11/13/2007, 00.00
IRAQ
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Baghdad’s “successes” vs Mosul’s “hell”

Improved security in the capital is inducing many refugees to go home. The Petraeus plan but also co-operation between Iraqi forces and Sunni and Shia tribal groups are the reason. But in Mosul Christians are still hunted down. A Chaldean man who ran a liquor store is shot in front of his house.

Baghdad (AsiaNews) – Security in Baghdad is improving and many exiled families are starting to hope they might be able to go home. But in other areas of the country the situation is actually getting worse. Sources told AsiaNews that in Mosul an “Islamic government” is in power and that Christians have become victims of targeted killings. The latest occurred when a young Chaldean man, father of three, was killed.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki said that security in the country has improved. As evidence he cited the fact that some 7,000 families who had fled the violence have returned to their homes in Baghdad, 3,100 people in the past 90 days alone.

People are now leading a normal life; streets and markets are lively again, he said. Stores are staying open longer, something which was impossible just six months ago. Women can walk the streets alone. And even though kidnappings have not entirely ceased, the atmosphere is generally more relaxed in dangerous areas like Dora and Adhamiya.

People can get back to a normal existence after eight months of tighter security, the prime minister said, referring to the surge of 30,000 US troops deployed since February of this year, because terrorists have left Iraq or are hiding.

The number of attacks has been falling steadily since a spike last June; bombing and suicide attacks are down dramatically—down 77 percent from last year. 

The decline in terrorist activity and militia violence can be attributed to several factors other than the Petraeus plan. For example, Sunni and Shia tribal groups have started to co-operate with Iraqi and coalition forces against al-Qaeda, whose presence now everybody views as negative. Similarly, former members of Saddam Hussein’s Ba‘ath Party have been reintegrated in the regular army and state administration.

Another positive sign is the arrival of a new United Nations Special Envoy, Staffan de Mistura, who was appointed in September. He will renew the world body’s commitment to the country after it was interrupted by the bombing of its Baghdad headquarters on August 19, 2003, which forced it to withdraw, except for a skeleton staff.

In northern Iraq, where many Christian families have fled, sources told AsiaNews that several are contemplating going home to Baghdad with renewed hope, although the more cautious are thinking more in terms of “perhaps in a year.”

Many Iraqis who found refugee abroad are going home at a time when host countries like Syria and Jordan are making it harder for them to register with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Increasingly, living in exile with some dignity has become impossible.

The Irin news agency reported that many families are going home pushed by desperation after spending all their savings. For instance, Ziad Qahtan Naeem, a 46-year-old father of three, spent US$ 30,000 living in Syria in a year and is now getting ready to go back to Baghdad with his family. For him it is like “approaching your death sentence.”

More importantly, “successes” in Baghdad’s do not extend to other parts of the country. indeed, if the situation in Kirkuk, where Arabs and Kurds are vying for control, is considered critical but stable, Mosul has instead turned into “hell.”

Local residents say the city has fallen effectively under the control of an “Islamic government” with tragic consequences for the small Christian community.

Last week a 35-year-old Chaldean man was killed in front of his house in Mosul. Khaled Sako, the father of three, was the only member of his family left in Iraq where he had stayed behind to run a liquor store.

Eyewitnesses said that he was shot in the back as he was going inside his home.

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