Iraq’s Christian Community Stirred by Targetted Murders in Kirkuk

cmimg_533652.jpgMartin Barillas
Carbombed Iraqi church
A double murder has outraged Iraq’s Christian community in the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk, considered strategic for its huge oil fields disputed between Arabs, Turkmen and Kurds. On October 1, Bassam Isho (30) – a Catholic man employed at a restaurant in the Muthana district – was shot dead by a group of unknown men. Following the murder, the men scattered and are as yet unidentified. Earlier that day, on the outskirts of Kirkuk, the corpse of a second Christian was found, also shot to death. The body of Hanna Polos Emmanuel (60) lay sprawled on the edge of the road that leads from the city to Baghdad, the capital of Iraq.

Christians continue to die in the complete indifference of the authorities. Kidnappings for extortion, assassinations and attacks on churches and Christians are now episodes of daily life, and the local and national government seem incapable of defending them. AsiaNews cited anonymous sources in Kirkuk, who declared that “the attacks on Christians continue and the world remains totally silent. It’s as if – he continues- we’ve been swallowed up by the night.”

The weekend killings are only the latest in a long trail of blood and violence. On August 15 of this year, several bombs exploded at the Syriac Orthodox Church of St. Ephrem in Kirkuk. The Orthodox church is located a few hundred yards from the Chaldean Catholic cathedral in the center of the city. Previously that month, a car bomb exploded in front of the Syrian Catholic Church of the Holy Family, injuring 15 people while another car bomb was defused before it exploded at a Presbyterian church.

Christians in Iraq have increasingly become the target of Islamic fundamentalism which is still active. At the same time, they are also targeted in local feuds. Kirkuk, with its 900,000 inhabitants, and most important deposits of oil in Iraq, has long been the center of conflict between Arabs, Turkmens and Kurds. The latter want it annexed to the Kurdistan region, while both Arabs and Turkmen want to maintain links with the Iraqi central government.