Official: Christian community in Nineveh Plains fear demographic change

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Baxtiyar Goran
Crucifixes and icons are seen at the heavily damaged Church of the Immaculate Conception in Qaraqosh (also known as Hamdaniya), some 32 kilometers east of Mosul, on April 9, 2017, as Christians mark the first Palm Sunday event in the town since Iraqi forces recaptured it from the Islamic State (IS). (Photo: AFP)
Iraq Hashd al-Shaabi Christians

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – The Christian community in northern Iraq’s Nineveh Plains complain of rights violations by the Iranian-backed Hashd a-Shaabi, an official representing the people said on Saturday.

Jamal Talia, the Director-General of Christians’ affairs in the Kurdistan Region, told al-Arabia that the majority of Christians have not been able to return to their areas despite the defeat of the Islamic State (IS) due to threats and violations from the Hashd al-Shaabi Shia militias.

Talia noted that there was a process of demographic change in the Nineveh Plains, adding that the practice was “not something new as it was also carried out by the former Iraqi regime before 2003.”

The official revealed that less than 50 percent of Christians have returned to their liberated areas in the Nineveh Plains.

“The majority of displaced Christians have migrated outside of Iraq due to a lack of vision for their destiny as they have stayed in the Kurdistan Region for a long period,” he added.

According to the official, the population of Christians in the Nineveh Plains before IS attacks was around 140,000 people. Following the extremist group’s assault on the region, thousands of Christians were forced to flee to Kurdistan.

“Many Christian families have traveled to Europe, the US, and Australia, and nearly 100,000 Christians have fled to Lebanon, Turkey, and Jordan,” Talia told al-Arabia.

Regarding rights violations committed by the Hashd al-Shaabi against the Christian community, he noted that there are “factions under the umbrella of the Shia militia working to change the demography of the Christian-populated areas.”

In addition to IS’ attacks, Christians in the Nineveh Plains are exposed to harassment and assaults by the Shia militias since a military takeover of disputed areas, making it difficult for them to return to their homes.

Editing by Karzan Sulaivany