Christians in Mosul city in northern Iraq are fleeing en masse with others, as militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, who captured the city last week, are now looting and burning churches and forcing all women to wear the Islamic veil.
Assyrian International News Agency reports that the Sunni group ISIS – also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant – has gone on a rampage, looting and burning government buildings, raising its black flag and burning churches throughout Mosul, the capital of the Nineveh Province.
Men from ISIS, an offshoot of al-Qaeda in Iraq that was formed last April, have bombed an under-construction Armenian church in a Left Bank neighborhood near al-Salaam hospital, the agency says, adding that the Church of the Holy Spirit has also been looted. more >>
Christians are among half a million people who are fleeing their homes after Islamic extremists took control of Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq, earlier this week.
"What we are living and what we have seen over the last two days is horrible and catastrophic. The priory of Mar Behnam and other churches fell into the hands of the rebels this morning ... and now they have come here and entered Qaraqosh five minutes ago, and we are now surrounded and threatened with death ... pray for us," Fr. Najeeb Michaeel, a Dominican priest wrote from Mosul on Tuesday.
BBC News reported that jihadists from the Islamic State of Iraq group, which is affiliated al-Qaeda, overran Mosul and much of the Nineveh province, also taking Baiji, where the country's largest oil refinery is located. more >>
BAGHDAD — Human rights groups have condemned an Iraqi bill that would permit girls younger than nine from the country's majority Shiite population to marry.
"Passage of the Jaafari law would be a disastrous and discriminatory step backward for Iraq's women and girls," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch, in a statement. "This personal status law would only entrench Iraq's divisions while the government claims to support equal rights for all."
Known as the Jaafari Personal Status Law, the bill was approved by Iraq's Council of Ministers on Feb. 25, and would permit girls to marry, with their father being the only authority who could approve or deny the partnership. The proposed legislation would affect the country's Shiite population, which makes up between 65 and 70 percent of the country's 32 million people. more >>
An Iraqi suicide bomber instructor set off his own explosives during a training on Monday, ending the lives of himself and his pupils.
The instructor, who was teaching a class at a camp in the Sunni region of the country, north of Baghdad, accidently detonated his bomb, killing 21 other would-be suicide bombers. The casualties were part of a group formerly linked to the al-Qaeda terrorist group.
The ironic incident is a brief moment of respite for many Iraqis who have been forced to ensure years of violence and killing in the country; in 2013, nearly 9,000 people were killed. Thus far, 2014 has not been anymore hopeful; roughly 1,000 Iraqis were killed last month. Meanwhile, suicide bombers have made themselves an ever present menace in Iraqi civilian life, relentlessly targeting markets, mosques, sporting events and funerals. more >>
At least 38 people are dead and 60 wounded after two bombs went off on Christmas Day in Baghdad. One exploded outside a Catholic church as members of the congregation were leaving a Christmas Day service, while another bomb killed 11 in a market in a Christian neighborhood.
The attacks will likely only incite more anxiety in Iraq's waning Christian population, which has long been targeted by extremists following the U.S. invasion of the country and the toppling of Saddam Hussein. The population has dwindled down to less than 500,000 from 1.4 million in 2003.
Dr. David Curry, president/CEO of Open Doors USA, said that he believed the violence was part of a deliberate act to remove Christians from the country. more >>
The rise of religious extremism has pushed religious communities to migrate from Iraq, especially Christians, according to Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako, Patriarch of the Chaldeans in Iraq.
The patriarch called on the Iraqi government to extend security and protection of religious freedoms and ethnic diversity as well as to promote reconciliation and social cohesion between all components.
In his speech recently at a conference held by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in coordination with the United Nations Mission "UNAMI " and the Parliamentary Commission on Human Rights, and sponsored by Iraqi Parliament Speaker on the International Day for Tolerance, under the title of "Rights of Minorities in Iraq, Reality and Ambition", Patriarch Sako said the reality of the situation in Iraq is still concerning. more >>