Iraq: Kurdish Tribes Stealing Assyrian Christian Lands

December 5, 2019

The persecution of Christians in Iraq is ongoing. While ISIS has been defeated, other groups also treat Christians badly, as this story indicates. These Assyrian Christians have lived in Iraq since the earliest ages of Christianity. However, their presence in that land may soon be only a memory. The Order of Saint Andrew the Apostle, Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, has been working energetically with leaders in the U.S. and Europe to change this. Above all, we need your prayers to help us continue and expand this work, before it is too late.

For previous coverage of the persecution of Christians in Iraq, click here.

“Kurdish Tribes Stealing Assyrian Christian Lands,” by Taiyo “Siraj” Davis, Foreign Policy Journal, December 4, 2019:

There has been an ongoing occupation in Northern Iraq of Assyrian Christian indigenous lands, largely ignored by the mainstream media, which requires a solution soon.

According to David William Lazar’s American Mesopotamian Organization (AMO), Kurdish tribes close to the ruling Barzani family of the KRG (Kurdistan Regional Government) have stolen Assyrian Christian lands in Northern Iraq. Director of the Assyrian Democratic Movement Rabee Fareed, Assyrian Aid Society president Ashur Sargon Eskrya, and Assyrian Christian MP Yacoub Yaco state that currently 58 Assyrian villages have been occupied.

The following is an on the ground investigation of the allegations of Kurdish occupation in the Assyrian Christian villages of Kashkawa, Zhouli, and Chamma Rabatka of the Nahla district; the Babelo district; Garbeeesh village in Akre District; and the Barwari district. All districts are part of Duhok, Northern Iraq. Past reports have not named who is responsible for the land theft. This report does for the first time. This includes heads of the KRG government and Western oil companies.

Nahla District

Kashkawa and Zhouli Villages

Assyrian Christian villagers in Nahla possess maps detailing land markings and boundaries in addition to court orders by the Duhok KRG, validating ownership of lands. However, there has been no government enforcement of these decrees.

The Christians in Kashkawa village have already lost three-fourths of their village lands. In Zhouli village, all of their territory is saturated with illegal blue-tarped covered construction by Kurdish villagers.

The Kurdish tribe identified as being responsible for this occupation by nearly all Kashkawa and Zhouli residents is that of former Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Hoshye Zebari, who is the uncle of the former KRG president Masoud Barzani, and Reza Zebari, who is Hoshye Zebari’s cousin….

Kashkawa and Zhouli residents averred that peaceful means to stymie the Kurdish occupation are consistently ignored and occasionally responded with extra-judicial violence.

These residents mention an event which was documented by Human Rights Watch wherein the KRG’s secret police organization the Asaysh once forcefully blocked Christians of Nahla from peacefully marching to the Kurdish capital of Erbil in protest of illegal land confiscation.

Past letters by Nahla residents to former KRG president Masoud Barzani requesting the stoppage of land occupation have been left unanswered, according to residents.

One Kashkawa villager explained that prior attempts to enforce court orders were met with unknown heavily armed masked assailants meting out extra-judicial night raids or assassinations in broad daylight. An elderly resident interrupted this villager, opining that these unidentified masked men were Asaysh and Peshmerga from the Zebari tribe. Peshmerga are the militias of the KRG.

Another villager chimed-in, “If we take our land back, we have to fight the Kurdish tribe, Asaysh, Peshmerga, the KRG government. We have no chance.”

According to the Assyrian International News Agency (AINA), Nahla Christian residents are regularly targeted by the Asaysh. In one specific instance, the AINA claimed the Asaysh coerced residents to sign fake confessions that this harassment never occurred, despite the United Nations and International Red Cross documenting them.

In Kashkawa and Zhouli villages, one can witness Kurdish shepherds inundating the grasslands with sheep so as to tacitly lay claim to the territory. A few Kurdish shepherds with firearms stare at any passer-by as if to challenge anyone to respond to their intrusion….