Christian, Yazidi villages remain deserted years after ISIS defeat

Publication Date: 26/10/2022

Source: Rudaw

Christians are vanishing from the Nineveh plains, according to church leaders in the province, and Baghdad’s failure to provide services means those who fled the ISIS onslaught of 2014 are unlikely to return.

Successive wars, international sanctions, and the arrival of ISIS have all contributed to the migration of Iraq’s Christians to Jordan, Canada, the US, Europe, Turkey among other destinations.

Yousif Naamo, a resident of Baqofa village, Tel Kaif district, is the only person in his entire family who has opted to stay in his village. In the past, he used to visit the cemetery of loved ones with his relatives, but now he is alone as most of them have sought shelter in the Kurdistan Region and others migrated abroad.

"The number of villagers including children, men, and women, does not exceed 25. In the past 100 to 150 used to visit our village church, but now, there is no one." Naamo told Rudaw’s Naif Ramadhan on Tuesday while visiting the tombs of loved ones.

Around 80 percent of the predominantly Christian villages of Nineveh are empty. People in remaining populated villages have declined from around 300 families to under 30.

The future of Iraq's Christians remains shrouded in uncertainty. Over a million members of the community used to call Iraq home before 2003, but fewer than 300,000 remain in the country today, according to data obtained by Rudaw English from Erbil's Chaldean Archbishop Bashar Matti Warda.

Iraq’s Christian community has been devastated in the past two decades. Following the US-led invasion in 2003, sectarian warfare prompted followers of Iraq’s multiple Christian denominations to flee, and attacks by ISIS in 2014 hit minority communities especially hard.

Fewer than 300,000 Christians remain in Iraq today, but not all live in a permanent place they can call home.

Yazidis are going through the very same crisis.

The once-thriving towns of Gir Ozeir, Dwsi, and Girzer are deserted. Very few people are ready to return home due to a lack of very basic life essentials and security, according to Nayef Saedo, acting mayor of Shingal.

Poverty, instability, and unemployment have driven a large number of Yazidis to take illegal and dangerous routes to Europe in recent months.

Link: https://www.rudaw.net/english/middleeast/iraq/261020221

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