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Agence France-Presse tells the story of Bassam Anis, a young man who fled Iraq after the October 31 church bombing in Baghdad.

By Jacques Clement

5/13/2011 Iraq (AFP) – Bassam Anis was for a long time an optimist, but persistent attacks against his Christian community convinced him that his home country, Iraq, no longer offered him solace. So, on April 30, he fled.

While his solution may seem extreme, it is by no means uncommon.

On October 31, a group of Al-Qaeda commandos stormed a Syriac Catholic church in Baghdad, with the ensuing siege killing 44 worshippers, two priests and seven Iraqi security force officers.

The attack was the worst against Iraq’s Christian community since the 2003 US-led invasion, and countless members of the minority have since fled the country.

For Bassam, himself Syriac Orthodox, the attack hit particularly close to home — among the worshippers killed was his friend, Raghad.

“Before, I was optimistic,” the 26-year-old biology teacher told AFP before his departure, sat in a restaurant in central Baghdad.

“I never imagined I would leave Iraq, because I could not imagine starting my life over again.”

He continued: “Since the attack, though, I’ve begun to realise there is no hope in this country any more. It is terrible to think like this, but leaving is the only solution.”

Bassam then recounted the Biblical parable of Lot, who reluctantly fled Sodom with his family after being told to do so by God as the city was being destroyed.

Bassam remains traumatised by the church carnage.

For the six hours that insurgents held worshippers hostage, he stood anxiously outside alongside a colleague who was receiving updates on the phone from his uncle who was trapped inside.

Struggling to hold back tears, he recalled Raghad, who had not only been married just 40 days earlier to Bassam’s childhood friend Iyad, but was pregnant when a grenade thrown by one of the hostage-takers killed her.

“After that attack,” he said, “my life turned black.”

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