Iraq: Reconstruction aid must not cause Christians to be displaced!
Christians in Iraq need more reconstruction aid: Assyrians/Chaldeans/Aramaeans must not be driven away from the Nineveh Plains! (Press Release)
A few days before Christmas, the Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) calls for more help for the Christian Assyrians/Chaldeans/Aramaeans and other minorities in northern Iraq. "Islamic State (IS) was driven out of the northern Iraqi metropolis of Mosul and the neighboring Nineveh Plains more than a year ago. Nevertheless, most of the former Christian inhabitants are unable to return – due to a lack of funds to rebuild their destroyed homes," stated Kamal Sido, the STP's Iraq expert, in Göttingen on Thursday. "Despite many promises by the authorities in Iraq, there has not been much progress in attempts to rebuild the Christian communities. However, it is important for them to return soon, because there is a risk that members of other ethnic groups will take possession of empty buildings and land, thus expelling the former Christian owners from the region permanently."
According to Iraqi Christians, a total number of 13,904 homes in the region of the Nineveh Plains needed to be renovated or rebuilt. So far, only about 50 percent of these houses have been made habitable again. Only 9,060 Christian families are said to have returned from Iraqi Kurdistan to the Nineveh plateau by November 2018 – just over 45 percent of all the Christians who had to flee from IS in the summer of 2014. Representatives of local Christian churches reported that another 2,000 families would like to return to the Nineveh Plains, but are hesitant due to the lack of reconstruction aid and because of the security situation.
"The Christian Assyrians/Chaldeans/Aramaeans and members of other minority groups must be given a perspective in their home country, or they will set off for Europe," Sido warned. They must also be involved in the decision-making for the future of Iraq – and more financial support is needed to promote the language, culture, and traditions of the Christian people throughout the country. Political self-government for Christians and other minorities living in the vicinity of the Nineveh Plains could be an important sign that the Assyrians/Chaldeans/Aramaeans are welcome in the region, ensuring that they will not treated as second-class people.
According to local observers, the number of Christians in Iraq has fallen from 275,000 to 150,000 since 2015. Today, most of them are living in Iraqi Kurdistan in the north of the country. As in many states of the Middle East, Christians in Iraq are suffering from the worldwide conflict between Sunnis and Shiites. Above all, the Christians in Iraq and neighboring Syria fear attacks by radical Islamists.
Header image: IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation via Flickr