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Patriarch Decries ‘Mass Cleansing’ of Mosul By ‘A Bed of Criminals’

By , July 26, 2014 9:28 am

Syriac Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan (CNS photo).WASHINGTON — Syriac Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan, in Washington to meet with federal government representatives and members of Congress, decried the “mass cleansing” of Christians from Mosul, Iraq, by what he called “a bed of criminals.”

“We wonder how could those criminals, this bed of criminals, cross the border from Syria into Mosul and occupy the whole city of Mosul … imposing on the population their Shariah (law) without any knowledge of the international community,” Patriarch Younan said July 25, referring to Islamic State fighters, formerly known by the acronyms ISIS or ISIL.

“What happened is really kind of a cleansing based on religion. You have heard about what they did: proclaim — they announced publicly with street microphones, the ISIS — there’s no more room for Christians in Mosul, that they either have to convert, pay tax, or just leave. And they have been leaving now since then with absolutely nothing,” he added.

“It is a shame that in the 21st century, you have such kind of behavior,” the patriarch lamented. “It’s mass cleansing based on religion, not only for Christians, the Christian minority, but for other minorities,” among them the Yezidi, an ethnic group of 700,000 based in Iraq’s Mesopotamia region.

In Mosul itself, “there is no more Christian presence,” Patriarch Younan said. “It’s tragic because it’s the largest Christian city in Iraq; it was what you call the nucleus of Christian presence for many centuries. And we have at least 25 churches in that city. All are abandoned. No more prayers, no services, no more Masses on Sundays in Mosul because no clergy, no people there that are Christian.” The Islamic State, he said, “took advantage of the Christians who are defenseless in that country, and they have no other means to stay in that country. They have nowhere else to go. They have been taken out with force and injustice.

“Christians used to make at the time of Saddam (Hussein), especially before 1980, about 2.5 percent. That means almost 1.4 million. Now they account for less than 300,000. This is a kind of tragic dwindling of their number,” Patriarch Younan said. “It’s just because of Christian belief and that they are different from the majority,” he added.

Mosul’s Christians have fled to neighboring Kurd-controlled areas.

“The Kurdistan government took care of them, trying to help them,” Patriarch Younan said. “Of course they are still in dire need for assistance for those refugees being forced to leave without any means.”

The patriarch visited them June 27. He said he “urged them to take refuge and go back to their home city” because of Kurd assurances of protection.

Among Patriarch Younan’s appointments in Washington was one with Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Nebraska, who is crafting a bill calling for internationally protected zones for threatened religious and ethnic minorities in the Middle East.

On a separate front, the patriarch said he has suggested a joint meeting of Eastern Catholic and Orthodox patriarchs to advocate for the region’s vulnerable populations, most of whom are adherents to their respective faiths.

“We have to take our responsibility very seriously together,” Patriarch Younan said. “We are on very good terms, the patriarchs. We are aware of the biggest challenges we are facing or our communities are facing, and we have to go throughout the world and bring the voice of our people to those who have a word to say on the international scene, whether the United Nations, United States, European Union, Russia, China, the Vatican” — and even top Sunni leaders in Egypt and Shiite leaders in Iran.

“We have to tell them that we have been here for millennia. We don’t have any ambition to fight any people, any community, or have ambition to govern or to make coup d’etat, but we have the right to live peacefully in the land of our forefathers as we did for the past 2,000 years,” Patriarch Younan said.

Patriarch Younan, who was born in Syria, said that while Saddam and Syrian President Bashar Assad have been vilified by the West, one thing they did well was to protect religious minorities.

The patriarch recalled appearing on a French prime-time news program where the host asked him: “You know you have a president, an awful president. He’s a monster. He’s killing innocent people, kids, and women.”

Patriarch Younan said he replied with the story of a Capuchin priest from a Syrian town on the Euphrates River that is 98 percent Sunni; it was coming under attack by anti-government rebels.

“I was the last one to leave,” the Capuchin told the patriarch. “I had a parish church, and I have with me in the parish center four nuns of Mother Teresa of Calcutta taking care of about 20 elderly women. And we could not anymore stand that situation. So the nuns called Damascus. And Damascus sent military vehicles to evacuate us from the parish compound — the nuns, 12 elderly people and myself to the airport, and they took us to Damascus.”

