Ministry report details impact of violence on minorities

A new report by Iraq’s Ministry of Human Rights sets out the number of deaths in different ethnic communities caused by direct or indirect attacks in Iraq between 2003 and the end of 2007, and the numbers of internally displaced persons (IDPs) for each minority.

The report, released on 1 July, said the Shabak minority in the northern province of Nineveh topped the list with 529 fatalities and 3,078 families (about 16,000 individuals) displaced.

Shabaks, whose numbers are estimated at 300,000-400,000, have a religion containing elements of Islam, Christianity and other religions, according to theologians. Some see them as a sub-group of the Kurds, while others say they are a distinct ethnic group.

Second on the list is the Yazidi community, which also lives in Nineveh Province and worships Melek Taus, the Peacock Angel. The report said 335 Yazidis had been killed, but gave no data on the number of IDPs.

The Yazidis were hit in August 2007 by four simultaneous suicide car bombings in a suburb of the provincial capital, killing 215.

In third place with 172 fatalities were Iraq’s Christians: 107 Chaldeans, 33 Orthodox, 24 Catholics, four Assyrians, three Anglicans and one Armenian. It said 1,752 Christian families, about 9,000 persons, were living as IDPs.

In fourth place were the Sabis, who live in different parts of Iraq but mainly in the south, with 127 killed; 62 families were living as IDPs. A further 3,500 families had sought refuge in Jordan and 10,000 in Syria.


Photo: IRIN
Yazidis worship Melek Taus, the Peacock Angel, who some Muslims and Christians consider the devil

Persecution

For nearly 36 years, Yousif Yacoub Qado, a 39-year-old Christian, lived in peace with his Muslim neighbours in Baghdad’s southern district of Dora, but he was forced to leave after threats by militants.

“They told me to convert to Islam, pay protection money or leave my house,” Qado said, recalling how five masked gunmen, presenting themselves as al-Qaida in Iraq, knocked on his door.

“When I said I can’t do that as I need the money to feed my family, they said they would slaughter me like a goat to make me an example to other Christians,” Qado said.

“I left my house and now I’m staying at my brother’s house; he left Iraq two years ago.”

Ahmed Jaafar al-Mayahi, a Baghdad-based analyst who lectures in Islamic theology at Baghdad’s University of Mustansiriyah, blamed what he called “a culture of extremism” in society for the attacks on minorities.

“In the absence of the rule of law, a new culture emerged after 2003 - the law of the jungle,” al-Mayahi told IRIN from Baghdad, adding: “Sunni and Shia extremists see each other and other non-Muslim groups as apostates and renegades.”

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