Iraqi resilience shines through in Karakosh

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Iraqi Christians attend a Holy Mass

Iraqi resilience shines through in Karakosh

By Amina Lahmar/ la-croix.com

Five years ago, on the night of August 6-7, 2014, Islamic State (IS) forces invaded the Christian city of Karakosh in northern Iraq, forcing its citizens to flee.

Christians and other minorities were finally able to return home after the Battle of Mosul in October 2016.
Faraj-Benoît Camurat, president of the Fraternity Association in Iraq, looks back on the tumultuous events that have shaped their lives in recent years.

La Croix: What is the situation of Christians and other minorities in Karakosh today?

Faraj-Benoît Camurat: There is a great diversity of situations. The city was 98 per cent Christian in a total population of 50,000 inhabitants before the IS invasion. Only half of them are back.

Today the city is reviving and its services are more or less the same as before, whether it is the hospital or the administrative services. Commercial life is also returning to normal.

But some neighboring cities in the Nineveh plain are still almost empty, such as Tell Kaif and Batnaya.

Following the Iraqi referendum on the line of demarcation between the Iraqi federal government and the autonomous region of Kurdistan, Batnaya found itself divided between the two.

This has slowed things down a lot and hindered the reconstruction of the city. Before, it had several thousand inhabitants – but only five Christian families returned.

In Tell Kaif, north of Mosul, about 40 families returned out of more than 300.

In Bashiqa and Bahzani, despite the intensive mining by IS, it is estimated that 60 to 70percent of the Yazidis have returned. They have already rebuilt five temples.

But even more than Christians, they are afraid to leave their villages. As for the Kakai, whose religion comes from Persian antiquity, they reside in the far east of the Nineveh plain. These territories were an important area of confrontation.
Being a rather isolated, close-knit and closed group, they chose to return en masse.

Some do not wish to return because they are afraid and because they hope to become refugees in another country, or because they have found more comfortable situations elsewhere.

What has been the state of minority relations with Sunni Muslims in the region?

Relationships will take time to be rebuilt.

Justice must be done to ensure that reconciliation is sustainable. Sunni tribes are also torn between those who have joined IS and those who have suffered it.

But there are also beautiful stories, such as Sunnis working with Yezidis and Christians. The resilience and resilience of these Iraqis make me deeply optimistic.

Today, however, everything is still to be done, and it will take time.

What are the Fraternity's actions in Iraq on the ground today?

Fraternity in Iraq has made economic recovery program its priority.

The aim is to enable displaced returnees to be active in its reconstruction, to restore employment and an economically viable future, and finally to enable minorities to take the first step by re-establishing contact with their Sunni neighbors.
Fraternity in Iraq also acted for the heritage.

When Karakosh was liberated, the priority was not churches but dwellings. However, we have had the mausoleum of Mar Behnam rebuilt, which bears the name of a Christian holy martyr, and is also a place of pilgrimage for the Yezidis and Muslims. This allows for exchanges and discussions.

Tue, 08/13/2019 - 13:32
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