“Now,” Patriarch Younan told the French news-show host, “you can judge if that guy is a monster or not.”

Assyrian International News Agency

San Diego’s Chaldean Community Pushes for Asylum for Iraqi Christians

By , July 26, 2014 9:27 am

EL CAJON — Hundreds of Iraqi-American Christians and their supporters packed the El Cajon Civic Center Friday evening, calling for an end to the brutal violence and merciless oppression that Iraqi Christians are now facing in their homeland.

“Our very community has been rocked to its core,” said Chaldean-American leader Mark Arabo, who is also national spokesman of the organization ‘Ending Genocide in Iraq’. “Christianity itself faces death throughout Iraq.”

Over this past week, thousands of Iraqi Christians, or Chaldeans, have been ousted from their homeland, forced to leave behind their homes, businesses and churches after the Islamic State terrorist group known as ISIS issued a chilling ultimatum: either convert to Islam, or be expelled.

“I lived it,” Chaldean-American Amer Moshi told CBS News 8. “I came here in 2009. I spent 24 years there (in Iraq), and I was abused verbally, physically every day.”

Moshi said that what his fellow Chaldeans are facing back home, is what brought him to seek asylum in the United States five years ago: religious freedom. “We were getting killed just because we are Christians. They were taking our homes, money, everything we own.”

As the situation in Iraq continues to deteriorate day by day, a new Congressional resolution introduced a couple weeks ago could provide much-needed help to members of Iraq’s religious minorities fleeing violence, persecution and killings in their war-torn homeland.

So far, more than a half a million people have been displaced by the current conflict in Iraq, as Sunni insurgents expand their control over the divided country, reportedly targeting, persecuting and killing Iraqi religious minorities, including Chaldeans.

“We want to make sure we protect, not just Chaldeans and Christians in Iraq, but the entire region, because it has global ramifications,” Arabo earlier told CBS News 8.

To that end, Arabo has been tirelessly lobbying Congress and other political leaders, helping to draft a new resolution introduced by San Diego Democratic Congressman Juan Vargas.

This proposed resolution calls on the Obama administration to expedite the visa process for members of Iraq’s minority groups trying to relocate to the United States and to increase the number of Iraqi Christians granted asylum in the U.S., without increasing the limit of 70,000 refugees in total granted asylum here each year.

“What we’re saying is, keep the 70,000 level – don’t issue more visas – but reallocate it so that instead of 10,000 coming from the Middle East, make it 50,000 or make it 40,000, just to give these children and families a shot to live,” Arabo said. “I would say that anywhere they are facing genocide should be prioritized.”

“This is a Christian holocaust in our midst,” he added.

Assyrian International News Agency

Economic Prospects for Erbil Look Bright

By , July 26, 2014 9:18 am

Economic Prospects for Erbil Look Bright

By Patrick M Schmidt.

While the security situation in some parts of Iraq remains in flux, the north region of Kurdistan continues to attract foreign businesses as a promising location for investment.

With a 12 percent growth in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2012 and another 8 percent growth of GDP in 2013, Kurdistan’s economic figures look strong.

While some challenges do exist in terms of construction and the financial sector, Kurdistan has plenty of available labor with a high percentage of multi-lingual, young workers.

In addition, the rapid economic growth presents a multitude of opportunities for foreign companies to enter the market and assist with critical infrastructure projects.

Currently a number of European expatriates are working to expand their own businesses and reveal the lucrative investment opportunities to those who may initially be scared to enter the market.

(Source: Rudaw)

Iraq Business News

Britain Has Forgotten Its Debt to the Christians of Iraq

By , July 26, 2014 3:45 am

“Nineveh city was a city of sin. The jazzin’ and a-jivin’ made a terrible din.” So starts Michael Hurd’s Jonah-Man Jazz, the Sixties incarnation of a long artistic tradition of celebrating the biblical Nineveh as a city of loose living. Sure, God sends the lugubrious Jonah to threaten the city with destruction if it doesn’t repent, but writers always prefer to focus on the fun than the moralising. Even the most apocalyptic of morality plays on the subject, Thomas Lodge and Robert Greene’s 1594 A Looking Glass for London and England, dwells with prurient fascination on the bed-swapping in Nineveh’s royal palace (incest! silken veils!) before the authors rather hastily remember they’re supposed to be warning sinful 16th-century London of what happens to corrupt cities.

