Christians who were allowed to leave Mosul by ISIS gangs on the condition that they left all their property behind, have migrated en masse to the cities of Hewler (Erbil) and Duhok in South Kurdistan.
There is concern that if things continue in this way there will soon be no Christians left in Iraq. While some are staying in churches, most are staying in Christian villages or in rented accommodation.
Many Christians are going to European countries, in particular France and Sweden, by air from Hewler. The Metropolitan is not allowing the Christians who have fled to Hewler to speak to the media.
The first thing the ISIS gangs did after capturing Mosul was to murder the soldiers and police who had been unable to escape in a brutal way and publish these executions on the internet. ISIS then targeted the Shia, arresting many of them.
Christian population down to 400,000 from one and a half million
Finally, ISIS turned on the Christians in Mosul, telling them they had to either convert to Islam, pay a monthly tax or abandon the city, leaving all their property behind. While a handful of Christians agreed to pay the tax and remained in Mosul, more than 200,000 left the city. Since the American invasion of 2003 the Christian population of Iraq has fallen from 1,500,000 to 400,000.
After the Christians left the city ISIS burnt down churches and monasteries, including the 4th century Mar Behnan monastery, where the monks were expelled.
Metropolitan media ban
Some of the Christians who have taken refuge in Hewler and Duhok have moved to the Shaqlawa, Diyala, Sersing, Amediye and Barzan areas where they are staying in churches, villages and rented accommodation.
Christians in Hewler are receiving assistance from the church, who are registering them and addressing all their needs. The Metropolitan of the Chaldean Catholic church in Hewler, Bashar Meti Verda, whom we visited, said the church had taken the decision not to speak to the media.
Flying to Europe
Extra flights have been laid on to meet the demand of thousands of Christians who are continuing to fly to Europe from Hewler. Many are going to European countries where they have relatives. Last week, the French government announced it was ready to give Iraqi Christians the right of asylum.
Syriacs call on UN
Last week in the Ankawa suburb of Hewler there was a demonstration that marched from the Chaldean Culture Centre to the United Nations representative office. Hundreds of Christians carried placards reading: “We’re Christians, we’re Iraqis,”, “Hey ISIS, this is my homeland”, “We are the original Iraqis” and “Protect our legacy” in Kurdish, Arabic and English.
In a speech the Metropolitan of the Chaldean Catholic church in Hewler, Bashar Meti Verda, said: “the Christians of Mosul were forced to leave their homes and their lands by the inhuman treatment of ISIS. We call on the UN to resolve this problem as soon as possible. The UN must safeguard the security of the Christians and other minorities in Iraq.”
Sayyid Ekmen, of the Union of Islamic Scholars of Kurdistan, supported the protest, saying that they condemned the ISIS treatment of Christians and Moslems in Mosul. He added that no one had the right to oppress human beings in the name of Islam, saying they were prepared to assist the Christians who had taken refuge in Hewler. Following the protest, 4 Christian and Moslem religious leaders presented their demands in writing to UN officials.
ANF – HEWLER 30.07.2014