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ICC Note:

Businessmen are returning to Qaraqosh to rebuild after the city was ruined by ISIS. ISIS occupied the city for two years, and the graffiti left on the ruined buildings are a reminder of the militants who were the author of the city’s destruction. Displaced Christians from Qaraqosh are more likely to return home than Christians from other cities, as Qaraqosh was previously home to Iraq’s largest Christian community. Still, the dangers remain. Many cannot afford rebuilding their lives and defeated ISIS militants are melting back into society, causing Christians to fear that Islamic extremism will continue to target Christians from the shadows.

 

10/05/2017 Iraq (Christian Science Monitor) – Armed with a tiny bit of capital and lots of courage, businessmen are slowly returning to the decimated town of Qaraqosh, home to Iraq’s largest Christian community before it was taken over by the Islamic State group in 2014.

The risk of doing business in Qaraqosh, also known as Al-Hamdaniya or Bakhdida, remains high even now that the jihadists have been driven out of the area.

But the prospect of Christians returning to Qaraqosh is better than for other mixed areas or disputed territories, says Lawrence Janan, an off-duty police officer, because this is the largest Christian city in Iraq, located in the historic heartland of the Assyrian community.

“It’s hard for Christians to go back to Mosul City, but here, at least, we were always a clear majority,” he says, standing across from a bombed church. “We have to come to our areas. This is our land. If we don’t watch over it, who will?”

That’s the same logic that motivates a cluster of businessmen who banded together to rebuild commercial areas one cinder block at the time. The magnitude of the task ahead would make an average man fold in despair.

Businessman Louis Yousif surveys the remains of his three-story corner complex with an acute sense of loss, but also a knack for nailing down opportunities.

Restoring venues for marketing material, passport photos, and decorations for special occasions such as weddings? Not a priority.

A bakery? A no-brainer. That was the first order of business. The oven stands ready to roll behind new window-paned walls. A barber shop and fish grill are next. He knows people won’t come back unless a normal daily life is viable.

“We need help to create the conditions for people to come back,” he says, surging up the broken slabs of concrete stairs to the rooftop of his complex, where you can see the church and the full extent of the damage done to his building by eight different projectiles.

He says the original construction of the complex, which was inaugurated in 2012, had cost $3 million, and he estimates repairs will be to the tune of $1 million.

“The international community must stand with Iraqi Christians,” Mr. Yousif says, increasingly agitated. “We don’t want money for our pockets. We need help to rebuild.”

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