ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Christians in the Nineveh governorate have expressed their concerns about the demographic changes in the region as they quietly held a small ceremony to celebrate Christmas under strict security protection.
The administrative officials of Assyrian cities in Nineveh have called for specific articles within the constitutional amendment that protect the rights of ethnic and religious factions to safeguard them in Nineveh and prevent them from migrating.
Basim Bello, the Mayor of Tall Kayf, an Assyrian city in Nineveh, said civilians there “legitimately fear the demographic change.”
“We have been experiencing a systematic demographic change stemming from the previous regime, and it is ongoing until now,” Bello told Kurdistan 24. “If the constitution is amended, our rights and protection must be included.”
“Our territories used to have a Christian trace, but that is not the case anymore.”
Before the emergence of the so-called Islamic State in Nineveh and its control of a majority of territory in the province, over one million Christians lived alongside Yezidis (Ezidi), Shabak Kurds, and several Arab factions.
However, the number of Christians who live there now has reduced along with other minorities as more Arabs are being relocated from southern and central parts of Iraq.
Isam Behnam, the Mayor of Qaraqosh, said Christians and other minorities are continuously migrating to other countries “due to the lack of work and investment projects” in the region, “but most importantly, they leave because of fear of extremism.”
“The constitution must be a guardian for the Christians and other minorities in Iraq,” Behnam stated, pointing to Article 23 of the Iraqi Constitution, which ensures the rights of religious factions in the country.
“We have requested the Iraqi Minister of Justice to focus and elaborate on that article in the future,” he added.
This year, the majority of Christians in Iraq did not celebrate Christmas in public except for those who live in the Kurdistan Region.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany
(Additional reporting by Blesa Shaweys)