Ezidi 24 – Ninewa Plains
Translated by: Khalid Qasim
Ninewa plains consist of “Yazidis, Christians, Turkmen, Shabak, Alkakaiaon, and Arabs”. A big rift in relationships occurred in Ninewa plains region, after ISIS control and because of the political and economic situation and this makes the civil society organizations trying to restore relations among them.
The Patriarch Louis Sako, Chaldean’s Patriarch in Iraq and the world, declared being displeased of the Iraqi government for failing to help Iraqi Christians and other minorities in Ninewa. Christians face the risk of extinction from their country of origin.
During the liberation of Ninewa province from the control of ISIS “Daesh”, the town of Batnaya and serval other Christian’s towns were suffered from marginalization, exclusion, and yet families did not return back. In Batnaya, there is only one person from the original inhabitants who returned to the town “returnee”. This returnee is settled in a house that is hardly protecting him from rain. This person is taking duty of protecting three schools and a new primary health center. The returnee person is receiving food from the security forces as redemption for protecting these general buildings. Batnaya is an example of many other locations that were a place for minority religious in the past. This represents a huge challenge for the Iraqi government in the future.
Iraqi officials, belongs to Christian parties, declared that the cost of reconstructing the town was far greater than the capacity of the government, and the international aid was unable to compensate for the Iraqi government’s financial shortfall. While even if the region could be rebuilt quickly, there is no guarantee that original residents will return to it.
Foreign (international) governments and organizations have paid the bulk of the money that should be spent, but these amounts are debts that Baghdad must pay in the future. The current problem is how to transfer and spend those funds to the designated areas. Iraqi and other international officials say the amounts will be distributed in cash, because the region is submerged in the political conflict between the different parties and forces there.
The largest part of Batnaya was destroyed by ISIS and or as a result of the airstrikes conducted by the international coalition forces when targeting ISIS positions. The houses that are still standing are covered with ISIS writings on thewalls. “Ishma Bahnam” explained to Ezidi 24, he is the only civilian man lives in Batnaya now “I am the only person here. I do not have a family. I prefer living here rather than the life in tented camps”
Bahnam stated that “There were 6,000 Chaldean Christians who once lived in this town, but the confrontations and continues fights over the last 16 years in Iraq have forced many Christians from Batnaya and Iraq to leave the country”
Reports show that there were 1.5 million Christians lived in Iraq before the fall of the regime of Saddam Hussein. These numbers has dropped down to only two hundred thousand. Around half of the original residents of Batnaya immigrated to America and Europe, while the other half scattered across the camps of displacement but they are also thinking of leaving Iraq permanently.
Ra’ed Nasser, who is a resident of a camp near the town of Talesquf village in the district of Talkaif in Ninewa province, confirmed to Ezidi 24, that he and others are looking for an opportunity to immigrate to Europe. He also estimated the number of the remaining families in the town with only 200 families besides that they don’t have the money to rebuild their homes.
Nasser said that “what happened in the areas of Christians is a tragedy that made them leaving their country and their historical areas”. The population of Hamdania town of Ninewa province, prior to the ISIS attacks, were around 60,000, but now the Mayor of Hamdania, Engineer Issam Da’abul indicates in an interview with Ezidi 24 and says that “the programs of the Unit
ed Nations, the United States, and Christian organizations in America have managed to return half of the population to the city”. While Bahnam emphasizes that “the aid has not been able to solve the problems that were the main reason for the Christians to emigrate from Iraq, including the problems of security and stability”.
“If the Iraqi government wants the Christians to stay in Iraq, it has to seriously think about it (security of the region), otherwise I do not think we have a future in Iraq” Bahnam has added.
A Population Mobilization Forces (PMF) formed from different political parties is in control of the security of Hamdania district. Civilian citizens in the district of Hamdania confirm that the absence of a formal government security force creates a major problem for them and for the return of the population and Baghdad must intervene. They suggest handling the security of the area to the police instead of these forces. Yet, the police forces shall be composed of the people of the area and shall be under government control.
The Director of the Fund for the reconstruction of Ninewa, Salim Otman denied the problem of insecurity to be the cause that stopping the reconstruction of the region and the return of the population. He noted that the lack of assistance is the main obstacle. Otman added that “many countries helped to defeat ISIS, we thank these countries, but the liberation operation destroyed Ninewa, and all of these countries now should participate in Ninewa reconstruction”. According to Otman, the province is in need of around $ 20 billion to $ 30 billion US dollars, but this year it received $ 50 million from Baghdad and will receive $ 1.2 billion from international and European banks. Reconstruction in the province has been estimated at only 2% since the establishment of the fund. Otman added “Even if we received 1 billion US dollar a year, still it will take between 20 and 30 years to reconstruct the region. This is a big problem and if we revealed this news to citizens they will protest and resist us”
Ninewa plains face the heavy destruction into its infrastructure as well as economic stagnation, poor social relations and mistrust. Minorities face marginalization and exclusion in many ways, specially their civil and legal rights