International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that on October 2, 2018, Iraq’s interim government took a positive step toward breaking months of deadlock by naming a new president and prime minister. However, negotiations remain underway regarding several other key government positions. The government has struggled to form since the contested May election. This has contributed to a steep security decline, increasing the vulnerability of Iraq’s Christians, especially in the capital city of Baghdad.
“The random murdering taking place over the years is increasing because we don’t have government. The militias are in charge of the country. Academics started [this week] … I am concerned about [my] 8-year-old son until he comes back from school. His father has to take him to school because we don’t trust the school bus. If something bad happens, no one can help,” Nagham, a Baghdad Christian, told ICC.
Her family wants to escape Baghdad because of the security situation, but cannot afford losing her husband’s income. This is a common theme for Baghdad’s Christians. If they stay, they face an increased risk of violence. If they leave, they lose a source of income that was difficult to obtain because of job discrimination against Christians.
“Life in Baghdad is crazy, I [have] never seen anything similar before! Muslims earn monthly an imaginary amount of money… They live in houses [where the] price exceeds $500,000, but the family is destroyed. I think the community [is] destroyed and it is not possible to rebuild it again… Unfortunately, whoever is able to leave will not delay his leaving” said Sigar, a trader who has lived in Baghdad most of his life, but is originally from the Nineveh Plains.
Historically, Baghdad’s Christians have often relocated to the Nineveh Plains when violence plagued the country’s capital. However, ISIS’s destruction of the Nineveh Plains has removed that option for many, including Sigar.
“It is risky [for us] to stay here,” he told ICC. “[But] trading is what we are used to [doing], we cannot change it now… changing is impossible.”
Suha, a local teacher, agrees that the situation in Baghdad has put the local Christians in an ever worsening situation.
“Our being in Baghdad is dangerous. I agree we are not safe,” Suha told ICC. “The worst personalities have the high positions at the government and that’s why we are in danger. The murder of Tara Fares at one of the most crowded areas in Baghdad is more than a murder, it is a message that we got very well. It is a message of threatening that we (the militias) can do whatever wherever we want.”
This past September, four high-profile Iraqi women, including Tara Fares, were the victims of targeted assassinations. Fares has family belonging to the Christian community and her murder is reminiscent of the type of violence that Christians experienced from 2003 to 2006. Claire Evans, ICC’s Regional Manager, said:
“All of Iraq is suffering the consequences of an absent government, religious minorities the most of all. Without the protection of law, there is no one to stand by the side of Christians when they are the victims of violence and discrimination. As they watch the country’s situation deteriorate, they are increasingly left to wonder how they can survive when their options were already severely limited. We must keep Iraq’s Christians, especially those in current hot zones such as Baghdad, in our prayers.”