Iraqi Christians speak out about attacks

By Haider Ajina

NINEWA — Iraqi Christians displaced from Mosul said insurgent operations targeting them only indicted how frail the government and security agencies have become, accusing unnamed organizations of stirring sectarian sedition in the city. The claims were expressed as violence escalated by unidentified armed groups against Christians in Ninewa province recently, prompting hundreds of Christian families to relocate elsewhere.

Toma Lewis, a 38-year-old Christian, had to flee Mosul to reside in a small house with a relative in Qara Qosh district in al-Hamdaniya, fearing for the lives of his family.

“Some Christians were murdered in broad daylight. This just showed us that the local government and security agencies, topped by the operations command, do nothing but parrot promises and pledges,” Lewis told Aswat al-Iraq. He said his area had security presence and, even if they are present, they do nothing to stop the assaults.

“I left Mosul Monday morning after I heard of the killing of several Christians. I received several phone calls from relatives that some gunmen are targeting Christians and that some of their neighbors were shot by gunmen without apparent reason,” he said.

All Christians, he added, have left Mosul for other districts such as the predominantly-Christian al-Hamdaniya (Qara Qosh), 40 km east of Mosul, in addition to the districts of Talkeef, Buesheiqa and al-Qosh.

“All the rooms of the Mar Matta Monastery are already occupied by displaced Christians from Mosul, while those who remained in the city are closing their doors and don’t venture out,” said Lewis.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on Tuesday sent six ministers and the official spokesman for the government to the province of Ninewa, 405 km north of Baghdad, The Iraqi minister for emigrants’ affairs was instructed to provide assistance for the families displaced from the province and make matters easy for them to return to their original homes. Iraqi Minister of Defense Abdelqader al-Ubaidy earlier said that reasons for the displacement of 1,894 Christian families from Mosul have been detected.

Abu Fadi, another displaced Mosul Christian, said the city will be soon empty of Christians, as it became empty of ethnic Yazidis before, due to these acts. “There is amity between us and Muslims in Mosul, but there are some unknown parties that try to stir schism between Muslims and Christians,” he told Aswat al-Iraq.

Yahya Abad Mahjoub, a member of the Ninewa provincial council from the Sunni Iraqi Islamic Party (IIP), denounced operations targeting Christians in the city. “Muslims, Christians, Yazidis, Arabs, Kurds and Turcomans have always been a model of peaceful coexistence and cooperation,” Mahjoub, who is also the chief of the council’s relations and information committee, added.

He noted that the organizations behind operations targeting Christians are the same ones that “target Muslims, Yazidis as well as Sunnis, Shiites and any other ethnicities or groups.”

“There are, however, well-known parties supported by neighboring countries to target Christians in Ninewa,” Mahjoud said, not revealing those parties or neighboring countries.

Ninewa operations commander urges Christian families to return

(From Aswat Al-Iraq — Voices of Iraq — Oct. 20)

NINEWA — The commander of the Ninewa operations command on Monday called on Christian families who left Mosul to return to their homes, noting that all these regions have been secured.

Speaking at a press conference with Deputy Prime Minister Rafeaa al-Eissawi, Lt. Gen. Riyad Jalal said “350 Christian families have returned home to Mosul,” noting that all regions where Christians live, including churches, have been secured through the deployment of security forces in Mosul.

Mosul is the capital of Ninewa. The original city stands on the west bank of the Tigris River, opposite the ancient biblical city of Nineveh on the east bank, but the metropolitan area has now grown to encompass substantial areas on both banks, with five bridges linking the two sides.

There are different communities in Mosul such as Christians, Shiites and Kurds along with a Sunni majority. The fabric muslin, long manufactured here, is named for this city. Another historically important product of the area is Mosul marble. The city is also a historic center for the Nestorian Christianity of the Assyrians, containing the tombs of several Old Testament prophets such as Jonah, Yunus in Arabic, and Nahum.

My (ajina) Comments:

How a government responds to crises within its borders shows how committed it is to its citizens, no matter what minority they are in. It appears that while Baghdad may have dropped the ball on protecting Christians in Mosul initially, it has now put protecting them and creating safe conditions for their return as a high priority. Since early last week it has been one of the highest priorities of Baghdad to secure the Christian quarters in Mosul, so its inhabitants can return. I have followed these developments closely and have been impressed with the speed and organization by which the plight of Mosul christens has been abated. It is tragic that it happened in the first place and I hope future security plans can preempt this type of incidence.

Much of the credit for the quick response capability of the Iraqi security forces rests with the caliber, equipment and training they have received from our men and women serving in Iraq.

Haider Ajina was born in Baghdad, attended school there and in Germany, and currently lives in McKinleyville.