Iraqi Christians flee Mosul
Thousands of Iraqi Christians fled the city of Mosul in northern Iraq during early October, after Sunni Muslim extremists launched a deadly campaign to remove the Christian community from the city.
‘We left everything behind us. We took only our souls’, said Ni’ma Noail (50), a civil servant who had to abandon his home in Mosul and is now living in a church.
At least seven Christians were murdered between October 4 and 8, killed execution-style by gunmen. Other estimates suggest the number of Christians killed is as high as 25 or even 40. Christian houses have been blown up and at least 744 Christian families (approximately 3,750 people) have left their homes to find refuge with relatives or in churches and Christian centres in seven towns and villages to the north and east of Mosul. Some were sleeping in their cars. They are in desperate need of food, clothes, bedding, items for personal hygiene and other basic necessities.
‘Pay or die’
Leaflets have been distributed in Mosul, threatening Christians with death unless they convert to Islam or pay the Islamic jizya tax that marks them as second-class citizens. The leaflets, which are an effective tactic used before in Baghdad and elsewhere, have been condemned by the Association of Muslim Scholars in Iraq. One source reported that, on October 9, extremists drove around the Mosul neighbourhood of Sukkar, shouting through a loudspeaker that Christians would be attacked unless they left the city.
Northern Iraq is the historic centre of Christianity in Iraq. Many Christians from Baghdad and Basra had fled to the north for safety in recent years. The estimated Christian population of Mosul is now 50,000.
It is believed that the extremists behind the campaign are linked to al-Qaeda. The attacks follow on the heels of another blow to the Christian community when Parliament agreed, on September 24, to remove Article 50 from the Provincial Election Law. The article had guaranteed a specific number of seats for minorities, including Christians, on the Regional Councils.
Extremely grave situation
Dr. Patrick Sookhdeo, International Director of Barnabas Fund, commented:
‘The situation in Iraq is extremely grave. Sunni Muslim extremists are moving north, now that they have successfully managed to intimidate and drive out most of the Christians from the cities of Basra in the south and Baghdad in the centre of Iraq. I appeal to the Iraqi government and the US army to intervene urgently to prevent the elimination of the indigenous Christian community of Iraq. I also appeal to Christians around the world to help meet the practical needs of their Iraqi brothers and sisters at this time.’
Please help our brothers and sisters in Iraq.