But for the few Christians left in Nineveh Province today, it is the scriptural tradition of shriving and atonement that lingers in the mind, not the thought of parties. Three weeks before Ash Wednesday, Assyrian Christians observe the Fast of Nineveh, performing again the great penance of the biblical Ninevites. Their ancestors repented of hedonism, and God saved them: now, modern Ninevites do they same, and God has preserved them — until now. As Tim Stanley wrote on these pages last week, for the first time in 1,600 years, mass is not being said in Mosul, the modern capital of Nineveh Province. Christian women are raped in front of their husbands and fathers, holy sites desecrated, and the population offered a simple choice: convert, pay insupportable taxes, or die. In a grim echo of Europe’s Kristallnacht, the Arabic letter nun, for Nasrani (Christian), is daubed on the outside of Christian houses. As Dr Dwayne Menezes of the Humanitarian Intervention Centre tells me, “If anyone is seeking to understand what ethnic cleansing is, they will find in Mosul the archetypal case study”.

And to Assyrian Christians, it’s not only God who seems to have betrayed his covenant. The British government has a direct historical responsibility to the Assyrian Christians of Iraq. The use of local minorities as proxies for the British Empire is now well understood: few of us know, however, that in Iraq, Assyrian Christians were used at Britain’s peacekeeping force throughout the British mandate. The Iraq Levies, the first military unit created by the British in Iraq, were almost entirely manned by Assyrian Christians from its inception in 1920. The Islamists of Isis aren’t so forgetful — much of the violence against Christians in Iraq is shrugged off as just punishment for their collaboration with the British. In fact, revenge attacks against Assyrian Christians go long back — in 1933, the Iraqi army, boosted by Arab and Kurdish militants, celebrated the British withdrawal by massacring 3,000 Assyrians at Simele. Britain had long abandoned its promise of leaving a secure, autonomous Assyrian region behind them.

For politically active Assyrians, the answer is a home state, or semi-autonomous region within Iraq. For Mardean Isaac, who is, with the writer Nuri Kino, one of the organisers of a new campaign to defend Assyrian Christians, “we want to be understood as what we are: a people. We aren’t just a scattered collection of individuals across Middle Eastern states who happened to believe in Christianity.” One option, then, is international support for local attempts to re-establish security in an autonomous Nineveh Province. Given the stampede of Isis, and the anti-interventionist mood in the West, that seems unlikely. But if the West is serious about defending Christians, it needs to put pressure on the Kurds. As the Kurds look to build a new nation state, it will need the continued support of the West. So we must demand commitments by the Kurds that they will respect the autonomy of Assyrian communities within its borders. Securing local asylum matters: many of those fleeing the Simile massacre had been denied asylum by French Syria — we cannot allow the same cycle to occur again.

Of the 8,000 Assyrians living in Britain today, those over 50 were almost all born on RAF Habbaniya, the British military base, to parents serving the British. They are, like the Gurkhas, our people. They shouldn’t need Joanna Lumley to start waving a sword before we remember them.

Assyrian International News Agency

Video: New President as Violence Rages

By , July 26, 2014 3:36 am

Video: New President as Violence Rages

From Al Jazeera. Any opinions expressed are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Fuad Massoum elected in a step towards new government, but appointment comes as bombings and attacks continue unabated.

Al Jazeera‘s Omar Al Saleh reports from Erbil.

Iraq Business News

Kurdish Oil Nears US Marketplace

By , July 26, 2014 3:36 am

Kurdish Oil Nears US Marketplace

By Patrick M Schmidt.

After a long journey across the Atlantic Ocean, the oil-tanker, United Kalavrvta [United Kalavryta], is just miles off the coast of Florida. The tanker is loaded with one million barrels of crude oil that has a current market value of approximately $ 100 million (117 billion Iraqi dinars).

