30 Christian families have migrated in July

Christians in Hamdaniya consider migration

Ninewa, late 2016: an Iraqi soldier at a collapsed church in Bartalah subdistrict. The New York Times

By Ammar Aziz in Ninewa

The Assyrian Catholic Church in Mosul has announced the migration of 30 Christian families from Hamdaniyah district of the Ninewa Plain this month, calling on the Ninewa provincial administration to prevent the reverse migration of Christians by providing services and job opportunities.

The announcement came after the first deputy governor of Ninewa Sirwan Rojbayani paid a visit to the Assyrian Catholic monastery in Mosul and met with Bishop Mar Yousef Aba and several other bishops of Mosul and Christian clerics.

The visit and talks took place on July 26, according to a statement issued by the first deputy governor of Ninewa, discussed ways to limit the migration of Christians.

"We are saddened to hear of the continuous migration of Christians, despite our efforts to stay in their homeland," Rojbayani said in a statement. "Christian clerics said that about 30 Christian families have left Hamdaniyah this month," he said.

Hamdaniyah district, located southeast of Mosul, is predominantly Christian, while many villages are inhabited by the Shabak and the Ezidis (Yazidis).

Salah Sarkis, a Christian writer and journalist in Hamdania district, told KirkukNow that the number of families migrated is more than 30 only during this month.

"The lack of jobs and the lack of reconstruction in the area are the two main reasons for the migration, including the instability of the security situation," Sarkis said.

This year, the largest number of missiles have been fired at Turkish military bases in the Ninewa Plain, which borders Hamdaniyah district, along with several other security violations, including various outlaw groups allegedly targeting Erbil, capital of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq KRI, with missiles.

"Christians are afraid that another force like ISIS will attack the region in 2014 and target Christians," Sarkis added.

Almost four years following the declaration of ISIS defeat by the Iraqi government in 2017, large parts of Mosul, center of Ninewa province, mainly the Old City, still lie largely in ruins, due to poor funding, chronic mismanagement, corruption and political disputes.

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Ninewa, July 2022: Our Lady of the Hour Church on the right bank of Mosul is under renovation. Ammar Aziz

When ISIS took control of Ninewa in mid-2014, It has offered Christians three choices: convert to Islam, pay ransom (Jizyah), or leave their homes, so most were forced to flee. Parts to the KRI and some to abroad.

After the takeover of their areas under the control of ISIS, some Christian families returned to Mosul and the Ninewa Plains, but some left Iraq forever.

According to statistics from both the federal Iraqi and Kurdistan regional governments, tens of thousands of Christian families have not yet returned to their homes and are living in displacement, while thousands of other families – more than 24,000 in Ninewa alone – have migrated to other countries.

Of the more than 600,000 refugees living in the Kurdistan Region, 7% are Christians.

Sarkis, whose house collapsed during the fight against ISIS in Qaraqush, says an organization paid him 60% for the repair costs and the rest was at his own expense.

He says it is an example of the majority of Hamdania residents who have resumed their lives and repaired their homes on their own, while by law all victims of the ISIS war must be compensated by the Iraqi government.

The Iraqi Ministry of Finance decided on July 28 to allocate 19.5 billion Iraqi Dinars IQD (USD13M) to compensate people of Ninewa province whose houses were destructed or damaged.

Ali Bayati, a member of Iraq's High Commission for Human Rights, said in a statement last March that the number of Christians had sharply fallen from 1.5 million before 2003 to 250,000, mostly in the KRI.

"40% of Christians have returned to the Ninewa Plain after the recapture of their areas from ISIS, and there are only 80 Christian families in the center of Mosul," Bayati said.

40% of Christians have returned to the Ninewa Plain

"The migration of Christians from Hamdaniyah and the Ninewa Plain continues. The first reason is the marginalization of Christians and Iraqi communities in general, with economic challenges and lack of job opportunities, as well as lack of compensation for the victims," a member of the Assyrian Catholic anonymously said.

According to data obtained by KirkukNow from the Ninewa administration, about 90,000 civilians in Ninewa are trying to obtain compensation, but only 11,500 families have been compensated up to the present.

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Ninewa, 7 March 2021- Pope Francis leads prayer among the ruins of Syriac Catholic Square Church (Hosh al-Baia) in old Mosul. The Associated Press AP

"The presence of various militia checkpoints in the Ninewa plain and attempts to change the demographics of Christian areas is another reason why Christians are not feeling safe and secure," said the member of the Syrian Catholic Church in Mosul, without naming anyone involved in trying to change the demographics of the region.

"Christians are afraid of being attacked again by some groups and armed forces,” The source added.

Ali Gabo, the deputy governor of Ninewa for affairs of refugee and organizations, told KirkukNow, “We pay so much attention to the Christian areas that other people complain about why most of the projects are only for Christian areas and its surroundings, especially in terms of reconstruction and renovation of their houses and religious holy places.”

Other people complain to us why most of the projects are only for Christian areas

"People are free to stay in their areas or migrate. I am not saying that everything has been provided for them, but the Christian areas have been served to a good extent," Gabo said.

"We must all work to limit the migration of Christians. The migration of Christians may encourage other minorities to migrate in the future," said Rojbayani.

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