An Iraqi Christian man who fled his hometown due to the rise of the Islamic State in 2014 says circumstances have gotten “even worse” for him and his Christian brothers and sisters following the liberation of Mosul and the surrounding Nineveh Plains.
Amir Yaqu, a Christian man from the once predominantly Christian town of Bartella who has yet to return to his home village even though it’s been more than a year after its liberation from IS (also known as ISIS, ISIL or Daesh), told the pro-Kurdish news outlet Rudaw that he has not returned home because the situation in his hometown of Bartella has not improved due to the presence of Shia militias and Iranian influences.
“Bartella and Hamdania are our [Christians’] historic places. ISIS came and destroyed our churches in the name of Islam. We waited for three years until ISIS militants were gone. We thought life would go back to normal after ISIS. Now our situation is even worse,” Yaqu was quoted as saying.
Bartella, which was once home to about 40,000 Christians, was liberated from IS in October 2016. However, human rights advocates have warned that Iran has funded the opening of a school, mosque and library in the once predominantly Christian town. The new school in Bartella was named after Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini.
In addition, Iranian-backed Shia militias aligned with the Iraqi forces (known as Popular Mobilization Forces or the Hashd al-Shaabi) have reportedly manned checkpoints in other Christian towns in the Nineveh Plains, which has intimidated many Christians from returning to their home towns.
“The situation of these areas is getting worse day by day. The Hashd al-Shaabi forces are systematically trying to change the Christian demography of these places,” Yaqu said. “They have started to operate sectarian schools in churches and religious centers.”
“This work by the Hashd al-Shaabi and opening Imam Khomeini School has upset Christians very much,” Yaqu added. “We informed our representatives in Kurdistan and Iraq immediately.”
One security source who spoke with Rudaw claimed that the opening of the school was “an attempt at Shiafication of the region.”
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Source: Christian Post