By: Ashur Sada
The Assyrian Christian people in Baghdad have done their best to survive in the wilderness that their city has become in the last few years. Unfortunately, the terrorists and insurgents have made sure they double the evil and bloody efforts to make sure they have the last word.
This is a city they have lived in, peacefully and joyfully, for decades and centuries. Even after the removal of the Saddam regime, and despite all these close calls, a lot of them still stayed. But ever since the ‘Baghdad Church Massacre‘, things have been quickly accelerating towards a complete collapse and loss of any control over the situation.
A whole mess has been unfolding ever since the massacre and it just won’t stop or even slow down. The systematic threats, targeting and killing of our innocent people in Baghdad is nowhere to be over, and it seems even the Iraqi government-despite all its promises to do its best-is unable to stop the attacks. Even when our people have defied everything else, the terrorist will come with something worse and test the will and resolve of our people to stay. You can’t help but feel that there may be a bigger plot and agenda behind this, aiming to empty the region of our people, the real indigenous component of the land.
So what is the solution?
Unless this genocide is halted, the fate of Christians in Baghdad will be similar to that of the Jews, whose population in the city is now virtually zero. I keep thinking that this can’t be happening in the 21st century, but unfortunately it is reality and not some nightmare from the middle ages. Can our people just face the threats and stay strong? easy for us to say, since we are not living there. It would probably make sense for our people to temporarily leave until the situation improves then come back. But in a place as wild as Iraq, this is not a viable solution, because by the time you come back, your home will probably be taken over and your very life may be in danger. Not to mention, some can’t afford leaving.
There has been talk about an Assyrian Christian security force, trained and operated under the direction of the interior ministry, to protect churches and other places of worship. As important as it is to protect our churches, we have to remember that our people don’t live in churches, so not sure what safety this will provide them. At the same time, you can’t possibly install a security force beside each Christian home. The Assyrian future in Baghdad will be uncertain unless a dramatic measure is taken by the government to find out who is behind the attacks and stop it.
To avoid this Christian extinction from the capital and the country as a whole, the international community needs to put more and more pressure on the government, so that they can get their act together and protect our people. How serious the international community takes its relationship with Iraq, should be directly related and measured by how serious the Iraqi government is about the safety and prosperity of its indigenous Christian population. Moreover, the Iraqi government has to realize that only through the actual and full protection of the Christian population and all other minorities, will it gain the real trust of the rest of the world. Until then, not a lot of governments will or should give the government a free pass on how they provide security for the Christan segment of Iraq. In Iraq, talk is cheap, that is why we need to look at whether the government is ‘walking the talk’!
Of course, some may suggest that Christians can simply flee to the relatively more peaceful and stable North, and that is certainly an option. But let us not forget, that while your physical state in Baghdad is in danger, the north-with its Kurdish dominated population and government-presents a different kind of challenge and threat. A cultural and emotional one, where jobs are scarce for Assyrians, and your very identity is under threat unless you adhere and accept the demands of the Kurdish government. Our people deserve better than to sacrifice their hands in order to save their arms. They deserve and are entitled to all the basic life necessities and rights without having to compromise.
A more viable option, which has already been talked about, is the establishment of a safe heaven for the Assyrian Christian population in the already Assyrian-dominated Nineveh Plains. This is certainly one good idea, although the politics and logistics of making it work are still under discussion and negotiation amongst the various Assyrian parties and movements, as well the federal Iraqi government and the northern Kurdish regional government. Although giving Assyrians their own province or full administrative unit in the region may not be an automatic guarantee against future terrorism targeting our people, it will certainly help. Both in a physical and psychological sense. Should the situation in Iraq stabilize, and this is certainly a matter of time we hope, Christians are then free to move into different parts of Iraq or simply stay in their own province, however they see fit.
Despite all the solutions presented above, the fact remains that Assyrians in Baghdad and many other parts of Iraq are under a direct and real threat from the terrorists. The intimidation, targeting, church bombings and killings has been so overwhelming lately that it has forced thousands of families to flee to the north or exit Iraq altogether. With the population already down to historical lows, how long will it be before our presence in Baghdad is more of a historical antiquity?
It will come down to the inhumane relentless of the terrorists versus the resistance and survivability of our people, with the Iraqi government, people and international community watching on the side. Which side will those external factors be on: the side of the good and surviving or the side of the relentless evil?
We need a turning point that will help stop this once and for all. Our people deserve a break!
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