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Middle East Christians Suffer Still

July 7, 2019 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

The Islamic State’s attempt to set up a Middle East
caliphate has failed spectacularly. The group never had much of a
chance, since it has targeted virtually every government in the
region. But most of the Arab states were vulnerable internally and
dependent on the U.S. for their security. Now ISIS appears to be
morphing into a more conventional terrorist organization. A
caliphate repeat appears unlikely.

The catastrophic impact of what Arab states called Daesh,
however, lives on. The movement killed freely, including Muslims it
judged to be insufficiently radical and ruthless. But Christians
and other religious minorities, such as Yazidis, suffered most
grievously. The Assyrian Confederation of Europe has published a
depressing report entitled “Struggling to Breathe: The Systematic
Repression of Assyrians.”

About 3.5 million people worldwide trace their ethnic heritage
to ancient Assyria. Most are Christian; most speak the ancient
language called Aramaic, Assyrian, or Syriac. Iraq’s Nineveh
Plain hosted the bulk of that nation’s 200,000 Assyrians, the
most in any one Middle Eastern nation. Tragically, noted the
Confederation, “Assyrians are one of the most consistently
persecuted communities in Iraq and the wider Middle
East.”

The allied victory over
the Islamic State risks turning into another defeat for Middle
Eastern Christianity.

Indeed, the community has faced far more than pervasive
discrimination and marginalization. A century ago Assyrians were
caught in the Ottoman Empire’s genocidal campaign against
Armenians. The Islamic State rose in 2011, conquering much of
Iraq’s Nineveh Plain and committing murder and depredations
well beyond that nation’s borders. The Confederation
reported, “Hundreds of thousands have fled to Europe, North
America, and elsewhere, seeking peaceful and prosperous
lives.”

The end of the caliphate, however, has not ended the
Assyrians’ travails. ISIS worked to eliminate the Christian
presence in areas that it controlled. Returning Assyrians are
finding other forces essentially attempting to complete
Daesh’s malignant work. As described in the report, Assyrians
“were targeted for political and cultural repression and were
affected by ongoing regional violence. Across the Middle East,
Assyrians are facing an existential crisis due to these continuous
pressures. Vulnerable Assyrian communities are increasingly
marginalized and disenfranchised. They are being slowly smothered
by repressive systems.”

In short, the allied victory over the Islamic State risks
turning into another defeat for Middle Eastern Christianity.

Iraqi Assyrians predate Islam and have suffered periodic attacks
over the centuries, especially in recent times. The worst recent
horrors resulted from the sectarian conflict triggered by the 2003
U.S. invasion and then the triumph of ISIS in 2014.

The latter was catastrophic for minority faiths. The
Confederation explained that “[w]hen Daesh occupied Nineveh,
they gave Christians in the area an ultimatum: convert to Islam,
pay the discriminatory ‘protective’ jizya tax
leveled …read more

Source: OP-EDS