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November 09, 2010

Fresh Wave of Attacks Target Christians in Baghdad

Iraq expert James Denselow of King's College London emphasizes Iraq's Christian community has been decimated since the 2003 U.S. invasion of the country.

A series of bombings targeting Iraqi Christians left several people dead and dozens wounded, less than two weeks after a failed hostage-taking at a Baghdad church left dozens of casualties.  

Fear and confusion gripped many Christians in the Iraqi capital after another series of attacks aimed at the Christian community.  Baghdad police reports spoke of at least 11 separate explosions in three mostly Christian areas of Baghdad.

Iraq expert James Denselow of King's College London emphasizes Iraq's Christian community has been decimated since the 2003 U.S. invasion of the country.

"There are estimates that some 60 percent of the million-strong population [of Christians] have either left the country or been killed," he said. "What has happened in the last month is a significant uptick in targeted violence against Christian communities in Iraq, and it is accompanied by messages from what remains of al-Qaida in Iraq that they are specifically targeting the Christian community. [Christians] are without militia protection, they are without political representation in what is anyway a rather grid-locked parliament, and thus they are incredibly vulnerable."

Denselow says he thinks the current spiral of violence against Iraqi Christians will increase their exodus from the country.

Iraqi satellite TV stations showed chunks of concrete from homes and buildings that were shattered by the blasts.  There were scenes of twisted metal, broken glass and bloodstained streets, as ambulances took victims to hospitals and survivors sifted through rubble.

There were also images of Christian families lingering amid the shattered walls and splintered furniture of their homes, unsure of what to do.  One teenage boy explains what he saw.

He says he was standing around a specific area when suddenly there was an explosion.  He adds a fire broke out after the blast, but that it was put out as people took cover.

More than 50 Christian church-goers died in a brutal siege of a Catholic church less than two weeks ago.  That event still has many Baghdad Christians trembling with fear and agonizing over what to do.  Iraqi Christian leaders appear divided, with some urging their followers to remain in the country and others recommending they leave.

Many observers say that the eight-month political power vacuum in the country has added to the mounting violence against Christians and others and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki lashed out at his political opponents, signaling a political deal is still no closer.

He says that real partners in governing must shoulder responsibility incumbent on them, and not become conduits for terrorists, Baathists and other gangs out to wreak havoc and destruction.

U.S. State Department Spokesman P. J. Crowley indicated Tuesday the United States has not had any "specific requests for asylum," by Iraqi Christians in the aftermath of recent violence.  But he added 53,000 Iraqi refugees have settled in America since 2007 and that a program is in place to help resettle more if the need arises.