stop series of Christians targeting in Iraq – Analysis,” 2/26/10
Alsumaria, “Iraq to probe Iraq Christians killing,” 2/26/10
Aswat al-Iraq, “Gunman kill 3 Christians in Mosul,” 1/23/10
DPA, “Iraqi lawmakers highlight ‘political’ killings of Christians – Summary,” 2/25/10
Human Rights Watch, “Iraq: Protect Christians from Violence,” 2/23/10
- “On Vulnerable Ground,” 11/10/09
Kamal, Adel, “christians targeted ahead of elections,” Niqash, 2/25/10
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