COUNTRY PROFILE

IRAQ

Christians slowly returned to their towns and villages in the Nineveh Plains following Daesh (ISIS)’s attempt to eliminate Christianity. During an October 2018 visit to the UK organised by ACN, Chaldean Archbishop Habib Nafali said Iraq’s Christians had endured systematic violence designed to eradicate them: “If this is not genocide, then what is genocide?”(1) His sentiments were echoed by Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako.(2) As of June 2019, just over 46 percent of families who fled had returned – but churches lamented an apparent lack of both domestic and international aid to rebuild. Father Salar Kajo, of the Churches’ Nineveh Reconstruction Committee, said: “After a year of rebuilding, the only channel of aid has been through the Church”, adding that the Hungarian government provided direct aid.(3) The process of return has been complicated by security problems, with accusations of aggression, including land grabs by militias allegedly protecting Christian settlements.(4) Widespread problems confront the country’s Christian communities, including additional taxes levied on Christian-majority areas in the Kurdish autonomous region,(5) lack of support for those who suffered sexual violence,(6) accounts of at least 350 Christian-owned properties being illegally seized,(7) and the sporadic killings of Christians and members of other minorities.(8)

1. “Christianity in Iraq ʻone wave of persecutionʼ from extinction”, The Tablet, 10th October 2018, https://www.thetablet.co.uk/news/10842/christianity-in-iraq-onewave-of-persecution-from-extinction (accessed 8th February 2019).
2. John Newton, “Cardinal highlights threat to Christianity”, Aid to the Church in Need (UK) News, 29th September 2017, https://acnuk.org/news/iraq-cardinal-highlightsthreat-to-christianity/ (accessed 20th February 2019).
3. John Newton, “Help families home now – or Christianity could disappear from the country”, Aid to the Church in Need (UK) News, 19th March 2018, https://acnuk.org/news/iraq-help-families-home-now-or-christianity-could-disappear-from-thecountry/ (accessed 21st February 2019).
4. “Assyrian Christian Lands Forcibly Seized in Northern Iraq: Authorities Again Petitioned to Protect the Rights of Minorities”, International Christian Concern, 17th May 2018, https://www.persecution.org/2018/05/17/assyrian-christian-landsforcibly-seized-northern-iraq/ (accessed 20th February 2019).
5. Business charges were added in Ankawa, Erbil and Semel near Duhok. Ankawa Today (Facebook), 2nd July 2018, https://www.facebook.com/617288955025470/
posts/1973203526100666/ (accessed 20th February 2019).
6. “Islamic State rape survivors in Iraq are like ‘living corpses’”, The New Arab, 10th March 2018, https://www.alaraby.co.uk/english/news/2018/3/10/is-rape-survivors-in-iraqare-
like-living-corpses (accessed 18th February 2019).
7. “350 Christian Homes Illegally Seized in Iraq”, International Christian Concern, 21st November 2018, https://www.persecution.org/2018/11/21/350-christian-homesillegally-
seized-iraq/ (accessed 20th February 2019).
8. “Iraq: Christians concerned after spate of deadly violence”, Middle East Concern, 20th March 2018, https://meconcern.org/2018/03/20/iraq-christians-concerned-afterspate-
of-deadly-violence/ (accessed 18th February 2019).
9. Sangar Ali, “Hashd al-Shaabi sexually harass Christians in Nineveh Plain: Christian MP”, Kurdistan 24, 15th December 2017 (last update), http://www.kurdistan24.net/en/
news/6ddbf5d1-0d0d-49f2-988e-64fb440cd88b (accessed 12th June 2019).
10. “Christian Family Stabbed at Home by Armed Group in Baghdad”, International Christian Concern, 12th March 2018 https://www.persecution.org/2018/03/12/christianfamily-
stabbed-home-armed-group-baghdad/ (accessed 18th February 2019).
11. Claire Evans, “Iraqi Curriculum Issues Veiled Threat Against Christian Women”, International Christian Concern, 15th January 2019, https://www.persecution.org/2019/01/15/iraqi-curriculum-issues-veiled-threat-christian-women/(accessed 20th February 2019).
12. Account of attack from Archbishop Bashar Warda; “‘Trust is gone’: Iraqi Christians fear returning due to Shiite militia”, Daily Star (Lebanon), 12th February 2019, http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Middle-East/2019/Feb-12/476387-trust-is-gone-iraqichristians-fear-returning-due-to-shiite-militia.ashx?utm_content=buffer763df&utm_
medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer; “Militia Forces Threaten Iraqi Priest”, International Christian Concern, 3rd December 2018,
https://www.persecution.org/2018/12/03/militia-forces-threaten-iraqi-priest/(Both sites accessed 12th June 2019).

December 2017

MP Joseph Silewa complained of Christians in Qaraqosh and Bartella being harassed – and in some cases sexually assaulted – by members of the Shabak-Shi’a Popular Mobilisation Forces’ (PMF) 30th Brigade. The Kurdistan Regional Government’s Director General of Christian Affairs confirmed that there had been harassment and abuse by the PMF and other militia groups following the liberation of the Nineveh Plains from Daesh.(9)

March 2018

Dr Hisham Shafiq was stabbed to death along with his wife and elderly mother in their home in Baghdad. Father Biyos Qasha feared these events were part a plan to force Christians from their homes.(10)

January 2019

The Ministry of Education’s new curriculum was condemned by Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako. He said: “I read inaccurate, inappropriate and offensive statements that incite hatred and division, which are far from the values of tolerance and the principles of citizenship and coexistence.” For example, the textbooks for children aged 6-11 say unveiled women are “sick.”(11)

April 2019

A gun attack on a Palm Sunday procession in Bartella forced Christians to abandon the traditional ceremonial start to Holy Week. Cars drove alongside the procession while those inside opened fire. Fewer than a third of 3,800 Christian families that left Bartella have returned, and the Shabak-Shi’a militias, which control the town’s security, have reportedly harassed Christians, including firing guns in front of St George’s Church for more than an hour and threatening its priest Father Behnam Benoka.(12)

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