Christians in Nineveh Vote for Utilities and Prevention of Migration

Gate of Al-Qush district in the Nineveh plain, 2019. KirkukNow

By Ammar Aziz in Ninewa

Of the thousands of various promises by the candidates for the December provincial council election, only two are important to Akram Abed, one is to provide services and the other is to put an end to the migration of Christians in Nineveh.

"We are voting for two main demands. We want more services for al-Qosh and its surroundings to rebuild our area. The second is to prevent the migration of Christians, who migrated 10 families from our city a month ago," said Abed,

The Christian, who lives in the center of al-Qusha sub- district of Telkef district in the Nineveh province, said they would definitely participate in the provincial council elections so that no one else would deprive them of their votes.

"If there are services, people will not migrate," he told KirkukNow.

If there are services, people will not migrate

When the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) took control of Nineveh and several areas of Kirkuk in 2014, Christians were faced with three options; Converting to Islam, paying taxes or migrating, so the majority were obliged to leave Iraq for Europe, USA and Australia.

Since then, about half of the Christian immigrants have migrated abroad, while the rest live in different neighborhoods and regions of the semi-autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan Region IKR, and few have returned to their homeland.

Abed and his family have put end to displacement several years ago, but are in a bad situation, so he sees the promises of the candidates as an opportunity to change their lives for the better doesn't.

The Iraqi government pays a fixed monthly salary to those who prove to be unemployed and poor.

Two decades ago, Iraq was home for over 1.5 million Christians, 3% of Iraq's population falling to 800,000 in 2003 following gulf war. They are mainly living in the provinces of Baghdad, Nineveh, Duhok, Kirkuk and Erbil. Latest figures say currently only 250,000 to 500,000 Christians are living in Iraq. The number of Christians in Iraq has fallen to 250,000, mostly in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region IKR, the Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights said last March.

The Iraqi constitution recognized Christianity, second religion in Iraq following Islam, and their Syriac language. 

There are no Christian Internally Displaced Person IDP in the camps of Duhok Northern Province since almost half of them have migrated abroad and the rest live in different neighborhoods and areas of the province, few have returned to their war-torn region, local officials told KirkukNow

Campaign poster for the provincial council elections at the gate of al-Qosh district, Nineveh, November 2023. Ammar Aziz

KirkukNow's reporter visited Al-Qush and according to many Christians in the area public service projects are at the forefront of their demands, in order to stay at their hometowns, which also generate jobs for the young locals with degrees.

Unfinished roads and projects, along with the health sector, including the lack of some specialists and the lack of necessary health workers, are among the main demands.

“We want them to improve the life of people, especially the youth who need jobs. It is unfair to sit at home (jobless) after several years of study unless the government or private sector offers jobs,” says Amer Yaqo, 55.

Yaqo, a resident of the center of al-Qosh, said the election campaign is hot for them, everyone is campaigning freely without violations and tearing posters, which he told Kirkuk Now, "a sign of people's understanding of the voting process.

Minorities in Iraq have been allocated only 10 of the 285 provincial council seats, with about 50 candidates vying for them.

Of the last 10 seats; according to the electoral law, Christian gets the lion's share: there are four seats in four provinces with 16 candidates, only one of 29 seats in the Nineveh provincial council.

Christians have five seats in the Iraqi House of Representatives.

Few political parties in Nineveh have Christian candidates, and Kurdish parties active in the Nineveh Plain have not nominated any candidates from this community for the general elections, except the quota.

Qaed Sammo Bozani, head of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan PUK committee in Al-Qush, told KirkukNow that the candidates are more Ezidis (Yazidi) than Christian because Christians have few votes in these areas.

According to the Election Commission, there are 24,000 voters in Al-Qush district, out of a total of 1.7 million voters in Nineveh, where 625 candidates are competing to get the highest votes.

Unemployment is a major problem facing young people

Samira Abd al-Qass, an "independent" Christian candidate from al-Qusha, says her agenda is to try to provide jobs as a first step because "unemployment is a big problem facing young people," along with helping them get married.

“We will do everything we can to reduce the phenomenon of Christian migration, which continues and we will provide service projects, especially in the health and education sectors for Al-Qosh and other areas,” Samira told KirkukNow.

More than 16 million citizens have renewed their registration to vote in the December 18 provincial council elections in 15 provinces, excluding the IKR.

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