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ICC Note:

Shia forces continue to hold their grip on Bartella, leaving Iraqi Christians from the city wondering whether they will ever be welcome back in their homes. Some consider their situation worse than when Bartella was captured by ISIS, and they accuse the forces of attempting to change the Christian demography of the area. The attempted Shiafication of the city has convinced some former Christian residents to pursue a life elsewhere. Meanwhile those Christians who have returned home to Bartella are left wondering, are they truly welcome in their own hometown?

 

11/20/2017 Iraq (Rudaw) –  The Hashd al-Shaabi forces stand accused of practicing Shiafication of the ethnically diverse areas of the Nineveh plains, locals complain, which they believe would hamper the return of local residents to their homes.
Amir Yaqu, a Christian from Bartella fled to Duhok after ISIS attacked his town in 2014. He has not yet returned to his hometown that was liberated more than a year ago.

Yaqu says the situation in his native land hasn’t changed since its liberation. If anything, he says, it has got worse.

“Bartella and Hamdania are our 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,” he said.

Bartella is part of the Hamdania administration in the outskirts of Mosul. Its population of around 40,000 is mostly Christians. It was captured by ISIS militants three years ago and was liberated in October 2016.

“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. They have started to operate sectarian schools in churches and religious centers,” Yaqu said.

Nearly a month ago, the Imam Khomeini school was opened in the town, named after the leader of Iran’s Islamic revolution of 1979 Aytollah Khomeini, and in the presence of Iranian consul general in Erbil.

“This work by the Hashd al-Shaabi and opening Imam Khomeini School has upset Christians very much. We informed our representatives in Kurdistan and Iraq immediately,” Yaqu explained.

A security source aware of the details of the opening of the school, told Rudaw on condition of anonymity that “This is an attempt at Shiafication of the region.”

“In addition to the opening of this school, the Hashd al-Shaabi are building two other sectarian schools,” he claimed. “All this is being done under direct supervision of the Iranian consul and Hashd al-Shaabi commanders.”

The security source reported that members of the Shiite militia have adorned most streets and public buildings with sectarian banners and graffiti.

In Hamdania, he said, “There are Christians associated with the Hashd al-Shaabi but they have no power.”

Wahida Yaqu, a Christian representative in the Kurdistan parliament, said they are aware of these attempts by the Hashd al-Shaabi and that they have documented it all.

“We’ve reported the subject of the Shiafication of the Nineveh plains to the Vatican and international human rights organizations. This is a flagrant injustice done to Christians. Baghdad shouldn’t be silent toward these activities by the Hashd al-Shaabi,” Wahida Yaqo said.

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