09/17/2013, 00.00
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As death toll hits highest level since 2007, Patriarch Sako laments rising sectarianism, loss of unity

More than 5,000 deaths have been recorded since January, the bloodiest level in civilian casualties since 2007. "People are unwilling to forgive or turn the page," according to the Chaldean Patriarch. For a Christian lawmaker, "a wider conflict between Sunni monarchies in the Gulf and the Shiite axis Tehran-Damascus-Hezbollah" could drag down the country.

Baghdad (AsiaNews) - As a result of car bombs in seven cities yesterday, Iraq's death toll rose this year to 5,612 after only eight and a half months, making it the bloodiest year since 2007.

"People are unwilling to forgive or turn the page," Chaldean Patriarch, Mar Raphael Louis Sako told AsiaNews. "Shias, Sunnis, Kurds, Arabs . . . everything is fragmenting and moving towards confessionalism."

With the Syrian emergency casting a big shadow, the recent wave of religious violence in Iraq has killed more than 3,000 people this summer.

With an average of 36 civilian casualties per day, September is going to be the bloodiest month in five years. Yesterday, 11 different attacks across the country caused 67 deaths.

According to iraqbodycount, web-based effort to record civilian deaths, the toll of ten years of instability ranges between 114,000 and 125,000 civilian dead.

The US withdrawal in 2011, and the subsequent transfer of power to Shia-dominated Iraqi Shiite authorities has made matters worse, rekindling religious hatred by the Sunni minority.

In addition to that, the conflict in neighbouring Syria, with its sectarian connotations, has contributed to fresh violence among Iraqi religious groups.

"The regional situation is very complex and the crisis in Syria is evidence of that," Patriarch Sako said. "In Iraq and throughout the Middle East, it seems that outside hand are feeding hatred and violence by leveraging the ethno-religious fragmentation."

Even Christian MP Yonadam Kanna, a leader of the Assyrian Democratic Movement, told AsiaNews that "the violence in the country, especially in Baghdad, is a direct reflection of the sectarian conflict that is taking place in Syria, as well as the Iraqi component of a wider conflict between Sunni monarchies in the Gulf and the Shia axis Tehran-Damascus-Hezbollah."

"People in Syria are not weeping for the regime," he went on to say, "but for the collapse of state institutions. From this perspective, the stability of Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Turkey is likely to be compromised. Thank God that at least we avoided an outside armed intervention."


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