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08/01/2019 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – Miles of bountiful wheat fields spread across Iraq’s Nineveh Plains, promising a fruitful harvest for the religious minorities who dared to return home fol­lowing displacement from the Islamic State (ISIS). Unusually heavy spring rains filled their hearts with hope that finally their fortunes had turned. Then, in March, ISIS was declared territorially defeated. Everyone held their breath, wondering how ISIS would retaliate.

“ISIS 2.0 is something possible,” worried one Christian living in the Nineveh Plains. “ISIS is still (here)… the only difference is that they threw down their weapons, and they will pick them back up at any weak point.”

As spring turned into summer, ISIS revealed their new weapon: fire. At first, the fires targeted wheat fields outside of the Nineveh Plains, and ISIS proudly claimed responsibility. They boasted of their ingenuity in using the destruction of food as a weapon of warfare. But, when the fires started burning wheat fields in the Nineveh Plains, the mystery deepened. The arsonist is no longer speaking.

Given their record and promises of insurgency, accusing ISIS of burning the agricultural fields of Christians seems reasonable. But locals are not necessarily convinced. When ISIS was pushed out of the Nineveh Plains, militias moved into the area. With ISIS now defeated, the presence of these militias is called into question. The militias may accuse ISIS of burning the fields, but some wonder if the arsonist wears a different uniform.

One Christian from Bartella said, “The aggressive (militias) always send horror inside (Christian areas). We are not able to recognize ISIS behavior versus government behavior!”

“No one is sure that all the current crimes are because of ISIS. It could be militias for political purpose,” added another.

The arson situation in the Nineveh Plains speaks directly to the root cause that contributed to the rise of ISIS. In Iraq, there is no legal accountability. Armed groups simply act in their own self-interest, leaving religious minorities to pay the price.

Milad, a local farmer who lost $9,000 worth of crops because of an arsonist’s fire, is just one example of how this affects Christians. He said, “I was only two days away from the harvest. I lost the wheat within only a few minutes. I wish I had done the harvest earlier… we are getting used to losing.”

Stay tuned for Part 2, coming tomorrow.

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