Despite Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi’s recent announcement ending the US-led global coalition against the Islamic State, Iraqi Christians remain disadvantaged and threatened. Just days after the announcement, the Iraqi Counter-Terrorism Directorate (CTD) detained three ISIS affiliates near Erbil. Meanwhile in Sinjar, the pre-Islamic State Christian community has fled, leaving only one Christian family that lives among the Yazidi minority community.
Kadhimi commented in a tweet, “The Coalition have fully completed their combat role after transfer of personnel and material outside Iraq. Going forward, their role will be to advise and assist our security forces. We thank the leadership of the Coalition, its members, our partners and neighbors in combating Daesh and reaffirm that our security forces stand ready to defend our people.” According to a Peshmerga official talking with Rudaw, the Islamic State conducted 229 attacks in the first 11 months of 2021 in security vacuum areas, which resulted in 356 dead and 480 injured.
Iraqi Christians have largely fled the country. But for those who have returned to their hometown, like Armenian Catholic Ellias al-Saigh and his family, life is difficult without a local Christian community. The family must travel three hours away to visit the closest church. They live among a welcoming Yazidi community who have posted a cross atop a crumbling building to welcome Christians, but without a local congregation and support, his children seek a better life abroad.
The family originally fled in 2014 along with al-Saigh’s ailing father who passed away just a month and a half after reaching safety. His wife Mariam recalled to Middle East Eye the struggle they faced as Christians, “when IS came here and started slaughtering people, it made us remember the Armenian Genocide.” Her father had been just 40 days old when her grandfather was killed. “My grandfather traveled from Turkey to Iraq via Syria and was amongst some families who chose to stay with the Yazidis, as a fellow minority,” Mariam continued.