Ezidi 24- Jamil Al-Jamil
Translation- Jamal Saado and Ghazi Murad
According to the statistics of the church, the number of Christian families in Mosul is about 50 out of more than 600 Christian families in the two sides of Mosul along with its neighborhoods. The head of the Syriac Catholic Churches in Mosul, the father Raed Adil, stated, “Only about 50 Christian families have returned to the both sides of the city.”
Many activists from Nineveh Governorate in general and Christians in particular, assumed that the non-return of Christians to Mosul is divided into several factors including the political factor which is applied by some religious men who are the heads of Christians in Mosul. They did not promote the return of Christians for political reasons that serve their interests and parties. However, several Christian families have returned to the Nineveh Plain although their houses have been burned and looted and despite the lack of services, lack of job opportunities, and the challenges they face because of the militias and the government which hinders their stability.
The second factor that poses a threat to the return of Christians to Mosul is that they are still not feeling safe, especially after the people of Mosul contributed to the displacement of Christians and committed the most heinous, violent crimes against them. However, the other factors included job opportunities, reconstruction, particularly the churches and houses, and the militia’s control over some of the Christians’ properties in Mosul. Moreover, some Christians were able to establish businesses in Erbil and Duhok provinces. These factors impacted negatively on the return of Christians to Mosul.
The liberation of the whole Nineveh Governorate was declared in mid-2017, and it was depopulated of Christians after the Islamic State, ISIS, was defeated. Nevertheless, Christians went to Mosul in order to check out their houses and their city. Subsequently, some Christian families confirmed that Mosul city is not safe, but many Christian families in the Nineveh Plain have started to go to Mosul for commercial and cultural purposes. Consequently, nowadays we see that more than a hundred Christian families are going to Mosul for the purpose of shopping, going to hospitals and medical clinics, and working. In comparison to the period before 2014, Christian families used to go to Erbil province and were afraid to go to Mosul because of the domination of Al Qaeda over the city.
The steps taken by the international organizations and international community to encourage Christian families to return to Mosul were as ineffective as the steps of the government because they did not support them and would not contribute to providing projects for them if they had returned to Mosul. There are more than 10 churches that are neglected and no one cares about them. Furthermore, one of the churches has become a parking lot and the other has turned into a dump.
The representative of Christians in Nineveh Governorate, the Brigadier Faris Abdul Ahad Zaki, told Yazidi 24, “Through our ongoing work today, we contribute to providing all that the Syriac Catholics need to return as we contributed to restoring the houses of Christians that were dominated by the security forces and some Christian families.”
Zaki added, “The return of Christians to Mosul is a significant factor in completing the social fabric of Mosul; however, the process of their return to Mosul is too slow. For that reason, we hope that the government will take serious steps to return the Christians to the city of Mosul.”
Will the Pope’s visit contribute to the returning of Christians to Mosul?
The Immaculate Syriac Catholic Church which Pope will visit in Hosh Al- Baia’a is considered as one of the important churches on the right side of Mosul. The number of Christian families on the right side of Mosul city was more than 400 families; however, there are only four families living there in the present time. A lot of Christians think that the Pope’s visit to the city of Mosul is a message to prove the existence of Christians in this historic city of theirs, and that his visit will promote their returning to Mosul.
Raymond Salio, a 31- year–old Christian who is currently living in Duhok city, and originally from Nabi Chit area which is located on the right side of Mosul mentioned to Yazidi 24, “the Pope’s visit is the hope of Christians in Iraq in general, and in Nineveh Governorate in particular because it is a historic visit which will shed light on the Christian families who are dwelling in Nineveh province, and the families that have not returned to their houses and churches yet.”
Salio confirms, “It is time for the Christians to return to Mosul because their homes have been abandoned, and they yearn for returning to them and color the city of Mosul as well as contribute to bringing back the sounds of church bells.”
The opinion of the Muslims of Mosul towards the return of Christians
Since the operations of liberations started, the Muslim inhabitants of Mosul directed messages of solidarity and peace towards the return of the Christians to Mosul city. However, most of these messages have not been resonated yet. Moreover, many Muslims started working on cleaning the churches, and the houses of Christian people in addition to holding society-based activities and events to promote the return of Christians to Mosul.
Yaser Goeany who is a 29-year-old activist from the right side of Mosul helped with holding several activities and events to advocate the returning of the Christians. Additionally, he published hundreds of posts on his Facebook profile regarding the return of Christians to Mosul. He said to Ezidi 24, “We cannot continue our life in Mosul without the Christians people especially after the phase of ISIS because the city of Mosul has become stable which helps attracting all ethnic groups to it.”
Goeany continued his message, “I personally have the holy Bible in my house as well as the pictures of the holy mother, and I wish that our Christian neighbors who were adding an exceptional flavor to our neighborhood return. I, myself, held many activities and humanitarian events in addition to directing many messages to our Christian brothers in order to encourage them to return to the city of Mosul as they form a big part of it and beautify it greatly.”
After the Islamic State, ISIS, controlled the city of Mosul on the 10th of June 2014, and after the Iraqi army withdrew from it, ISIS announced the Islamic caliphate, assigned Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi as their caliph, formed a state which is unrecognized internationally, and started applying the Islamic sharia in the city. As a result, Christians faced difficult situations in the first days due to the instability of the security situation relatively and the danger which was life-threatening. Moreover, they wrote phrases such as (Islamic State properties) and the letter (N) which referred to the Christians on the walls of Christian homes.
On July 12, the statement concerning the Christians of Mosul was published in leaflets and through loudspeakers demanding them to convert to Islam, pay ransom, or get killed. On July 17, the former statement was replaced by a new one in which they gave 24 hours as a time limit to the Christians to abandon the city and leave their possessions otherwise they will be killed. After the deadline ended, the Christians were forced to abandon the city heading towards the cities of the Nineveh Plain and the Kurdistan Region. During their departure, the personal belongings such as money, jewelry, equipment, mobile phones, clothes, even personal documents and toys were taken away by the checkpoints of ISIS.
After the forced displacement of Christians took place, the city of Mosul became almost depopulated of Christian residents. Those who were in senior centers and orphanages, and those who didn’t manage to leave were the only ones who stayed. ISIS militants entered the churches and removed the crosses from them in addition to burning some parts. Some of the damaged churches were hundred years old. Furthermore, they turned some of the churches into mosques. They also took over the properties and houses of Christians in addition to looting, burning and exploding them.