Iranian-backed fighters expelled Christians from Baghdad. According to the website “Foreign Desk”, they take over Christian churches, homes and businesses, displacing Christians from the surrounding area and the southern part of the city. Representatives of Assyrian, Chaldean and Syrian churches call it ethnic cleansing. Christian leaders in the Iraqi Parliament and NGOs working in the country, saying that it’s true. In the North ISIS expels Christians from their ancestral homes in Kirkuk and Mosul. To comment on the situation, from the Washington Bureau MHN joined by Dr. Walid Phares. He advises the Congress on issues of the plight of Christians in the middle East.
MHN: Dr. Phares, thank you for giving us your time. Can you tell us more about what is happening to Christians in Baghdad?
Walid Phares: This theme is very close to me, because I led a delegation of NGOs, many of which you just mentioned (Chaldeans, Assyrians, Syrians, Yezidis in the North and other from Iraq), when they started ethnic cleansing at the hands of ISIS last year and the year before. But we were warned that could happen in the South. This may happen in Baghdad and South of Baghdad. Indeed, as reported by these NGOs, and for the first time talking about it and the Church located in Baghdad —that the militias, “al-Had al-SHAABI” (“people’s mobilization”), which are under the control of the Iranians, seize homes and churches, centres and clubs. For the small Christian community is, in fact, a means of ethnic cleansing.
MHN: You say that US foreign policy is partially responsible for these atrocities. Why?
The United States is actually a partner of the Iraqi government. We allocated a lot of money. Provide them with advice and information. We are their allies against ISIS. So the least we could demand that the Iraqi government, from the Prime Minister, their armed forces, it is to stop those militias did not allow them to carry out ethnic cleansing, such as those that occur in Baghdad. Our advisors are in Baghdad.
MHN: Christians driven from their homes. But if they still cause any harm?
No. In fact, they had already left. Some of them fled immediately after the ethnic cleansing in the North. Others have left it for a while, and then returned. And when they come back, those militia and capture their home. In fact, these militants do what “clean up” Baghdad to make his city a religious coloring. It happened between Sunnis and Shiites, and now happens with this small, very weak Christian community.
MHN: so they have not suffered, as far as we know?
There were many cases of hurting people, but of course they pale in comparison to how ISIS comes and shoots all of the guns, as it was in the North. But it happens with the connivance of the government which is our ally. Imagine if our other allies in Europe did so with Christians or moderate Muslims, or others.
MHN: do you Think that the United States should declare genocide happening to Christians in Iraq, and this recognition will help in this situation?
When in 2014 we addressed not only to Congress and the European Parliament, but also in the UN Security Council, I was a counselor in the delegation that laid the document on the table of the security Council, and the French, we really helped. The text was then passed into the resolution. I hope his example will be followed by the Congress and, ultimately, the UN. This will provide a strong moral and political pressure on the players in the region. Secondly, it is important from the point of view of training. And, thirdly, from the point of view of creating de facto protected area — maybe not in Baghdad and in Northern Iraq, where they will be able to hide Christians, Yazidis and all who are being oppressed.
MHN: AND do you consider it genocide?
This is genocide! Of course, when we see how the coming of ISIS, destroying an entire community of Yazidis, destroying a largely Christian Assyrian community in the North that half a million have left their homes and went to Kurdistan, it is almost the same. Yes, lawyers and human rights activists will find more accurate wording, but these ethnic cleansing, in fact, is genocide.
MHN: What can we do to Iran to stop this activity?
Well, first, the administration said that they signed a contract for 150 billion dollars with the Iranian regime, while the Iranian regime was in control of those militias. If I were the President of this administration, I would have used it. “You won’t get more money if you continue to allow it or to push their militias in Baghdad”. Secondly, an ally of Iran in Iraq is the Prime Minister and his government — we also have a lot of leverage. We have a lot of leverage, but we don’t use them for the protection of minorities, unfortunately.
MAN: of course, We encourage our viewers to continue to pray for the safety of the Christians there. Dr. Walid Phares, thank you for participating in our program.
Thank you for the invitation.