Iraqi Christians Forced to Flee Homes Because of ISIS Still Have Not Returned

The Islamic State (ISIS) has adopted a strategy of insurgency in areas previously under the militants’ control during the height of its so-called Islamic Caliphate.

According to Assyrian International News Agency (AINA) the genocide perpetrated by ISIS against religious minorities has left these areas devastated. Issues of transitional justice and security remain critical.

AINA said Iraq’s Nineveh Plains, traditionally home to most of Iraq’s Christians, is not immune to these challenges. International Christian Concern’s (ICC) Transitional Justice Report documents their impact on the Christian community of the Nineveh Plains.

Since ISIS was officially declared territorially defeated in the Middle East this past March, the militants have grown their insurgent activities in the Nineveh Plains. Iraq has increased its focus on how to provide justice on behalf of the militants’ victims, without hearing their testimonies. Meanwhile, Christians are left wondering what future is left for them in Iraq.

Activities of ISIS

AINA reports the surprise public reemergence of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS, at the end of April addressed the group’s territorial loses and was, in essence, a formal declaration of insurgency. Previously, there were many doubts about whether al-Baghdadi was still in control of ISIS, or even if he was alive. His rare appearance was intended as a message of ISIS’s strength, cohesion, and determination to continue their genocidal policies.

Al-Baghdadi’s reappearance took place in the days prior to the start of Ramadan, a time when extremist activity and Christian persecution generally increases within the Islamic world. It is unclear whether the ISIS activities which followed in the Nineveh Plains were more heavily influenced by al-Baghdadi’s reappearance or the timing of Ramadan.

Most confirmed ISIS activity within the Nineveh Plains occurred in Mosul. Some estimates say that prior to ISIS, nearly 60,000 Christians lived in Mosul. None have permanently returned; however, many Christians in the Nineveh Plains are forced to frequently travel to Mosul as it is the administrative capitol of the governorate.

A lack of security in Mosul remains the primary concern of these Christians. “Half of the civilians in Mosul joined ISIS,” a Mosuli priest told ICC. “Christians saw many movies on social media of how civilians welcomed ISIS in June 2014. How can they trust those people anymore?”

AINA reported Iraqi Security Forces killed 27 alleged ISIS militants in Mosul during the month of May. This includes at least one senior leader and multiple suicide bombers. In a refugee camp near Mosul, Iraqi Intelligence Officers arrested three men accused of affiliating with ISIS.

A mass grave was discovered by Iraqi Security Forces in western Mosul. Most of the 37 bodies were women. Local officials believe that they were executed when the militants seized Mosul in 2014. A forensic medical department in Mosul is currently identifying the remains. Most mass graves discovered thus far in Iraq hold the victims of religious minorities.

Click here to read more.

SOURCE: Assist News, Michael Ireland