Amnesty Calls on Iraq to Protect Christians

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Jennifer LeClaire

Is the Iraqi
government doing enough to protect the country’s Christian minority from an
expected spike in violent attacks as they prepare to celebrate Christmas?
Amnesty International doesn’t think so. The group is calling on the government
to do more.

“Attacks on
Christians and their churches by armed groups have intensified in past weeks
and have clearly included war crimes” says Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International
director for the Middle East and North Africa. “We fear that militants are
likely to attempt serious attacks against Christians during the Christmas
period for maximum publicity and to embarrass the government.”

International has cause to be concerned. Last year armed groups carried out
fatal bomb attacks on churches in Mosul on Dec. 15 and Dec. 23. Some 65 attacks
on Christian churches in Iraq were recorded between mid-2004 and the end of

The increase in
violence against Christians in the last month takes place against a backdrop of
sectarian violence in Iraq, including several bomb attacks on Shia gatherings last week during the Ashura
period, which have reportedly killed more than a dozen people.

In fact, attacks
have increased since about 100 worshippers were taken
hostage in a Baghdad Assyrian Catholic church by an armed group on Oct. 31, with
more than 40 people killed as Iraqi security forces tried to free the hostages,
Amnesty reports. The Islamic State of Iraq, an armed
group linked to al-Qaida, claimed responsibility for the attack.

Following the
hostage crisis, Christian families in Baghdad have been subjected to increasing
bomb and rocket attacks on their homes, as well as systematic threats in the
mail or by text message, Amnesty reports. Dozens of Christian families have
fled Baghdad, Mosul and Basra and have sought refuge in the Kurdistan region of

The summary,
released by the Barnabas Fund, says that Iraqi
Christians in threatened cities like Mosul “are living behind locked doors.
They are compelled to take long leaves of absence from work, in Mosul and other
cities, as a result of the dangers they face at work. The universities are
almost empty of Christian students, as are the schools.”

According to
media reports, as Christmas approaches the Iraqi authorities have started
constructing concrete walls to protect Mosul and Baghdad churches from security
threats, and are introducing stringent security checks at their entrances.
Religious services have been scaled back due to fear of attacks.

walls around churches is a sign that the government has failed to provide real
security,” Smart says.
“Now that Iraq is finally forming a government, that new government’s
effectiveness will be measured by whether it achieves an actual reduction in
sectarian attacks by armed groups, and helps stem the flood of Christians
fleeing Iraq to escape the violence.”

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