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'Chance to Thrive': Iraqi Assyrians Return After Decades of Hardship
By Seth J. Frantzman
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Iraqi Christians attend Mass at the archaeological site of Kokheh Church south of Baghdad, Iraq, Friday, Aug 23, 2019. The historical church located on the left bank of the Tigris River some 20 miles south of the capital Baghdad dates back to the first century AD. Remnants of the church, an archaeological site and one of the most important sites of Eastern Christianity, was reopened again to the public last year after a years-long closure due to security concerns. ( AP/Khalid Mohammed)
Alqosh, Iraq -- The long line of vehicles crowded the entrance to Alqosh, a Christian town in northern Iraq, on a Thursday last month.

People have come to shop and visit friends. At the mayor's office, officials walk in and out of Mayor Lara Zara's office getting stamps for various documents.

The mayor says that while the area today is secure from threats, such as the Islamic State, the lack of economic opportunity and investment presents a major challenge.

Related: Timeline of ISIS in Iraq
Related: Attacks on Assyrians in Syria By ISIS and Other Muslim Groups

"We have a lot of civil servants who are dependent on government salaries," the Chaldean Christian mayor said.

Even collecting those salaries is a hurdle because the town lies in disputed areas between the region effectively run by Iraq's Kurdish population and territory directly controlled by the central government in Baghdad.

Alqosh, an enclave with a large and ancient Christian population, reflects all the complexities of the country in microcosm.

Two years ago, Iraqi security forces fought brief skirmishes with the autonomous Kurdish Regional

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