The oil onboard is sourced from oilfields in the Kurdistan region, and the vessel is expected to dock in Galveston, Texas, on Saturday.

The Iraqi central government has made it clear that any nation who purchases oil sold direct from the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) will face legal action. However, for the KRG the successful sale of oil independent from the Iraqi central government would prove a major step in their possible bid for independence.

(Source: Reuters)

Iraq Business News

Barzani to Iraqi Christians: We Will Live and Die Together

By , July 25, 2014 10:03 pm

Barzani to Iraqi Christians: We Will Live and Die Together

By Shwan Barzinji

Posted 2014-07-25 13:30 GMT

President Barzani Receives Patriarch Louis Sako. Kurdistan Regional President Massoud Barzani has made an impassioned statement to all Iraqi Christians in the wake of their forced migration from Mosul. He tells Iraqi Christians not to think about immigration abroad, stating that the Kurdistan Region will stand against the terrorists and protect their land and lives.

According to a public statement given by the Presidency, Kurdistan Regional President Massoud Barzani received the Chaldean Patriarch of Babylon, Patriarch Louis Rapahael I Sako who was accompanied by a delegation of clergymen from the Nineveh plain and other parts of Iraq.

Barzani warmly welcomed the delegation on Wednesday and reiterated his support for the Christian community of Mosul who has recently been subjected to a number of acts of violence in the hands of the ISIS terrorists.

Barzani stated that the Kurdistan Region will continue to support the fleeing Christians and will utterly condemn the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS) acts of terrorism against the Christians of the Nineveh plains.

“We will all either die together or we will live together with dignity,” said Barzani.

Patriarch Sako and the accompanying delegation expressed their gratitude to Barzani and to the Kurdistan Region’s stance of support, praying to an end of the current crisis in Mosul.

Assyrian International News Agency

Russia to Expand Military Cooperation with Iraq

By , July 25, 2014 9:54 pm

Russia to Expand Military Cooperation with Iraq

Itar-Tass reports that Russia’s Defense Minister, Sergei Shoigu (pictured), intends to expand military-technical cooperation with Iraq.

The Minister is quoted as saying:

Military-technical cooperation between our countries develops successfully. The intergovernmental agreement proves its efficiency.

“We’re meeting with the Iraqi officials when the country faces difficulties.

“We support your efforts in fighting terrorism.

“We seek to relations with Iraq. This is our strategic priority.”

Iraqi Defense Minister Saadun Al-Dulaimi said:

It is not a secret that now Iraq is facing difficulties. We’re fighting terrorism.

“Counter-terrorism is the priority of the world community. When we fight terrorism on our territory, we feel like we protect the world community.

“Now the Iraqi army needs weapons for continuing the fight.”

(Source: ITAR-TASS)

Iraq Business News

Syria Becoming Home to Two Competing Islamic States

By , July 25, 2014 4:21 pm

(AFP) — A new power struggle has emerged within the Syrian rebellion after Al-Qaeda announced it aims to create an Islamic “emirate” to compete with rival jihadist group, the Islamic State (IS).

As with IS in its early days, when it was still known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, Al-Qaeda affiliate the Al-Nusra Front is spreading its zone of influence, taking over strategically located villages, and competing with other rebel groups.

On July 11, an audio recording attributed to Al-Nusra’s chief Abu Mohammad al-Jolani was distributed via YouTube, in which he announced the group’s intention to establish an Islamic “emirate”.

“The time has come, O loved ones, to create an emirate in the Levant,” Jolani said, adding that its borders will be with “the regime, those who exaggerate (the Islamic State), the corrupt ones (the rebels),” and the Kurds.

The audio recording emerged two weeks after IS proclaimed an Islamic “caliphate” straddling Syria and Iraq.

Days later, for the first time in Syria’s war, battles erupted between Al-Nusra and their rebel allies from a patchwork of opposition groups.

The first major fight was in the Jisr al-Shughur area of Idlib province, near the northwestern border with Turkey, in which dozens of fighters on both sides died, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Al-Nusra and rebels have also since fought each other in Daraa province in the south, and Aleppo in the north.

