The liberation of Mosul from the Islamic State does not create an opportunity for most displaced Christians to return home, an Assyrian Christian in the U.S. advocating for the victims told Baptist Press.
Rather, many displaced Christians see better prospects in establishing their lives in the Nineveh Plains northeast of Mosul, said Juliana Taimoorazy, founder of the Iraqi Christian Relief Council. Based in Glenview, Ill., the council advocates for persecuted Iraqi and Middle Eastern Christians in their homelands and in the U.S.
“The majority of Christians are not seeking to return to Mosul specifically. This is because they were betrayed by their own neighbors,” Taimoorazy told BP. “When [IS] invaded, they asked the neighbors to point out where the Christians are, which is why they marked their homes with the Arabic letter ‘N’ for Nazarite, much like the Nazis marked the Jews.
“How can a Christian return to where they were betrayed and trust their neighbor again? This is why they won’t return to Mosul.”
Taimoorazy said sources have reported as few as 10 Christian families were among residents who were unable to escape Mosul and remained under Islamic State rule when it established a so-called caliphate there in 2014.
“Most have either been tortured or their family members have been killed,” Taimoorazy said. “A few have superficially converted to Islam by reciting the shahada [Muslim profession of faith] to remain alive, although in their hearts they remain Christian.”
IS displaced about 170,000 Christians inside Iraq, Taimoorazy estimates. Half of those were able to migrate to slums and refugee camps in cities such as Amman, Jordan, and in small villages in Turkey and surrounding areas of Beirut.
Still others were tortured or killed, said Taimoorazy, who herself was harassed daily during her childhood in Iran under the Islamic regime, she said, and was smuggled to the U.S. as a teenager.
“We don’t have accurate statistics as of now, but we do know there are several hundred Christian women who were sold into sex slavery from the Nineveh Plains and Mosul,” she said. “Many have been crucified on their doorsteps. Hundreds of women were raped in front of their husbands and later forced to witness the execution of their husbands.”
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SOURCE: Baptist Press