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Iraqi Christians: Fleeing Mosul Print E-mail

Story from BBC News
Translation: Abdirahim Saeed
November 16, 2008

Mosul in northern Iraq remains a fierce battleground for al-Qaeda militants. Violence against the city's Christian community spiked in early October, prompting more than 13,000 Christians to flee. BBCArabic.com spoke to a few of them sheltering in villages north of the city.

SOOAD, CIVIL SERVANT

I am a widow with four children under the age of eight.

We escaped leaving everything behind; the furniture and everything I've worked for all my life.

What happened in the days before we left is difficult to describe. We saw killings, kidnappings and people's houses being bombed. They entered our homes, took our men and killed them.

It is strange: we are peaceful and tolerant and have lived with our Muslim neighbours for many decades. We ate in their homes and they ate in ours - what has brought this sectarian strife to us?

At the moment we are living in a neighbourhood association building in Qosh [a village north of Mosul]. Approximately 10 families including ourselves, live in two rooms.

Of course we are grateful for the families of Qosh and the neighbours who bring us food every day. And we are also thankful to the monasteries and churches who have helped us. But how long are we going to stay like this for?

HANAA

I have four children and I decided to leave Mosul for their safety. My husband is so ill he refused to come with us. I live in constant worry.

Our Muslim neighbours have taken him in, so they can care for him. We live in harmony with our Muslim neighbours and they condemn what's happening to us.

My uncle's family received a letter, threatening to kill him unless he called a number they gave and offered money.

I was born in Mosul as were all of my family. It's difficult for us to leave. My female Muslim neighbour rang me today, she told me sadly that by going, we had taken the spirit of the area with us.

We cannot afford to leave our house and move to one of the villages, or to leave the country, or bribe our way to a safe European country.

The people with weapons follow your financial situation so closely. If they realise you have just sold your car, they'll come the next day to take the money you got for it.

SAEED

I am old and I am disabled, dating from the [Iran-Iraq] war. A male cousin of mine was assassinated, then one of my friends who is also disabled was murdered. I felt I was in danger, so I decided to leave.

Despite the fact all my friends, relatives and and neighbours refused to let me go, I had to leave. They are still calling me, saying "come back".

At the moment we are in Qosh. I don't have any direct relatives here, but the people of Qosh have become like family. We are orthodox, and they are Chaldean, but we are like family.

They have welcomed us to the extent of clearing their own families from their own homes - to create some room for us.

GEORGE

George is a member of the Assyrian Chaldean Syriac Council in Mosul, trying to help Christians who have fled their homes.

The exodus doesn't stop. We have found refugees places to stay in churches, monasteries, and people's spare rooms.

Can Iraq - and the world - stand by with their arms crossed while an entire group of people is being displaced? 

The big problem is the lack of governmental agencies. A fact-finding visit from an official means little for someone who has just left his home with nothing but the clothes he's wearing.

The government says it has sent forces to protect them - but how can they protect every Christian's house in Mosul? The solution should be a fundamental one, not a temporary one.

Two months ago there was a campaign to protect Mosul's Christians, but as soon as the Iraqi forces left, it went back to square one.

We have thousands of displaced people, some of whom are civil servants, students, university lecturers - what will happen to them?

Can Iraq - and the world - stand by with their arms crossed while an entire group of people is being displaced?

 

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