|"A burnt out vehicle at the site of one of the bomb attacks targeting Christian homes in Baghdad." (Mohammed Jalil/EPA)|
By Martin Chulov and Enas Ibrahim
The Guardian, November 12, 2010
"For the second time in four years, Linda Jalal and her family are on the run inside their own country. On Tuesday afternoon, they abruptly packed their meagre belongings and abandoned their house in east Baghdad. The family had been fixing the shattered windows from a bomb placed next to their car when dawned -- the attack was not random; it was one of many that day targeting Christian families. 'I am scared,' she said from a relative's lounge. 'How could this happen to us again?' For Jalal and her mother, Iyada Marouky, the past week has been the worst of their lives. Worse than the grim months of 2003 when they fled their first home in the south Baghdad suburb of Dora after armed men came to their doorstep with a warning. Worse, too, than the initial days of anarchy after the ousting of Saddam Hussein. For all his atrocities, the dictator left the Christians well alone. 'We didn't suffer under him,' said Jalal. 'But now I am terrified to live in this society. We are being slaughtered like sheep. Yet we are civilians and this is our country.' Jalal's house was one of at least a dozen Christian homes attacked on Wednesday morning. Three more were bombed on Tuesday night. The bombings were the first co-ordinated attack on the city's Christians following almost eight years of civil strife.
And for what remains of Iraq's Christian communities, it is starting to look like a pogrom. The attacks came nine days after al-Qaida stormed one of Baghdad's most prominent cathedrals, slaughtering more than 40 worshippers who had just arrived for mass and horrifying a city that is no stranger to terrible acts of violence. The ramifications have been enormous. Now, more than any time before, Iraq's Christians are reconsidering their futures in a land where they have prospered since biblical times. 'It's hard to be accurate about how many of us are left,' said Abdullah al-Noufali, the head of Iraq's Christian Endowment Fund. 'But we numbered around 1 million before 2003 and are around 500,000 now. Things have changed this week,' he added. 'These days it is hard to find a Christian who will tell you he wants to stay in Iraq. The church attack was the worst [crisis] in our history. For thousands of years we have stood alongside other sects here, fought in wars and endured all types of disasters. And now this.' There is barely an Iraqi Christian family in which some members do not live abroad. Many, like Jalal's two sisters, were victims of Baghdad's indiscriminate violence in 2006-07 and were granted asylum through the United Nations. One sister fled with her two children to the Netherlands after her husband was killed for running a shop selling alcohol. A second sister, whose husband was also murdered, now lives in the US. [...]"