Sunday, July 27, 2014

No room for Christians in Iraq anymore, fleeing residents say

Alive but not at peace, Iraqi Christians who have fled the advance of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, ISIS) in Mosul are recounting their nightmares about the group, while also lamenting the ostensible end of a place for their community in Iraq.

Thousands fled the violence after ISIL, which now calls itself the Islamic State (IS), took control of Mosul, and many others who were left behind were forced to flee the city last week under the threat of forced conversion or execution by jihadists. Not only were the Christians harried, but their heritage that is thousands of year old was destroyed while their homes and possessions were confiscated by the militants led by ISIL.

Over the last month, thousands of Christians who had enough money and passports fled abroad, mostly to Turkey, Lebanon and European countries. Thousands of others have found shelter in Christian towns and villages around Mosul, mostly in Qaraqoush, Bartillah, Baashiqa, Tilkaif, Alqoush and Ankawa, which are controlled by Kurdish Peshmarga forces.

Daily Hürriyet has conducted one-on-one interviews with Iraqi Christians in these towns and villages. The first stop was the St. Joseph Church in Ankawa, the biggest Christian neighborhood in the area, which is a 15-minute drive to the center of Arbil. Sunday mass was more crowded than on regular days, with dozens of Christians who fled from the violence in Mosul also attending the mass in the church. Almost all the worshippers attending spoke of their fear.

Enormous fear

“We live under Peshmarga protection here, but we still have enormous fear. We live with this feeling all the time, all the Christians are prepared to escape at any minute, in case [ISIL] attacks again. People who can afford to travel have fled to Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Europe,” Rimon Halid, 23, told daily Hürriyet.

“My relatives in Mosul fled Alqoush because of ISIL. Many Christians have also fled Ankawa. The church has been trying to find apartments and homes for them, so they were settled inside the churches and schools. Many families share the same apartment with 20-30 people together,” Selma Hurmuz, 65, said.

No electricity, no water

Since ISIL has cut electricity and water to the surrounding towns of Mosul, there is no electricity and water in most of the Christian towns and villages in the area. There is also a big shortage of fuel.

Hundreds of Christian families fled from Mosul have been settled in the shanty houses which belong to the church in Bartillah. Most of them are afraid to speak. Only a couple of them could speak of the terror they experienced back in Mosul..................(İpek Yezdani, ARBIL)................


1 comment :

  1. Militants from the Islamic State group blew up a mosque and shrine dating back to the 14th century in Mosul on Sunday, local residents said, the latest casualty in a week that has seen a half dozen of the Iraqi city's most revered holy places destroyed....

    Mosul residents said the Prophet Jirjis Mosque and Shrine was bombed and destroyed by the radical jihadist group. They spoke anonymously to the Associated Press for fear of reprisal.

    The complex was built over the Quraysh cemetery in Mosul in the late 14th century, and included a small shrine dedicated to Nabi Jerjis, the Prophet George.

    The Al-Qaeda breakaway Islamic State group captured large swaths of land in western and northern Iraq, including Mosul, Iraq's second largest city, which was captured in June. The group has imposed a self-styled caliphate in territory they control in Iraq and Syria, imposing their harsh interpretation of Islamic law. .

    Among the mosques destroyed in Mosul last week were the Mosque of the Prophet Sheeth (Seth) and the Mosque of the Prophet Younis, or Jonah, said to be the burial place of the Prophet Jonah, who in stories from both the Bible and Quran is swallowed by a whale. The militants claim that such mosques have become places for apostasy, not prayer.

    Since the Islamic State launched their blitz across Iraq, more than a million people have fled their homes, according to the United Nations. Many of those people have escaped to the semiautonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq since it has remained relatively stable since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

    In a statement published on Kurdish state media late Saturday, Kurdish Regional Government President Massoud Barzani said the bombing of churches and mosques in Mosul "is against all the principles of the heavenly religions, humanity, and it is targeting the culture and demographic of the area."

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