Christians being killed in northern Iraq in run up to election
The bullet-riddled body of a 20-year-old Christian student was found on the street of the northern Iraqi city of Mosul Wednesday.
Wissam George was missing since that morning when he left for school, according to a police officer, who spoke to Agence France-Presse on condition of anonymity. George was studying to be a teacher.
George is the fourth Christian to be gunned down in Mosul since Sunday.
Rayan Salem Elias was killed outside of his home Sunday and grocer Fatukhi Munir was killed in a drive-by shooting at his shop Monday. On Tuesday, Christian student Zia Toma, 21, was shot and killed by a gunman using an automatic weapon. Toma was an engineering student. The gunman also wounded 22-year-old pharmacy student Ramsin Shmael. Both Toma and Shmael are Assyrian Christians.
The string of fatal violence against Christians in Mosul is thought to be linked to the upcoming parliamentary election on March 7. Christians often fall victim to the conflict between Arabs and Kurds over control of Iraq’s northern provinces.
"We don't want elections, we don't want representatives, we don't want our rights, we just want to be alive," Baasil Abdul Noor, a priest at Mar Behnam church in Mosul, declared Tuesday.
"It has become a nightmare,” he said. “The security forces should not be standing by and watching. We hold them responsible, because they are supposed to be protecting us, and protecting all Iraqis."
Since 2003, more than 200 Christians have been killed in Iraq, and since June 2004, some 65 churches have been attacked or bombed, including 40 in Baghdad, 19 in Mosul, five in Kirkuk, and one in Ramadi.
In 2008, six Christians in Mosul were killed in less than a week, including three men within 24 hours.
Their deaths sparked intense fear throughout the Christian community in northern Iraq and resulted in more than 15,000 Christians fleeing Mosul over a period of two weeks.
Human rights groups have criticised the Iraqi government for not doing enough to protect the country’s Christian minority.
"What can we say?" asked Bishop Shlemon Warduni, the second-most-senior Chaldean bishop in Iraq, to AFP.
"We are very sad. The government is looking at what is going on, it is speaking, but doing nothing.”
The UN High Commission for Refugees estimates that since 2003, some 250,000 to 500,000 Christians, or about half the Christian population, have left the country.