Leadership Council for Human Rights

~ Feet in the mud, head in the sky ~

Friday, June 08, 2007

Iraqi Christians must flee or pay the price

Iraq’s Christian community has deep roots, but as the chaos in Iraq has intensified, increasing numbers of Christians are being forced to leave their homes, McClatchy Newspapers reported Thursday.

The latest threats against Iraqi Christians come as a result of the 1,000-year-old practice of paying the jizya, a tax that Muslims levy on non-Muslims men. Recently, an al-Qaeda related group has given Christian in Baghdad few options when it comes to the tax, which the article says are: “Convert to Islam, marry your daughters to our fighters, pay an Islamic tax or leave with only the clothes on your back.” With limited options, many Christians are fleeing their homes, with many going to northern Iraq or neighboring Syria.

“What is happening today in Iraq against Christians is shameful,” said Iraqi Christian legislator Ablahad Afram Sawa. “Most of the churches in Baghdad have closed their doors.”

Sawa estimates that nearly half-a-million Christians have fled Iraq since 2004. 1.4 million Iraqis now live in Syria, including roughly19,000 Iraqi Christians who have registered in Damascus with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

U.S. forces have maintained that they had been aware that there were isolated incidences of forced removal of Christians occurring in some portions of Iraq, but were unaware that the incidents were actually a part of a large scale campaign. Troops have recently erected barriers around some Christian communities and have begun collecting census information to help identify Christian residents.

For the full article, click here.

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