Christian communities in Iraq

Fear of an uncertain future

While Germany and other NATO states are still discussing the consequences of the catastrophe in Afghanistan and a possible rise of radical Islamism, the Christian communities and other minority groups in the Middle East fear for their future. According to Dr. Kamal Sido, Middle East Consultant of the Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) in Göttingen, the recent visits of the Pope and the French President were symbolically important, but they hardly helped to improve the situation of the Christian communities in the city of Mossul in Northern Iraq. "The Christians and members of other ethnic and religious minorities would be fine with a minority status in predominantly Muslim societies, if they could rely on their rights. However, minority groups and women of all ethnic groups are already underprivileged – and their remaining rights are under attack as well." 

The Christians, Yazidis, and other minorities in Iraq are threatened by radical Sunni and radical Shiite militias. "Parts of Mossul are completely controlled by militias – and the state security forces are unable to protect the people," Sido said. "If the remaining Christians in the region don't feel safe in their hometowns any more, they will leave sooner or later." In some parts of Mossul and the province of Ninawa, militias have even taken control of the administration of public and private land and buildings, and the leaders are making a fortune by trading public and private property – especially real estate that belongs to members of minority groups.

"For example, the militias are setting the prices for real estate in the commercial area of Bab al-Toub in Mossul. Buildings are sold for prices that are higher or lower than their actual value," Sido stated. "In a Christian village named Bartalla, for example, a house of a Christian family is sold for only 30 or 40 million Dinar, although it is really worth around 100 million Dinar." Deals like this are an important source of income for the militias. Also, this practice serves to attract settlers in order to change the ethnic and religious composition of the former Christian regions.  

The number of Christians in Iraq has gone down by more than 50 percent since the beginning of the war in 2003. At least 1,200 Christians have been killed, about 700 of them because of their religious affiliation. In Mossul, the so-called Islamic State (IS) has destroyed tens of thousands of houses of Christian families. Further, 20 of the 30 churches in the city and in the nearby Niniveh region – some of them 1500 years old – were destroyed.