Consequences of Southern Protests Felt Across Iraq’s Nineveh Plains

Christians Forced to Contribute to the Needs of Iraq’s Richest Province Due to Protesters’ Demands

07/16/18 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) –  International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that the Nineveh Plains, the traditional homeland of Iraq’s Christians, is experiencing increased infrastructure challenges because of governance disputes and violent protests in the country’s southern region. Most of the Nineveh Plains’ existing infrastructure was destroyed by ISIS.

On July 12, an armed force entered a church in Bartella and destroyed their internet devices. It is believed that the armed force belongs to Hashd al-Shaabi, an Iranian backed militia that controls a significant part of the Nineveh Plains. “This began as a problem of internet providers,” explained a local Christian source. “The central government is trying to provide internet; however, because the internet towers in Bartella and Qaraqosh take their providers from the KRG, an armed force from that ministry attacked all the towers there.”

“One of the towers is built on top of the cultural center. And that cultural center belongs to Bartella’s church so they get inside and they destroyed some devices. They were not there for the church [directly but rather] because the church’s internet was from KRG and they wanted them to get internet from Mosul,” the source continued.

Milad is a government worker from Bartella. He further explained, “We are not comfortable living in Bartella post-ISIS… Shia Hashd is the top here. This kind of behavior means that we are still [in] the grey area.” He continued, “The aggressive armed men always send horror inside, we are not able to recognize ISIS behavior versus government behavior!”

Over the weekend, Iraq declared a state of emergency due to violent protests in the south. In part, the protesters are demanding reduced Iranian influence and better utilities. Internet remains mostly disabled across the country. On July 15, Mosul Eye reported that the share of electricity allocated to the Nineveh Plains will be reduced by nearly half with the rest directed to the southern provinces in order to meet the demands of protesters.

Al-Sumaria TV published an interview with the Deputy Chairman of the Nineveh Province Council, Noureddine Qablan, who said, “This has exacerbated the electricity crisis in the province, which is originally suffering from a lack of processing power… Is it reasonable to be a victim of the failure of the Ministry of Electricity? On the outskirts of Nineveh, there are now 16 camps where people live in dire humanitarian situations. Nineveh is a disaster… the government is making a mistake by reducing its share.”

Qablan continued, “This is an injustice to the population of Nineveh… Nineveh is originally damaged and the ministries must support the return of life to these cities (and turn) away from the policy of marginalization.”

Claire Evans, ICC’s Regional Manager, said, “The protest violence existing in Iraq’s south does not exist in the Nineveh Plains. This area, which has seen immense suffering because of ISIS, has barely any infrastructure left. On the other hand, Iraq’s oil-rich south lacks these utilities because of government corruption. It is wrong of the authorities to use this time as an opportunity to violently force its agenda on Christians and make them serve the infrastructure needs of the south. It is because of Iraq’s violence and unfair treatment of Christians that so many believers have left the country.” 

For interviews with Claire Evans, Regional Manager, please contact Olivia Miller, Communications Coordinator: press@persecution.org

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