If you had read the independent Iraki newsagency Aswat al Iraq’s English language coverage of Ninewa governorate in general and the disaster that is befalling Mosul’s Christians in particular you would know that that yesterday evening "more than thirty" Christian families had fled Mosul within a space of two days. "More than thirty" — you could be forgiven for having the the impression that only a few more than thirty families have fled, thirty one, thirty two, thirty three perhaps … … … "more than thirty".
The reality is catastrophically worse. Hundreds of Christian families have fled their homes in the last two days in Mosul and it’s suburbs in terror for their lives.
If you are a Christian in Mosul today the overwhelming factor in your life is that to fear being hunted down and slaughtered without mercy is an entirely reasonable fear to have. The source of the "more than thirty" quote is Bashar Kiki who is the head of the village council for Tal Keef. However, if you read the report that my colleague Mohammed Al-Hamadani posted earlier today (Arabic language) it becomes very clear that Bashar Kiki1 was speaking only of families whom he personally had met and to whom he personally offered help.
However when you count all the Christian families who have fled their homes in Mosul in the last few days and not just those who fled to Tal Keef as we have done and as Bishop Emil Shimoun Nona, Chaldean archbishop of Mosul, has done then the scale of the catastrophe engulfing Mosul’s Christians becomes clear.
Speaking from Mosul the Bishop spoke of a "humanitarian emergency" and revealed that in just one day, yesterday, "hundreds of Christian families" had fled the city taking what they could carry leaving their homes and livelihoods behind them. Those families are now destitute.
The archbishop of Mosul is concerned about the many families, "hundreds" in one day yesterday, leaving the city. Bishop Nona speaks of an " unending via Crucis” and denounces the "change in methods" operated by the armed gangs. "In the past we said to the Christians to remain closed in the house – he remembers – but now they are even attacked in their own homes”. The reference is to the murder took place last February 23: commandos entered the house of Aishwa Marosi, a Christian of 59, killing the man and two boys. His wife and daughter witnessed the murder but were spared by the criminals.
Bishop Nona confirms the risk that "Mosul will be emptied completely of Christians”, who are fleeing towards the plain of Nineveh and other places considered safer. "Yesterday I visited some families – he continues – I have tried to bring comfort, but the situation is dramatic. The people fled without taking anything with them”. This is why the local archdiocese has launched an initial emergency response, trying to provide "essential supplies and relief", but the danger of "a humanitarian crisis is real."
The archbishop of Mosul plans to travel to Baghdad to meet with politicians and the central government, to demand their intervention. It is difficult to maintain the Christian presence, he continues, and it is likely that the general elections – scheduled for March 7 – no one will vote. The confining of Iraq’s Christians in the Nineveh Plain, victims of a power struggle between Arabs and Kurds, seems an increasingly concrete likelihood, although the Church leaders have always been opposed to this "ghettoisation". So far, the warring factions have used the excuse of religion and armed gangs to drag the Christians into the conflict. "For this – concluded Mgr. Nona – we now need to find a ‘political response’ to the conflicts, the struggle for power.”
Among those hundreds of Christian families who fled their homes yesterday were the families of two Gorilla’s Guides team members. More Christians have fled Mosul this morning. Among those who fled this morning were a further two families of Gorilla’s Guides Christian team members in Mosul.
When I wrote "Nearly One Million Christians – Most Of Them Now On The Run" nearly two years ago, we had twenty five Christian team members and associates together with their families living in Mosul and it’s suburbs. Today February 25th 2010 we have one Christian team member left living in the city. He lives alone having sent his family to stay in the home of another team member far from Mosul for their safety.
The savage murder of the 59 year old Assyrian Christian Aishwa Maroki by a gang of gunmen who smashed down his front door to get at him and then slaughtered him and and his two sons Bassim and Mokhlas in front of his terrified wife and daughter has terrorised many of Mosul’s Christians beyond endurance. As my colleague has reported in the immediately preceding posting (see نزوح اسر مسيحية من مدينة الموصل جراء العنف | Gorilla’s Guides ) The leader of Tal Keef district council, Bashar Kiki, has said that he personally has offered assistance to thirty Christian refugee families and that he expects more Christian refugees to arrive in the next few days.
Mosul’s Christians are the victims of the complete breakdowns in law and order that have taken place repeatedly in Mosul since the American invasion of Irak. They are the victims of several concentrated campaigns of terror against them. There is the campaign by Takfiri extremists and there are the competing campaigns of Arab and Kurdish nationalists. Wherever my Christian brothers and sisters in humanity look in the city that is their home Mosul’s Christians see only threats and predators. The security forces, the Peshmerga now flooding the city, and the American forces who patrol with the Peshmerga do nothing to protect the Christians. Nor do they do anything to protect the other minorities such as the Shabaki and the Yazhidi.
