Thursday, May 10, 2007

Christians attacked in al-Doura.

Leave, convert or pay the jizya

An armed Iraqi group has in recent days begun targeting Christians in the residential al-Doura neighbourhood of Baghdad, according to an interior ministry source quoted by the pan Arab daily al-Sharq al-Awsat.

Information obtained during probes and the interrogation of various terror suspects arrested last week indicate that this group is linked to al-Qaeda and is made up of 200 militiamen, most of them foreigners.

The terror formation has threatened with death any Christian in the mainly Sunni area.

To combat the presence of what appears to be an al-Qaeda-linked cell, the Baghdad security forces last week began a series of raids, backed by US combat helicopters, which led to the arrest of various elements of the group.

In a recent interview with Adnkronos International (AKI) a Christian parliamentarian in Iraq's Kurdistan region warned that Christians in the country face mounting threats.

"Thousands of Christian families are being told to leave the country or convert to Islam or pay the jizyah (a tax traditionally imposed on non-Muslim men in Islamic states)," said the parliamentarian, Romeo Hakkari, an ethnic Assyrian of the Chaldean Church - a Roman Catholic oriental rite denomination.According to Hakkari, who heads the House of the Two Rivers Democratic Party, which promotes the rights of Assyrian-Chaldeans, many Christians living in Mosul and Baghdad have fled those cities and sought refuge either in remote parts of Iraqi Kurdistan or abroad after receiving threats from Islamists.

He cited the example of pamphlets, purportedly distributed by the al-Qaeda-linked "Islamic State of Iraq" group that threatened to kill Christians if they did not abandon the city.

Since the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime Christians in Iraq, and in particular Baghdad have faced persecution for the first time in the history of this country."