Christian minorities in Iraq
no security in the south, little hope for progress (Press Release)
As Iraq prepares for the upcoming parliamentary elections on Oct. 10, 2021, many of the remaining Christian believers are considering relocating to Kurdish parts of the country – or to go abroad. "Even if church bells still ring in the southern Iraqi metropolis of Basra, the few services take place in virtually deserted prayer rooms," stated Dr. Kamal Sido, Middle East Consultant of the Society for Threatened Peoples (STP). While there were 2,000 to 5,000 Christian believers living in Basra in 2003, there are still around 500 today. Most of them left southern Iraq for fear of being killed or kidnapped.
"Immediately after the fall of dictator Saddam Hussein, radical Shiite militias dominated entire neighborhoods in Basra. There were daily attacks, including on Christian churches," Sido added.
"Many think that normal life is not yet possible again in Basra." There used to be church services in 14 to 18 churches in Basra every Sunday. Now, this is only the case in four remaining churches: in the Syrian-Catholic Church, the Chaldean Church, the Syrian-Orthodox, and the Protestant Church. Today, some of the church buildings are destroyed.
The Christian communities in Iraq – such as the Yazidis, Mandaeans, and other religious minorities – had high hopes for the Pope's visit in March of this year. But even the pontiff was unable to convince the Iraqi central government and the Iraqi parties to pay more attention to religious freedom and the situation of minorities in the country. Also, according to Sido, the political parties do not pay much attention to these problems in the course of their election campaigns. "The country's largest challenges – to settle the conflict between the central government in Bagdad and the regional government in Kurdistan, as well as widespread corruption, the weak infrastructure and Iraq's dependence on oil revenues. However, the biggest problem is still the interference from the neighboring countries Iran and Turkey. While Shiite Iran supports radical Shiite militias, Sunni Islamist groups receives help from NATO member Turkey.