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  • » 05/15/2008, 00.00

    IRAQ

    Pressures to annex northern Christian villages to Kurdistan



    Reports, unconfirmed by political authorities, suggest Kurdish officials are getting Christian refugees in the Nineveh Plain to sign up for annexation to Kurdistan in exchange of monthly help. The initiative falls within a scheme never abandoned by the Erbil government to create a Christian safe heaven under its administration. However, the plan is raising concerns among the local population.

    Mosul (AsiaNews) – People claiming to represent the Kurdish government are making the rounds of Christian villages in the Nineveh Plain, telling residents to sign forms approving the annexation of the territory to the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region. The ultimate goal is to create a predominantly Christian area under Kurdish administration, this according to reports published on Ankawa.com. The Webzine’s correspondent tried to collect more information about what so far have been sketchy accounts by local residents that have gone unconfirmed by political or religious leaders. But should it prove correct, the initiative is in line with a plan to create a safe haven for Iraqi Christians.

    In an interview with AsiaNews about such reports, Mgr George Casmoussa, Syro-Catholic bishop of Mosul, capital of Nineveh province and one of the most dangerous cities in the country, chose not comment on “issues of a political nature” but stressed that “Christians only want to be free to live in their land, to remain in their country and exercise the rights that the national constitution guarantees for all Iraqi citizens.”

    “Kurdisation” of the Nineveh Plain

    According to Ankawa.com reports, officials from Kurdistan’s Christian affairs office, a satellite division of the Finance Ministry under the controversial Sarkis Aghajan, are getting internal refugees to sign forms in favour of the annexation of the northern section of the Nineveh Plain to Kurdistan in order to receive their monthly humanitarian assistance, reassuring them that it is all legal, respectful of democratic principles and in line with Art. 140 of the constitution which calls for a referendum to decide the “return” of Kirkuk and historically Kurdish provinces to the jurisdiction of the Kurdish government in Erbil. 

    Some Christian migrants have complained however of “verbal pressure” exerted by Kurds against them. Mr Jevara, who arrived from Baghdad, said he was told that although signing was not compulsory those who did not would not get any assistance.

    Others denounced the fact that Minister Aghajan’s economic largesse towards Christian villages was a trap to carry out the “Kurdisation” of the Nineveh Plain.

    For some time politicised Christians in the United States and Europe—from those in the US Diaspora with influence in the Patriarchate in Baghdad to Evangelical Christians and Minister Aghajan—have been using the tragic religious persecution in Iraq to push for the creation of an “Assyrian” enclave on the Plain.

    Whether at home or abroad few Catholics back this project. For many, it is a “diabolic and dangerous” plan that can only “sow divisions” among Christians. Chaldean priests and lay people in Europe want their Church to “take a clear stance” and for the Holy See to “make its voice heard” on the matter

    The head of a local popular committee, Jamil Zeto, refused to answer Ankawa.com when it asked him to comment on the matter.

    In a recent meeting in Alkosh the Kurdish Democratic Party denied claims that there was a campaign to put pressure on them or force people to sign. It did however reiterate its desire to see the creation of an autonomous zone within Kurdistan where everyone could live in peace.

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    See also

    27/06/2007 IRAQ
    Two Christians abducted in Mosul a week ago are freed
    One of them the young driver from Alqosh originally from Batnaya. A ransom was demanded for both of them; Christians no longer feel safe not even in the North.

    08/06/2007 IRAQ
    Kidnapped Chaldean Priest : No to the Niniveh plain ethnic project
    Opposition to the “Assyrian” ghetto to save Iraq’s persecuted Christians today finds a qualified representative: Fr. Saad Hanna Sirop, one of the first Chaldean priests to have been kidnapped in Baghdad, and for whose release Benedict XVI intervened. A victim of Iraq’s violent anti Christian persecution, he too views the idea of an ethnic-religious enclave as diametrically opposed to Iraq’s history and the purpose of evangelization. Moreover, Fr. Saad maintains that the project’s real aim is not protection of the Chaldean and Assyrian Christians, but to protect ambitious “personal and economic interests”.

    11/11/2009 IRAQ
    Kurdish guns threaten to bring a new humanitarian catastrophe to Iraqi minorities
    Human Rights Watch raises the alarm, confirmed by AsiaNews sources. Plan includes setting up a ghetto in the Nineveh Plains for Christians and guarantee Kurds control over resource-rich Kirkuk. Humanitarian aid is given in exchange for support as dissidents get crushed.

    07/08/2015 IRAQ
    For Mar Sako, one year after the Mosul tragedy, only unity and reconciliation can save Iraq
    On the first anniversary of the great exodus from the Nineveh Plain, the Chaldean Patriarch addresses a letter to Iraq’s government and parliament. In it, he denounces the difficult conditions in which Christians and Yezidis still live, as well as the thousands of deaths among Muslims. Peace is the only response to the violence of extremist groups who "exploit religion".

    20/04/2009 IRAQ
    Nineveh Plain: a ghetto for Iraqi Christians is an illusion
    The Archbishop of Kirkuk comes out against a plan promoted by Iraqi political and religious leaders leaving abroad to set up a Christian enclave in the Nineveh Plain. The idea is meant to “save Christians” from attacks and violence, but it runs against Iraqi history and Christians’ mission and could accentuate the ongoing ethnic and religious confrontation in the country.



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