IRAQ- Assyrians in Iraq Dwindle and Struggle to Survive

AINA | Aug. 28, 2018

Christians in Iraq are dwindling. Chased out, targeted and caught in the middle of rival sectarian conflicts, the minority religious sect is struggling to survive.

The country once held over 1.5 million Christians, but since 2003 and the American invasion and occupation, the numbers have dwindled. The population had shrunk to under half a million in 2013 and after the rise of Daesh, it is estimated there are just 250,000 left.

Many have fled — first to surrounding countries, like Jordan and Turkey, but this still only makes up a small percentage of the total. As many as 20,000 are estimated to be in Lebanon, whichs holds one of the largest Christian populations in the region. Christian political parties in Lebanon have influence, were combatants in their own civil conflict, and have supportive communities.

Related: Timeline of ISIS in Iraq
Related: Attacks on Assyrians in Syria By ISIS and Other Muslim Groups

Many Christians from Iraq are hesitant to go back. Some Christians of Arab descent say they’d consider going to the Kurdish region in Iraq–which thrives on ethnic over religious governance–but still others say they’ve been targets of Kurdish authorities pushing for ‘Kurdification’ in the northern Iraq region and have been subject to threats and intimidation.

In 2016, the US admitted at least 37,000 Christians, most of them from Syria, but only 7,800 were from Iraq. Interestingly enough, Christians in Iraq have been at a higher risk of being targeted by extremist groups because in Syria for example, they are either protected by the Assad regime, which carries joint minority support, or have family members in Lebanon.

Nevertheless, despite US President Donald Trump’s claims that it was more difficult to get into the country as a Christian, only 32 percent of Muslim refugees have been admitted since 2003 as compared to 46 percent of those with a Christian background.