Iraq: Christians Marginalised and Vulnerable

Provincial council elections were held in 14 of Iraq’s 18 provinces on Saturday 31 January. Because Iraqi politics is totally tribal the stakes are high and Christians, as a small minority, are inevitably marginalised. For various reasons the elections were generally peaceful. Also no voting was held in the still ethnically mixed, highly contested and volatile northern provinces of Dahuk, Arbil, Sulaymaniyah or Kirkuk.

Tensions are high in the northern Nineveh Province where a massive ethnic power-shift is about to take place. It has been the centre of the Assyrian homeland for several millennia and is where most of Iraq’s remaining Christians live. However, for the past few centuries it has also been Kurdish ‘frontier’ territory. When the Sunni Arabs boycotted the 2005 vote, they opened the door for Kurds to extend their control into Arab-majority areas — lands Arabised by Saddam Hussein to ensure Arab majorities in oil-rich areas. Oil-rich Mosul (Nineveh’s capital) subsequently became a front-line in the Sunni Arab insurgency. After the US-led surge in central Iraq drove militants north, Mosul also became al Qaeda’s new Iraq base in its jihad for the imposition of fundamentalist Islam.

Arab nationalists, rumoured to have ties to both Baathists and al Qaeda, campaigned on a platform of rolling back Kurdish expansion. They are now set to take power in Nineveh from incumbent Kurdish nationalists who campaigned on a platform of Kurdish consolidation, de-Arabisation and autonomy. Assyrian Christians, who for centuries have suffered intensive persecution and numerous massacres at the hands of both Arabs and Kurds, were reportedly threatened and intimidated for their vote. The power shift could create an explosive situation. Iraq’s Christians are once again going to be stuck in the middle and torn between warring and vengeful ethnic nationalists, to the delight of al Qaeda which will doubtless use any ethnic conflict as a cover for its Islamic jihad.

The catastrophe that has befallen Iraq’s indigenous Christian peoples is virtually never mentioned in news reporting as it would conflict with the ‘success’ propaganda. The tragic plight of Iraqi Christians is so profoundly ignored you could be forgiven for thinking they are invisible or non-existent! This terrorised, traumatised, largely displaced remnant — less than half of Iraq’s pre-war Christian population — is facing genocide and a return to crippling, dehumanising, brutal dhimmitude (see