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Assyrian and Chaldean Christians Flee Iraq to Neighboring Jordan

Michael Ireland | ASSIST News Service | Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Assyrian and Chaldean Christians Flee Iraq to Neighboring Jordan

-- Since the allies' war against Iraq began, neighboring Jordan has received 750,000 refugees. Nobody knows how many of these are Assyrians. Various organizations estimate the number of Assyrians refugees from 30,000 to 150,000 people.

Months after the American and allies' invasion of Iraq, a systematic persecution with the purpose of exterminating the ethnic Christian natives in Iraq started, says an article by Haore Sulaiman (http://www.varldenidag.se/.)  as reported by AINA (Assyrian International News Agency).

Since then, many churches have been bombed, priests have been killed, nuns raped and children kidnapped, according to the latest report, "By God: Six Days in Amman," which has been published by the Assyrian relief organization Mor Afrem Foundation.

In the report it is confirmed that whole areas of Iraq are now emptied of Assyrians (Syriacs and Chaldeans). The Dora district outside of Baghdad is an example of this.

"It is hard to see any other reason for the killings than the Christian religion. The Christian minorities are being put even more in between the conflict, since they are seen as allies to the US," says Cristina Chamoun, who is responsible for media outreach for the report.

Refugees in Jordan have no rights, since the country has not signed the UN convention of refugees, and the refugees are therefore, by the Jordanian state, considered as guests, and not refugees. Apart from that, only a small number of the refugees are registered by the UN.

"By God" is written by journalist Nuri Kino, who voluntarily spent six days in Jordan to meet Assyrian Iraqi families, who had fled the persecution in their country. Written as a diary, "By God" contains facts about the war, the Christians' situation and the political complications in Iraq. The report confirms that the non-Muslims are the greater losers of the war. In some areas of Iraq, not being Muslim equals death.

The publication, which contains sad and gripping stories told by the reporter, at times feels like reading a thriller, Sulaiman writes.

"The fact that two million people have fled from Iraq, and that another two million are refugees in their own country, is a disaster that must not be neglected. But all facts also point to that non-Muslims are being victims of systematic ethnic cleansing," says Nuri Kino.

During the rule of the dictator Saddam Hussein, Assyrians were ethnically persecuted, but as long as they changed their names to Arabic or Kurdish names, and agreed to be called only Christians, they were allowed to practice their religion freely.

Now there are no such "guarantees" for Christians, Nuri Kino says. He wants his Swedish colleagues to have better knowledge of the situation.

"The problem for many Swedish editors is that they cannot put things in their right context, because they lack necessary and basic knowledge about what is going on in Iraq," he says and claims that Swedish journalists are afraid to be seen as politically incorrect.

"Many are afraid to be considered as intolerant if they would tell that fundamentalist Muslims are slaughtering Christians. One does not want to see the situation for what it really is."

Cristina Chamoun says that fundamentalist groups unite in the name of Islam and attack non-Muslims. "People are being harassed and murdered only because they are Christians," she says.

The following is an excerpt from the report:

"Linda and Rita had been very afraid that evening. They had several reasons for their fear. The owner of the house they lived in had, already during Saddam Hussein's dictatorship, tried to evict them because of their religion. Two months before the fall of Saddam's regime, they were at a trial. They had sued the landlord for trying to evict them because of their religion, something that was illegal in Iraq at the time. They won the trial.

"Two months after the fall of the regime, Samir was brutally beaten by the landlord's cousins. They said that either he and his family would leave the house, convert to Islam, or face the consequences. He refused to do any of the things. The landlord's niece spread rumors that they worked with the Americans, and the landlord's son bragged about having them killed.

"On two different occasions the Americans drove Linda and Rita home, the landlord's son had noticed this. Three days before they were killed, he threatened to have the whole family murdered. Three of the landlord's sons now belong to the feared Shiite Mehdi guerilla. 'You are the Americans, spies, and we will teach you a lesson,' several Shiite youths yelled at them, when the dead bodies of their daughters were being brought for the funeral."

The complete report is available on the homepage of the Assyrian magazine Hujada.

This article originally appeared in Swedish. It was translated for AINA by Cristina Chamoun.

© 2007 ASSIST News Service, used with permission

Assyrian and Chaldean Christians Flee Iraq to Neighboring Jordan