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Iran-backed Militia Seize Christian Neighborhoods in Baghdad
By Lisa Daftari

Iran-backed militias have seized homes, businesses and cultural sites, including churches belonging to Baghdad's Christian communities, forcing individuals to resettle and forfeit all their belongings, according to members of the Christian members of the Iraqi Parliament.

The militias have targeted properties belonging to Christians, forcing individuals to leave the area, according to Christian community leaders, including representatives from the Assyrian, Chaldean and Syriac minorities, as well as the Chaldean Patriarch of Iraq who have condemned the attacks, calling them a form of ethnic cleansing aimed to rid Baghdad of its Christians.

"Their claim is that the property of a non-Christian is halal, meaning it can be seized," Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael Sacco said in an interview with the pan-Arab daily Al Hayat.

According to leaders, the seizures have been carried out in the upscale regions of Baghdad, where militia men have forced entry into homes and businesses with falsified documents.

"We are begging, once again, appealing to the conscience of government officials and authorities from Sunni and Shiite states in order to do something meaningful to safeguard the life and dignity and property of all Iraqis, because they are human," Sacco said.

The news was confirmed by Tom Harb, the co-chair of the Middle East Christian Committee, MECHRIC, who said Middle East Christian NGOs have long been reporting from Baghdad and Erbil that the Iranian-backed militias are pushing the Christians south of the areas controlled by ISIS, including Baghdad.

The paradox in U.S. foreign policy is that the current administration has shown a policy of partnering with Iran's regime and even releasing the funds to the regime to back these militia, while at the same time creating conditions on the ground in Iraq where they can ethnically cleanse the Christian community, Dr. Walid Phares, who is an advisor to members of the U.S. Congress, said to The Foreign Desk.

In other words, Washington is backing and funding the ethnic cleansing of Christian minorities in Iraq, Phares said.

Iraq's Christians are considered to be one of the oldest Christian communities in the world, with their villages concentrated in Baghdad, Basra, Erbil and Kirkuk. The Assyrians had made the towns and regions around the Nineveh Plains in the north home, until ISIS forced them out.

In 2014, the Islamic State announced that all Christians under its territories must pay a minority tax, or Jizzyah, of approximately $500 per family, convert to Islam or be put to death. Later, the decree was revoked and Christians no longer had the option of staying and paying a tax. They either had to leave the Caliphate or die.

At that time, Christian homes and properties were marked with the Arabic letter N, or nun, for Nassarah, meaning 'Christian' in Arabic.

According to Sacco, there are no Christians left in Mosul for the first time in Iraq's history.

"In the long run, the U.S. should help establish an autonomous area for the Assyrians, Chaldeans and Syriacs in their homeland Nineveh Plains, near Mosul and help the Yazidis establish their own area in Sinjar," Phares said.

At the same time, Phares recommends Washington demand more from its partner, Iraq, who receives aid, funding and training to evacuate militias, to now protect the empty homes and return Christians to Baghdad.

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