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Why Assyrians in Iraq Are in Profound Danger
By Ano Jawhar Abdoka
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What the Christian community in Iraq faces can only be defined as intense hatred and hostility. Since 2003, Christians in central and southern Iraq have been subjected to killing, abuse, kidnapping, discrimination, and forced displacement. Over a hundred of their churches have been attacked, and a dozen of their clergy members, including bishops, priests, and deacons, have been killed, kidnapped, and tortured. Around 1,350 Christian civilians lost their lives. Out of a Christian population of 2.1 million, a staggering 80 percent fled the country, seeking refuge abroad, while others were internally displaced to the Kurdistan Region, following the historic initiative by President Masoud Barzani in 2003, which aimed to provide sanctuary to all Iraqi religious minorities. More than a Patriarch's struggle

The ongoing turmoil faced by Christians today mirrors the trials previously endured by Jews in Iraq. The emergence of militias intent on occupying Christian lands and properties in areas like the Nineveh Plains and other Iraqi cities encountered a significant obstacle in their path -- Cardinal Louis Raphael Sako, Patriarch of the Chaldean Catholic Church. As the spiritual leader of Iraq's largest church, representing approximately 80 percent of Iraqi Christians, Patriarch Sako opposed the creation of Christian militias. His beatitude consistently urged the Iraqi government to prevent the existence of such groups, as Christians inherently advocate for a robust and stable government, not a fragile one.

Influential figures like the bishops of the (Nineveh Bishops Council) also opposed militia formation and the acquisition of Christian political representation in the Iraqi parliament through tens of thousands of votes outside of the Christian house gathered by militias to support their proxies and impose them on Christians , intended to consolidate the political power of these militias. The resilience of Christians shocked the militias, prompting them to target the head of the most powerful church, aiming to set an example that would discourage others from opposing their expansionist policies in the Nineveh Plains. This culminated in efforts to compel their allies to affect the decision of the presidential institution of Iraq, by issuing a presidential decree by the Iraqi president Abdul Latif Rashid, to withdraw the presidential dated for more than 10 years ago, only concerning Patriarch Sako. Suppressing the Christian voice

While numerous other decrees by the Iraqi presidency for various bishops and churches leaders remain in place, exclusively targeting Patriarch Sako serves the purpose of conveying a clear message: Christians must remain silent and cooperative during the militias' efforts to alter the demographics of their ancestral lands in the Nineveh Plains. This silence is also expected regarding the multitude of human rights violations and abuses committed by these militias. Since July 2023, Patriarch Sako has sought refuge in Erbil, where he was warmly welcomed by the government and the people. His choice signifies a protest against the actions of the Iraqi president and the militias, with thousands of Christians across Iraq, the Kurdistan Region, and elsewhere raising their voices against these unjust decisions. Despite the protests, neither the Iraqi government nor the presidency has taken steps to address this plight or end the ongoing demographic changes in Christian territories within the Nineveh Plains. Nineveh Plains held hostage by militias

On August 4th, 2023, the (Nineveh Bishops Council) organized a protest demanding immediate action by the Iraqi government to stop the continuous demographic alterations in the Nineveh Plains, threatening the Christian community's presence. Additionally, the council sought the enactment of an electoral law ensuring genuine Christian representation in the Iraqi parliament. The bishops, and thousands of Christians in the protest were shocked that the militias reacted by closing checkpoints and preventing journalists, as well as Christians from other towns and villages, from joining the protest.

What should Christians do?

Christians and other minorities in Iraq need to unite efforts, and organize their movement on both levels international, and local. Christian parties; Chaldean, Assyrian, Syriac, and Armenian, with Ezidi, Kakaye, and Turkmens need to understand that alone they lose, together they have a very strong chance to prevail, and guarantee their existence in their historic ancestral homeland. To be or not to be

It is imperative for the United Nations and its Security Council to take steps to safeguard the imperiled Christian community in Iraq, particularly in the Nineveh Plains. Establishing an internationally protected and closely monitored zone emerges as the most effective solution. Especially by the implementation of Sinjar agreement. Failure to act risks the world losing one of its oldest Christian communities. The international community must comprehend that Christians in Iraq face profound danger, a continuous hushed Genocide!

Ano Jawhar Abdoka is the Kurdistan Regional Government's Minister of Transport and Communications.

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