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Christian refugees in Kurdistan celebrate Easter with memories of better days

By Eyûb Nisrî 28/3/2016
A Christian refugee family enjoys a modest Easter meal at the Dawdia camp
DAWDIA REFUGEE CAMP, Kurdistan Region - As ancient Christian communities in northern Iraq celebrated Easter, Christian refugees marked the festivities in camps across the Kurdistan Region.

At the Dawdia camp in Kurdistan’s Duhok province, Christian refugees celebrated the holy day in hopes of enjoying the festivities next year in their homes, which they were forced to abandon because of attacks by the Islamic State (ISIS) group.

“Next Easter, we hope to return to our homes and want our city to be liberated,” said Farah Waad, a refugee kid at the Dawdia camp.

Most refugees at the camp are from the Nineveh province, where ISIS has committed some of its worst atrocities against Christians and other minorities.

While happy they could celebrate Easter together, Christians at the Dawdia camp are hoping they can soon enjoy the holiday as before.

“We have prepared some simple things on this occasion. Before, in our homes, we would prepare more elaborately,” said Etimad Nafie. “We hope for peace and security so we can return to our homes,” she said.

Nearly 100,000 Christians are among the refugees at camps in Duhok. All of them live in hopes of a happier future, without the ISIS sword hanging over their heads.

At the camp, Samir Pols said he misses celebrating Easter like he used to.

“We would celebrate by visiting friends and relatives in their homes. We had our own ceremonies and ways of celebrating,” he said.

In the camps in northern Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan Region, which remains an enclave of tolerance in a country torn by the war with ISIS and ethnic and religious schisms, refugees from different ethnic and religious groups are free to celebrate their own holidays.

Most of those who fled after the ISIS attack on Mosul – home to one of the world’s oldest Christian communities – now live as refugees in Kurdistan.

Mosul is the capital of Nineveh province, which was once home to around 60,000 Assyrians, Chaldeans and other Christians.

On Saturday, in the ancient town city of Alqosh, some 600 Christians marked the resurrection of Jesus in the shadow of ISIS: the frontline of the war with the militants is only 15 kilometers away.

Many Christians who had fled Alqosh – after ISIS reached only about three kilometers from their district -- have returned to their homes since Kurdistan’s Peshmerga forces pushed back the militants to the current frontline.

The refugees at the Dawdia camp are victims of ISIS and other extremist religious groups that flourish in Iraq. ISIS has carried out some of its worst atrocities against minorities in northern Iraq, including Christians and Yezidi Kurds.

“More than 125,000 Christians had to move to the Kurdistan Region for sanctuary,” said Stivan Shany, a journalist and member of the Chaldean Diocese of Erbil.

“Baghdad militias terrorize them and intimidate them into leaving, which they have done in droves. If these current trends continue we will have no Christians in Iraq in just a short few years,” Shany warned.

The Christians of Nineveh in northwestern Iraq were among the first victims of ISIS when it blitzed across the province in June 2014 and imposed its Draconian rules on inhabitants. Minorities were ordered either to pay a special tax, called Jizya, or face death. Their places of worship were either desecrated or demolished.

Unlike other parts of Iraq, which Christians have deserted in large numbers, Kurdistan remains home to a thriving Christian community.

In Alqosh, five Christian places of worship remain, one of them 1,500 years old.

There are still 100 families that have not returned to Alqosh, because they went abroad after the ISIS advances. But residents believe that those families also will eventually return.


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Pisslam | 28/3/2016
Refugees in their own country thanks to 100's of years of Islam.
Christian American | 28/3/2016
If it wasn't for Peshmerga who are a majority Muslims Pisslam you wouldn't even be reading this article. Take your Islamophobia and bigotry somewhere other than Kurdistan.
Sorry for Christians | 28/3/2016
I feel sorry for the persecution that christians and yezidis are experiencing at the hands of daesh etc. They really need everyone'sr support...can't wait for daesh to be defeated and the Sunnis to get control of their fanatics.
Ashurbanipal | 28/3/2016
Hey you kurds. Back of our land Assyria. Dohuk you falsely call it have a name which is NOHADARA and nothin else. You have occupied our heartland ASSYRIA since 500 years and definetylu massacre us with your btother the TURK Mongoloean in 1915. Pls showe some respect and dont change the real name to a occupied kurdish name wich dont have any connection to you IRANIA-AZERBAJAN-AFGHANISTAN ancestors. Pls, leave us alonekurds our (guest) ang go back to IRAN! We never and ever forget what you did to us from 1890-1915 in SEYFO where your ancestors murder 1.5 miljon Armenian, 750.000 Assyrian, 500.000 Greeks. 125190 Yezidiz. and 5.000 with the Simmele Genocide in 1933 in responsibley with the Kurdish leade bakir Sidqi - the filfthy DOG! Kill women and Children and rape them.. May you leader Simko Shika and bloodturstie massmurderer Bakir Sidqi burn in hell. You have another leader you been ashame of. Murderer and rapist dont belong in our land ASSYRIA.If we ever förgive you the kurdish guest in Mesopotamia you have to condemns you Kurdish murderer and gibe back our belongings and land.Restuarion and build the chucrch you have destroys. Pay back in money too. You have much to do until we considring to forgive you. You have blood on your hand. Over 90% of our peaople massacred in Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Soria by the Kurds. You also must give us back 120.000 pretty girls that your ancestors rape and convert to Islam. massraping. Shame on you filfthy Muslim Kurds!
AssyrianHawk | 29/3/2016
Kurds threatens Christians in Kurdistan because they still need civil development. Kurdistan needs civil rights to be taught to kids.

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