Activists say the change is in part due to the fact that Al-Nusra has been significantly weakened in recent months by the fighting against IS and is now seeking to extend its influence once more.

- Openly at war -

IS and Al-Nusra, who both have thousands of fighters in their ranks, are rooted in Al-Qaeda in Iraq but the latter has since split with the global terror network and faced criticism from its head Ayman al-Zawahiri.

The two groups have been openly at war with each other in Syria since early this year.

In eastern Syria’s oil-rich Deir Ezzor, IS won the battle, killing hundreds of Al-Nusra fighters and forcing those who survived either to flee or to submit.

According to Abu Yasmin, a rebel in Idlib province in Syria’s northwest, “Al-Nusra is going through a real crisis. Its announcement that it wants an emirate is a way to draw new jihadists into its ranks. On the ground, it is pushing to create an emirate exclusively under its control.”

Al-Nusra first emerged in Syria’s war at the end of 2011 — a year and a half before IS appeared on the scene.

Unlike IS, Al-Nusra integrated well into the Syrian rebellion, and claimed responsibility for major attacks on regime positions.

But some opposition fighters are now changing their view of Al-Nusra, and are even preparing to fight it.

Earlier this week, a group of moderate rebel groups — including Western-supported Hazem and the Syrian Revolutionaries Front — published a stinging statement, vowing not to cooperate with Al-Nusra.

- ‘Showing its true face’ -

Part of the backlash reflects a rising rejection of jihadism, as a whole, among rebel ranks.

Abu Yasmin told AFP via the Internet that Al-Nusra’s tactics “are about power, not about Islam. We Syrians don’t need anyone to teach us Islam.”

According to Rami Abdel Rahman, director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Al-Nusra has been pushing for exclusive control in several border areas in Idlib and Aleppo province near Turkey, and Daraa province near Jordan.

“This is exactly how IS started out,” said Abdel Rahman. “First it took control, then it announced its caliphate. We are seeing this happen again, with Al-Nusra Front.”

Abdel Rahman also told AFP that, like IS, Al-Nusra is starting to go it alone, cutting its ties with joint rebel Islamic courts that act as the de facto authority in opposition-held areas.

Al-Nusra and its Islamist rebel sympathisers, for their part, claim to be waging a campaign against “corrupt” rebel groups with questionable reputations.

“Remember, IS used to do just the same, singling out small groups and fighting them, in order to gain popular support at first while legitimising its spread of influence,” said Abdel Rahman.

The key difference, said a rebel officer who spoke to AFP on condition of anonymity, between IS and Al-Nusra is the latter has so far done a far better job at integrating than IS ever did.

“But now Al-Nusra is starting to show its true face. Its goals are not freedom and democracy. It wants control and sectarianism. And that’s not what our revolution is about,” said the officer.

Assyrian International News Agency

KRG Considers Building Ifraz Station-4

By , July 25, 2014 4:12 pm

KRG Considers Building Ifraz Station-4

The General Directorate of Water and Sewage in the Kurdistan Region is considering the implementation of the Ifraz Station-4 project, with a capacity of 25000 cubic meters per hour, due to the increase in the demand for drinking water in the capital, Erbil.

The General Directorate of Water and Sewage last year started to implement the remaining section of the Ifraz Plant-3 project, which provides drinking water to the city of Erbil, in order to reduce the pressure on the other stations.

In a statement to the Director General of Water and Sewage in the Kurdistan Region, Sahand Sirwan Ahmad, said that the increase in the demand for consuming drinking water “has pushed the water-producing stations in the Kurdistan Region to work 24 hours a day, where they work at maximum capacity without any rotation during the summer season. This has led to increased pressure on all the stations. This is why completing the remaining 40 percent of the Ifraz Station-3 was necessary.”

This remaining part of the project is being funded by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) as a long-term loan. It is expected to be completed by the end of this year.

The purpose of the Ifraz Station-4 project is to respond to the possible increase in demand for drinking water in the event that the Ifraz Station-3 can not meet the demand due to the city of Erbil’s projected rise in population. It is expected that the cost of building the Ifraz Station-4 will reach close to $ 600 million.

Iraq Business News