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A Christian Businessman Recalls Riots in North Iraq
By Sulaiman Alikhan and Kawar Barwari

DUHOK, North Iraq -- Fahmi Yusef Mansour is the owner of Iraq's biggest beer supply in the village of Seji near Duhok city in Iraqi Kurdistan.

Mansour's beer storage was stormed and torched by an angry mob during the riots in the province earlier this month.

Following Friday sermons people in the cit of Zakho attacked liquor stores, massage parlors and hotels.

Mansour, a Christian, said he had received messages threatening to burn down his business. He said he had informed the local mayor and security officials about the threats, but was reassured that nothing would happen.

"We also did not expect anything to happen because this is a Christian place and there are no Muslims," Mansour told Rudaw.

Mansour was in Dohuk the day his store was attacked. He rushed back and tried to protect his business with the help of some relatives carrying guns. According to Mansour around 2,000 people, the majority of them teenagers had attacked his beer storage.

Mansour believes some school teachers are responsible for instigating the young people against Christians.

"Many teachers encourage student to oppose Christians and their places of worship," he said, adding that a number of teenage students had thrown stones at the local church.

Two students detained by the security forces have allegedly confessed that their teacher had incited them to attack the church.

"This kind of culture did not exist in Kurdistan's society and should not be allowed," said Mansour.

Mansour maintained that his businesses sustained approximately half a million dollars of losses in addition to US$ 300,000 stolen from his safe.

Liquor stores are mainly owned by Duhok province's Christian families. According to Mansour the livelihood of around 500 Christian and Muslim families who rely on the liquor business was affected by the riots.

Mansour complained that some members of the region's security forces harass businessmen and workers who transport beer through checkpoints.

"This is not a nice thing at all because our work is legal and they (members of the security forces) do not have the right to do that," said Mansour.

Khalid Bozani, a Yazidi Kurd and owner of a bar in the city of Duhok told Rudaw that the riots in the province damaged his business by nearly US$350,000. Bozani did not accuse any particular group of igniting the riots. But he said, "They were saboteurs and want to disrupt the situation."

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