Assyrians are the only autochthonous people of Iraq, having lived in their ancestral lands in north Iraq since 5000 B.C. Assyrians are Christians, belonging to three main denominations: The Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East, the Syriac Orthodox Church and the Chaldean Church of Babylon. The native language of Assyrians is neo-Syriac (neo-Aramaic). This distinct identity of Assyrians, especially their Christian faith, sets them apart from the rest of the population.
Assyrians comprised 8% (1.5 million) of the Iraqi population in April of 2003. Since then 50% have fled the country. Of the 750,000 Iraqi refugees in Jordan up to 150,000 are Assyrians. Of the 1.2 million Iraqi refugees in Syria, 70,000 to 500,000 are Assyrians.
From 1995 to 2010 385 Assyrians were killed. For the years 1995-2002 there were 19 murders, averaging 2.37 per year. After the liberation of Iraq in 2003, the average number of murders for the years 2003-2010 was 55, 2316% higher than for the years 1995-2002. The geographic distribution of the murders was 39.85% in north Iraq, 58.17% in central Iraq and 1.98% in south Iraq. Kurds, Sunnis, Shiites and al-Qaeda engaged in murdering Assyrians. Examples included:
- A 2 month old infant kidnapped, beheaded, roasted and returned to its parents on a bed of rice
- 14 year old Ayad Tariq decapitated because he is a “dirty Christian sinner”
- A 14 year old boy crucified in his own village in Mosul
- Fr. Paulos Iskander (Paul Alexander) kidnapped, beheaded and dismembered
- 66 churches were attacked or bombed since June, 2004: 41 in Baghdad, 19 in Mosul, 5 in Kirkuk and 1 in Ramadi.
- At least 13 young women were abducted and raped, causing some of them to commit suicide.
- Female students were targeted in Basra and Mosul for not wearing veils; some had nitric acid squirted on their faces. Elders of a village in Mosul were warned not to send females to universities.
- Mahdi Army personnel circulated a letter warning all Christian women to veil themselves.
- Al-Qaeda moved into an Assyrian neighborhood and began collecting the jizya and demanding that females be sent to the mosque to be married off to Muslims.
- Assyrian businesses were targeted. 95% of liquor stores were attacked, defaced or bombed. 500 Assyrian shops in a Dora market were burned in one night.
- Property was confiscated by Kurds in the north and Shiites in Baghdad.
- Kurdish authorities denied foreign reconstruction assistance for Assyrian communities and used public works projects to divert water and other vital resources from Assyrian to Kurdish communities. Kurdish forces blockaded Assyrian villages
- Children were kidnapped and forcibly transferred to Kurdish families.
This is just a summary. Inside, there is a full report on their situation.
After the massacre that took place in Baghdad’s church, another two Catholics were killed:
Asia News reports that two Christians have been killed in Baghdad on Nov 7th: 49-years-old Louay Daniel Yacob, who was shot while he was entering his apartment. The other Christian, whose identity has not been released for security reasons, was also killed on Sunday.
Some Muslims in Iraq have condemned the brutal massacre of Catholics in Baghdad. Last Friday, Nov 5th, during prayers, all the mosques in Kirkuk condemned the “barbaric attack” against the church. The sheikhs of the Arab, Kurd and Turkmene tribes have also condemned it and have given their solidarity to the city’s Archbishop. Also the Sunni and Shia imams have also condemned the attack and have called Muslims to protect Christians who are a “model of loyalty”.
Well, that’s very good, of course. But still this condemnation has nothing to do with the “Burn the Qu’ran” one.
Related: Sweden must stop deporting Iraqi Christians. Expressen, a Swedish tabloid, and all Swedish Christian newspapers are demanding the Swedish government and the Migration authorities take the persecution of Assyrians in Iraq seriously. They are demanding a stop on all deportations of Christians to Iraq and and that the Swedish government works for protection of Assyrian and other Christians. A petition has been signed by editors, reporters, Church leaders and politicians.