4. Iraq

Open Doors World Watch List





Leader: Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki


Population: 35.9 million (330,000 Christians) Main Religion: Islam Government: Parliamentary democracy World Watch List Rank: 4 Source of Persecution: Islamic extremism

There was an increase in attacks and threats against Christians in 2013. Islamist terrorist groups, influenced by the conflict in Syria, are increasing in number. One of their aims is to empty the country of Christians and this situation is aggravated by government impunity. According to a local source, every two or three days a Christian is killed, kidnapped or abused. As a minority, Christians are an easy target for kidnappers. Even in the relatively freer, semi-autonomous Kurdish region, the security situation for Christians is deteriorating.

Please Pray:

  • For Muslim-background believers who often face opposition from their family and community
  • For wisdom for expat Christians, who are being increasingly monitored by the authorities
  • For workers supporting displaced Christians with trauma counselling, biblical training and income generating projects.

Persecution dynamics

Since the US led invasion of Iraq in 2003, the situation has been continuously deteriorating, with anti-Western (and as such anti-Christian) sentiments mounting and levels of violence by Islamist militants on the increase. Islamist terrorist groups are increasing in number in the north, under the influence of the civil war in Syria.

The role of Islam is increasing in government due to developments in the wider region. Prohibited under Saddam, Islamist political parties – Shiite and Sunni – have made their entry to Iraqi politics and now even constitute the majority in parliament. Several Shiite parties have warm relations with Iran and consequently Iran’s influence in Iraq is increasing. Christians, in particular converts from a Muslim background, are being monitored by Iranian secret services. In general, Iraqi society seems to be turning more Islamic. There is an increase in social control of women, the wearing of the headscarf and observance of Ramadan.

Reports from local sources indicate an increase in attacks and threats against Christians during 2013. In January, a Christian teacher in Mosul had her throat slit. In February, a Christian minister’s convey was targeted and bombed. In September, more than 50 people were wounded when a car bomb exploded in front of the house of a well-known Assyrian Christian politician in Kirkuk. On Christmas Day, 37 people died in three bomb attacks in the Christian sector of Baghdad.

Only an estimated 330,000 Christians are left of more than 1.2 million who lived in Iraq at the beginning of the 1990s. Large numbers have either fled abroad or to the northern Kurdish region as a result of the severe anti-Christian violence. Those who fled to the Kurdish region are now considered refugees inside Iraq; they face high unemployment and inadequate housing, plus difficulty in finding schooling (especially university) for their children, adequate medical care and monthly food rations due to registration problems and discrimination.

More than 8,000 civilians died in 2013 and 2014 looks even worse. Fifteen Christian leaders have been kidnapped and ten of them murdered in last 15 years. Seventy churches have bee bombed. Christians face intense pressure, recently a mechanic Laith Dakama was murdered because he refused to make silencers for the weapons of a local terror group-he leaves a 16 year old son. Three bus drivers were killed in Mosul for transporting Christians.


Prezi on Iraq (click forward arrow→)

Iraq Displaced U tube 5 mins.

World Watch List 2014

Published by Julian Kennedy

Bus pass carrying 67 year old disciple of Jesus Christ. Member and deacon of Covenant Protestant Reformed Church, Ballymena. Married to Marianna. Son Joseph at home. Two daughters Marie Isabel and Kirsty in England. Enjoys keeping fit (including indoor rowing), watching track and field, nature and nature documentries. Got hip replacement in April 2014 and major surgery to re-align right knee in November 2017. Blessed in the Covenant love of God in Christ. Retired Emergency Medicine Specialty Doctor.

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