We have many eyewitness reports from witnesses whom we know to be credible of Peshmerga and their American allies standing by and doing nothing while Christians are attacked in front of their eyes. We have reports from people whose testimony we know to be credible of Christians being "fingered" by the new "security" forces flooding Mosul and then being attacked. We are not the only people with thick dossiers of such reports. Every human rights organisation with a presence in the governorate has such a dossier.
The parallels with the death squad murder campaigns of recent years in which the death squads consisting of "men dressed in police uniform" and "men dressed in army uniform" turned out to be police and soldiers are too clear and too appalling to be missed. As with those campaigns the aim is explicitly political — to remove a political obstacle by forcing an entire community to flee in terror from their homes
When Mosul’s Christians say that they are surrounded by threats and predators in the city that is their home and that among worst predators are those whose duty it is to protect them they are telling the truth.
Like Bashar Kikim, and Bishops Sako and Nona we in Gorilla’s Guides know that we can expect more Christians to flee in terror as the terror campaigns against them escalate. We expect increased violence against them and the other minority groups, such as Turkmen, Fayli, Shabaki, and Yazhidi in the run up to the election. We expect the violence levels to escalate against them still further as the issues of Kirkuk and the so-called "disputed areas" come once more to forefront of the political arena. This is the second time in recent years that I have burnt with rage and shame that we cannot do more to protect our Christian brothers and sisters. I believe that it is now very doubtful that there will be any surviving Christians in Irak in a few years time.
Mohammed Ibn Laith
Notes and references:
- I have met and dealt with Bashar Kiki on occasion as have many other team members and we know him to be a truthful, honourable, upright, and compassionate man.
- For a background briefing on Iraki Christians see: Nearly One Million Christians – Most Of Them Now On The Run | Gorilla’s Guides I wrote it on March 23, 2008 in it I deal with Iraki Christian history and discuss the legal (Shariah) situation as regards their rights to live and worship in peace and freedom.
- However the Takfiri campaign against Iraki Christians in general and Mosuli Christians in particular is only one of several campaigns against them. Most of the attacks on them are ethnic cleansing from one group or another. Some of the best coverage is from the Vatican run Asia News who are unafraid of using their excellent local contacts and contacts with local organisations to get at the truth.
- The homepage for Asia News’ English language service is at this link.
This report explains clearly the basic problem IRAQ Mosul: targeted execution of Christians continues in media and government silence – Asia News the last part of which I extract immediately below:
Local witnesses reported that "the murder took place in front of the security forces, who saw all the phases of the attack, but did not intervene." A Catholic in Mosul says that "the tactic is to murder Christians, because the media does not talk about it." A strategy that aims to push Christians towards the plain of Nineveh, "in the silence and indifference of the government and the international community."
A source for AsiaNews in Mosul, adds that "Christians are living in panic and have begun fleeing from the city". He explains that "these are not normal criminals," but behind them are "specific political plans" that the government is not countering. There is no information from Baghdad "about who is behind attacks on churches and Christians," but the source is confident that the central executive, the governorship of Mosul and the Kurdish leadership "are aware" of the plan against the Christian community.
"It is easier to attribute responsibility to Al Qaeda – concludes the source – and the fundamentalist fringe. In reality, Christians are victims of a power struggle between Arabs and Kurds".
- My colleague Ali who has excellent contacts in Mosul and trained our coordinator there made a simlar point om May 13, 2009:
There’s a reason why our Christian fellow citizens are fleeing Irak and not coming back. The tragedy of Tony Edward Shiol’s murder illustrates it perfectly — Christians are targets. Sometimes they are targeted as a matter of ethnic cleansing, sometimes because of warped and fanatical religiosity, and sometimes because they are often seen as being a relatively wealthy and relatively powerless minority.
Irak’s Christians have been through hell, Irak’s Christians continue to endure hell – the figures speak for themselves. As best I can determine the Christian population stood at 1.2 million in 1991, 800,000 in 2003 and is less than 400,000 today. When I talk to the few of my Christian friends who remain in Irak, they are divided. Some dream of a return to old days of an Irak that treats its Christian minority well and cherishes their presence. An Irak in other words that behaves like Syria and Jordan. There are many who have given up and are fleeing to Europe, to America, or to wherever will take them, finally there are some who want their own semi-autonomous region in the Plain of Ninawa.
This last option the “Ninawa plains project” is fatally flawed. Its flaw is that the Kurds are determined to incorporate the Ninawa plains into what is rapidly evolving from an autonomous region to a de facto state while the governorate authorities and the government in Baghdad are equally determined to prevent the Kurdish land grab. The result is that Christians, especially Christian families with children, are vulnerable to intimidation and coercion from all sides. No wonder they flee.
- Further coverage can be found here: