Iraq's Displaced Christians Seek New Identities in Baghdad
Many members of Iraq’s Christian minority who fled Mosul have more to worry about than just finding a roof to put over their heads. Often they also need to renew the identity papers and other official documents they left behind. Critics say this process, which usually entails travelling to Baghdad, is still too expensive and complex.
After the extremist organisation known as the Islamic State entered Mosul in early June, it took them several weeks to reveal their true intentions towards religious minorities in the area.
In mid-July, a message from the group was read out at mosques around the northern city of Mosul, which is also the capital of the province of Ninawa. The Islamic State, or IS, group gave the Christians in the town, three choices: Paying them a tax, converting to their version of Islam or death.
The leaders of the Christian community didn’t trust the IS fighters so they and almost all other Christians left the city. And in doing so, many of them left behind almost everything they owned.
Samir Abdul-Samad, one of the Christians who left Mosul, told NIQASH that he left well before the midday-Saturday deadline. But he says he was in such a panic that he and his family left behind some of their official documents. After spending several days in one of the refugee camps set up in nearby Iraqi Kurdistan Abdul-Samad and his family were forced to travel to Baghdad to one of the special offices set up for internally displaced people to get new papers issued.
It’s a common tale. In November the International Organization for Migration, an inter-governmental organization working in the field of migration, estimated that the number of displaced throughout Iraq was coming close to 2 million and that Iraqi Kurdistan was hosting almost half of these, around 47 percent. Many of these individuals left their homes with only the clothes on their backs and many now require new documents in order to claim, not just their identities, but various social welfare services.