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ICC Note:

“Iraq’s prewar Christian population of between 800,000 and 1.4 million has dwindled to fewer than 500,000. Their numbers continue to decline: frightened by assassinations and bombings, Christians are fleeing safe havens where they once sought refuge in the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq,” the Watertown Daily Times reports.

3/14/2012 Iraq (Watertown Daily Times) – Sectarian violence targeting Christians in Iraq has caused hundreds of thousands of them to flee their homes and homeland since 2003, when the U.S.-led invasion ousted Saddam Hussein. According to international estimates, Iraq’s prewar Christian population of between 800,000 and 1.4 million has dwindled to fewer than 500,000. Their numbers continue to decline: frightened by assassinations and bombings, Christians are fleeing safe havens where they once sought refuge in the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq.

Christian-owned liquor stores have been the target of arson attacks, a Christian businessman was kidnapped in the Kurdistan capital of Erbil and several others gunned down in another village, the New York Times reported.

Many of Kurdistan’s Christian population gave up homes and possessions to seek safety there after an October 2010 suicide attack on a Christian church in Baghdad killed more than 50 people. Yet they face intimidation, bombings and threats in the north. The International Organization for Migration has been tracking 1,350 displaced Christian families in northern Iraq. In January, it said that 850 of them had left in the prior year.

The Kurdish government offers assistance such as land and free fuel, and Christians are allotted seats on local governing councils as well as in parliament in Kurdistan and Baghdad. But that is not enough for those such as Walid Shamoon, who gave up a $1,500-a-month job at the Australian Embassy to flee Baghdad in January 1011 after an attempt on his life. “This is not a life. There is no improvement. There is no work,” he said. He wants to emigrate to Arizona.

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