19 September 2014
An Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga fighter holds a position in Bartella, east of Mosul, Iraq, after clashes with ISIS on 16 September. (photo: Sivan Siddik/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
During the ISIS invasion of the Christian towns in the Nineveh Plain on 6 August 2014, Christians were mainly displaced from nine villages:
- In the center of the plain, to the east side of Mosul, four Christian towns and villages were invaded by ISIS and all inhabitants were displaced: Qaraqosh (also named Bakhdida), Qaramlesh, Bartella and Baashiqa.
- To the north of Mosul, five towns and villages were displaced, but only four of them were invaded by ISIS militants: Tal Keif, Batnaya, Baaqoufa, Tal Eskef, and, further to the north, Al Qosh village.
As a matter of fact, ISIS never gained control of Al Qosh, but came within 20 miles of the village. Most of the families left Al Qosh; some men stayed to guard the village in case ISIS broke through.
Qaraqosh, the town with the largest displaced population (around 45,000 Christians), is located about 45 miles southeast of Al Qosh. At present, the Kurdish military forces are trying to regain land in the area around the village. But all regained small villages were initially inhabited by Kurds. And the nearest Christian village to Al Qosh, Tal Eskef, is still under the control of ISIS militants.
Following the liberation of the Mosul dam and the surrounding small villages by the Peshmarga forces backed by the U.S. air raids, the Christians of Al Qosh felt more secure and decided to return back to their homes. According to our church partners, around 500 Christian families have so far returned.
It is important to mention that the return of families to Al Qosh was relatively easy because their houses were not invaded and looted by ISIS; on the contrary, they returned to find everything as they left it.
On Tuesday, 16 September 2014, a senior officer with the Peshmerga forces confirmed that ISIS militants were booted from four villages — Hassan al-Sham, Syudan, Bahra and Jisr al-Khadhr, all located in the Nineveh plain between Erbil and Mosul. But these villages are also at least 15 miles away from the nearest Christian town of Qaraqosh.
It is worth mentioning that displaced Iraqi Christian families are suffering from a real crisis of trust. They lost confidence in the intentions of the central government of Baghdad, in the Kurdish authority, and in the Peshmerga who withdrew their forces from the Nineveh Plain overnight, leaving tens of thousands of Christian families defenseless.
I think even if their villages are liberated soon, the Christians will be very reluctant and hesitant to return back before getting some international protection and proper indemnities for the losses caused by the invasion and looting activities of the ISIS militants. I believe at present the displaced Christians of Iraq have confidence only in their churches and church people; all efforts should be directed toward empowering the local church to accompany those victims in their walk through harsh roads.
To support these Christians in their moment of need, visit our giving page — and please remember to keep them in your prayers.