Iraqi Christians attacked ahead of Iraq election
Killings of Iraqi Christians in the northern city of Mosul have sparked an exodus from the Arab-controlled city to Kurdish areas. The number of Iraqi Christians attacked has spiked in the run-up to elections, scheduled for Sunday.
In the living room of a cousin’s house, Vivian al-Dahan and her brothers pour out the details of how their father was kidnapped and killed a week ago in Mosul. Their mother, suddenly a widow, keeps trying not to cry.Skip to next paragraph
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Adnan Hannah al-Dahan was the first of at least eight Iraqi Christians killed in the northern city in the past two weeks. The murders have led to an exodus of one of the troubled city’s oldest minorities and fears that the attacks will keep Christians from voting in the Iraq election, scheduled for next week.
Iraq's Christian community is one of the world's oldest. But since the 2003 invasion, church bombings, kidnappings, and assassinations have scattered the community. Last year, Human Rights Watch estimated that two-thirds of Iraqi Christians have fled their homes since the war began.
The abduction that ended in Mr. Dahan's death was the second time he had been kidnapped. Two years ago, he was abducted from his corner shop, beaten with a rifle, and stuffed in the trunk of a car. He was kept wrapped in chains under a stairwell until the family borrowed enough money from neighbors to pay a $5,000 ransom.
“They said, ‘you are Christian – you have to pay a tax,’ ” says Vivian. The family didn’t go to the police because they said the kidnappers would have blown up their house.
This time, there was no ransom note and no contact with the men who took him away.
A week after he was abducted, his beaten and scarred body was dumped in the street near their house. Police took his eldest son, Raif, to the morgue to identify him.
Dahan, who had lost the use of his hand after being wounded in the Iran-Iraq war, had been whipped and his shoulder dislocated before he was shot in the mouth.
“We haven’t done anything wrong. Have we done anything wrong? My father wasn’t a policeman or a politician. He was a peaceful man – he loved people and people loved him,” says Vivian.
'Who is going to stay in the land of the prophets?'
The family says they didn’t leave Mosul after the first kidnapping because their father was too attached to the city to move. Mosul is built on the site of the biblical Ninevah, the burial place of the prophet Jonah and home to some of the earliest Christians.
“He said, ‘if all of us Christians leave, who is going to stay in the land of the prophets and pray in our churches?’ " says Darhan's widow, Warda. "He said, ‘we were all born in Mosul and we will die in Mosul.’ ”
Their shop was in a corner of their house on a main road in the Baladiyat district of Mosul. Throughout the war, there has been so much gunfire between insurgents and Iraqi and American forces that their home became riddled with bullet holes. When they couldn’t afford to keep replacing the shattered glass they just covered the windows with plastic wrap, Vivian says.
“Our house was a battlefield,” says Warda, huddled on a corner of the sofa and dressed in a black suit. “We would lie on the floor and we wouldn’t know where the bullets were coming from,” says Vivian. “More than once we thought we were dead.”