Iraqi security forces stand guard outside the National Evangelical church in Basra, Iraq's second-largest city, 550 km SE of Baghdad, Iraq, Nov. 3, 2010.
"Can Kurdistan Serve as an Internal Sanctuary for Iraqi Christians?"
Op-Ed, The Huffington Post
November 29, 2010
Author: Joshua W. Walker, Former Research Fellow, International Security Program, 2010–2011
Belfer Center Programs or Projects: International Security
"The recent announcement that Iraqi leaders have reached a tentative deal to create a unity government in Baghdad is welcome news amidst the looming threat of sectarian violence. While overall levels of sectarian violence in Iraq have declined in the past two years, the Christian minority in the country have suffered tremendously. A painful reminder of this came on Oct. 31 when al Qaeda attacked the Sayidat al-Nejat Cathedral in Baghdad killing 58 Christian worshipers. Violent attacks such as this over the past seven years have forced a large number of Iraqi Christians to leave the country, and this latest attack has only accelerated this process. As a result a Christian community that once was nearly 800,000 strong before 2003 is now well under half a million.
The mass exodus of Iraqi Christians not only imposes a burden on neighboring countries and Europe, which have already received hundreds of thousands of Iraqi refugees, but also drains Iraq of one of its most educated and entrepreneurial minorities. For those Iraqi Christians who fear for their safety in the Arab regions of Iraq, the Kurdistan region could serve as a sanctuary. Thousands of Christian families have already fled to the Kurdish region and the Ninawa province in Northern Iraq, which borders Kurdistan and is relatively safer than central and southern Iraq. The Kurdistan region has thus far been beyond the reach of al-Qaeda-affiliated groups that target the Christian community.
To date the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) has not received any recognition or assistance from the international community or the central government in Baghdad for hosting this growing number of Christian refugees...."
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