Christian Iraqi Population Dwindling Amid Wars, Persecution

A human rights group says the situation is ‘catastrophic’

By Nancy Flory Published on July 13, 2016

Dictator Sadam Hussein’s brutal rule brought about suffering and persecution for the up to 1.4 million Christians in Iraq in 2003, but the situation now is even more dire, said Mark Lattimer, head of Minority Rights Group (MRG). “The impact on minorities has been catastrophic,” he said. “Saddam was terrible; the situation since is worse. Tens of thousands of minorities have been killed and millions have fled for their lives,” reported Thomson Reuters Foundation. Now there are only about 250,000 Christians living in Iraq.

Since 2014, when Islamic State militants declared parts of Iraq and Syria a caliphate, Christian Iraq has suffered greatly, enduring persecution, killings, abductions and kidnappings at the hands of ISIS militants. Their women and girls have suffered sexual enslavement and forced marriages. “One cannot say anything positive about Saddam — he was a genocidal dictator, but for many minorities the situation is now much worse,” said Lattimer. And the persecution of Christians and other minorities has been disproportionate.

Targeting of Christians and other minority groups for persecution has risen dramatically since the summer of 2014 as ISIS gained recruits and boldness and captured several cities with a large Christian population, reported the Christian Post. Christian institutions in Mosul have been shut down, destroyed or commandeered for ISIS’ own purposes, said MRG. All 45 churches in Mosul are now occupied by ISIS. Further, Christians who remained in Mosul after ISIS’ takeover are required to pay jizya, a religious tax required of non-Muslims under Islamic law.

In addition to persecution, torture and other atrocities, Iraqi Christians have been displaced by the millions. MRG states that in March 2015, six homes belonging to Christians were destroyed in Mosul by ISIS; three months later, 30 homes belonging to Christians were destroyed by the terrorist group and by May 2016, 3.4 million Iraqis had been displaced.

The report’s authors anticipate the displacement of about 1 million more Iraqis and an additional flight of hundreds of thousands of refugees within the next year, as they see no future in Iraq.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said it’s not all about outright killing of minorities; people are also dying because they do not have access to care that most Westerners take for granted. “Even the obscene casualty figures fail to accurately reflect exactly how terribly civilians are suffering in Iraq,” He said. “The figures capture those who were killed or maimed by overt violence, but countless others have died from the lack of access to basic food, water or medical care.”

One religious leader forced to leave Ninewa said leaving is a one-way ticket. “[T]he most painful thing is that whenever we [Christians] leave — we never go back. We left our heritage, graves and ancestors with that land.”

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