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November 20, 2017 4:57 pm

Iran-Backed Forces Persecuting Christians Who Survived ISIS, Kurdish Parliamentarian Says

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avatar by Ben Cohen

Hashd al-Shaabi fighters in Iraq. Photo: File.

Iran-backed Shia paramilitary forces operating in northern Iraq have been accused by a Kurdish parliamentarian of engaging in “flagrant injustice” toward Christians in the region which until earlier this year was in the grip of ISIS terrorists.

Wahida Yaqo Hormuz — a Christian representative in the parliament of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) — said she had alerted the Vatican and international human rights groups to what she called the “Shia-ification” of the Nineveh Plains, where the northern Iraqi city of Mosul is located. Conquered by ISIS in 2014, Iraqi government forces retook the city in July.

“This is a flagrant injustice done to Christians,” Yaqo Hormuz said, commenting on reports that the Hashd al-Shaabi paramilitary, a coalition of armed Shia groups supported by Iran, was preventing the return of Christians who fled during the recent assault on KRG-controlled territories in northern Iraq.

According to a Christian refugee from ISIS interviewed by the Kurdish news outlet Rudaw, Hashd al-Shaabi forces are persecuting those Christians, once a population of 40,000, who remain in his home town.

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“The situation of these areas is getting worse day by day,” the refugee, Amir Yaqu, said. “The Hashd al-Shaabi forces are systematically trying to change the Christian demography of these places. They have started to operate sectarian schools in churches and religious centers.”

One school, named after Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the leader of Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution, had left Christians “very much upset,” Yaqo Hormuz, the Kurdish parliamentarian, said. “We informed our representatives in Kurdistan and Iraq immediately,” she added.

On Monday, meanwhile, Hashd al-Shaabi denied that it had withdrawn from two key regions in Nineveh. Kurdish Peshmerga clashed with Hashd al-Shaabi fighters in the middle of October, as Iraqi government and Iranian forces seized more than 50 percent of the territory liberated from ISIS by the Kurds.

“A number of media outlets talk about the pullout of the Hashd al-Shaabi forces from Zummar and Rabiaa and their surrounding areas, but this news is untrue and baseless,” Ahmed al-Asadi, a representative of Hashd al-Shaabi, claimed.

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