Iraqi Christians beg to leave in mass exodus
The Hammurabi Human Rights Organization, a non-governmental human rights advocacy agency endorsed by the U.S., has issued a report on the status of refugees in Iraq, especially on the situation in the northern tier of the embattled country.
According to Hammurabi, in the refugee center at Arbel there are now 5 refugee deaths per day, going back to August 7, according to the August 21 report. The number of refugees has overwhelmed the relief agencies. There is scarcity of food and shelter. Distribution channels are slow and ineffective. Refugees are anxious about the military operations against the Islamic State (formerly known as ISIS) in their towns and villages, and they fear for their property, especially in light of the fact that many of their former Muslim neighbors have participated in looting and plundering. The number of Assyrian Christian families seeking asylum has risen as hundreds of families in Turkey are at the United Nations offices in Ankara to apply for emigration.
The vast majority of the refugees are pressuring religious and political leaders to find a way for a rapid mass exodus out of Iraq, because of all the suffering, hardship and difficulty they are experiencing. Large numbers of families are still sleeping on sidewalks and parks and there is the fear this situation and their plight will extend into winter.
Their is anger, frustration and tension among the refugees as they are being moved from the halls and courtyards of churches into United Nations camps. Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Sako, along with other Christian leaders, recently visited the camps and described the "inhuman" conditions there.
Based in Baghdad, Hammurabi reported that Iraq's Ministry of Displacement and Migration is extremely slow in giving grants to refugees. Thousands of families in Dohuk have yet to receive grants. In the words of one refugee, "they move on the back of a turtle." In addition, conditions for thousands of Yazidi refugees is now critical because of the lack of sufficient camps to house them. Hundreds of family have been forced to take shelter in unfinished buildings in the city of Dohuk.
There is rising discontent being expressed towards the harsh Muslim rule imposed by the Islamic State in Mosul, where thousands of Christians were expelled and dispossessed earlier this year. For example, female physicians are striking in protest of IS interference in patient treatment, especially during during childbirth or treatment of some gynecological illnesses.
The Hammurabi Human Rights Organization (HHRO) monitors the human rights situation in Iraq, particularly of minorities such as Assyrians, Turkmen, Yazidis and Shabak. Founded in 2005, HHRO works for human rights observation and documentation, in addition to implementation of humanitarian relief in Iraq.
Iraqi priests and nuns are remaining with their flocks in the face of death and persecution at the hands of the fanatics of the Islamic State.
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