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Iraqi Christians’ fear of exile

ICC Note

“Hatred has become rooted. There is fear in our hearts 24 hours a day. They can come and kill us at any moment.”

By Jim Muir

10/28/2008 Iraq (BBC News)-Camping with her two youngest children in a room at one of the churches in Tellkeyf, Ikhlas Matti bursts into tears when she tries to describe what has happened to her family.

“My children are scattered all around,” she says.

“I haven’t seen my older daughters for two months. I had to leave one of my sons with an aunt. My sister Nadia is somewhere abroad, and I haven’t seen her for 15 years.”

Ikhlas is one of an estimated 12,000 Iraqi Christians who fled the northern city of Mosul earlier this month following a wave of murders and threats targeting their community.

‘Hatred rooted’

“I’m going to stay here in the church. People in Mosul have become so hostile to one another.

“Hatred has become rooted. There is fear in our hearts 24 hours a day. They can come and kill us at any moment.”

While some of the fearful Mosul families fled across the border to Syria or Turkey , most took refuge in the Christian hinterland on the plain of Nineveh, to the north and east of the city.

They were given shelter in churches, schools and private homes.

Dark suspicions

Concerted campaign

But the results are beyond doubt – the murder of at least a dozen Christians, death threats to others, the demolition of houses and other pressures to force the Christian flight.

It was the most concerted campaign so far against the Christians, although they have had their share of fallout from the Iraqi upheavals that followed the 2003 overthrow of Saddam Hussein’s regime.

There have been numerous attacks on Christians and churches in Mosul , as in Baghdad and elsewhere.

In March, the city’s Chaldean archbishop, Paulos Faraj Rahho, was abducted and murdered.

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