New Wave of Violence Targets Christians in Iraq

12386997.jpgBy MIDDLE EAST TIMES

A recent string of killings in Iraq is raising fear among Iraqi Christians after four Assyrian Christians were killed in areas ranging from Kirkuk in Northern Iraq to the capital, Baghdad.

Sabah Aziz Suliman, 60 was killed in his home in Kirkuk on April 1, at approximately 6Am.

April first is the Assyrian New Year and one of the most festive days in the yearly calendar. Assyrians gather from around the world to celebrate the festival with dancing, music and time together with their families.

On April 2, at 6AM, 64 year old Nimrud Khuder Moshi was killed in his home and shortly after that at around 8AM, Glawiz Nissan 61 and Hanaa Isaaq, 58 were killed in their home in the Dora neighborhood of Baghdad, a historic Christian community.

According to the Iraqi Government during the time of Saddam Hussein, the Assyrian population of the country was estimated at about 2.5 million, or roughly 10 percent of the population.

Their representation in the Iraqi Parliament consists of only two members, although representatives for the community say they should have at least 25.

The group Iraqi Government officials consistently refer to as “the best Citizens, the original people of Iraq” have been consistently killed and marginalized in a country that has taken a dramatic turn towards fundamentalism. Many feel they have been forced to alter their dress and lifestyle in a way that is completely against the culture and history of cosmopolitan Iraq. These changes have affected the Assyrian Christians the most and exposed many within the community to regular danger.

Estimates are that up to half of the population has left the country, many to neighboring Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and other areas waiting to see if they can return.

Killings like today in the predominately-Assyrian Christian area of Dora are a major obstacle to their return.

William Warda, Chairman of the Hammurabi Human Rights Organization said, he was “very concerned at this dramatic rise I violence immediately following the recent elections. This will greatly affect those displaced outside the countries we are counting on to return and cause many more to leave the country, just when things were calming. ”

On a separate note Warda said, “While this is not directly connected to the killings, the major problem the Assyrians are facing is the fact that the Iraqi Constitution which includes the words “Islam is the official religion of the State” causes there to be a near total lack of religious freedom.

“Most people outside Iraq are not aware of the simple fact that it is against the law and the punishment can be death for the most basic human freedom – the freedom to change ones religion. We are particularly disappointed at the International Community for not supporting this important human right, particularly in a nation they have so heavily invested in, in both blood and treasure.”

In a tragic irony, the Assyrians were the first nation in history to accept Christianity and known as the people who brought the faith throughout much of the world, now on the verge of extinction in their own homeland.

http://www.metimes.com/International/2009/04/02/new_wave_of_violence_targets_christians_in_iraq/2476/