On December 9th International Christian Concern marks the one-year anniversary of the declared military defeat of the Islamic State (ISIS) in Iraq.
On December 9, 2017, Iraq’s former Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared that all of the country’s territory previously held by ISIS was fully liberated. ISIS reached the height of its power in Iraq when, in June 2014, the militants’ declared an Islamic Caliphate. The declaration was made from Mosul, the administrative capital of the Nineveh Governorate. This region is the traditional homeland of Iraq’s Christians; over 200,000 were displaced by ISIS.
On the anniversary of Iraq’s liberation from ISIS, one Iraqi Christian shared with ICC, “I was happy that day. I felt like Iraq brought back the missing part… I hope we can have peace here.”
However, many Iraqi Christians worry that this liberation is not permanent. Majid, a Christian who suffered the consequences of ISIS, told ICC, “I think before we celebrate ISIS’s defeat anniversary, we should go back to our history. We never experienced a stable situation during the past six decades… ISIS 2.0 is something possible.”
Sareeh, one of the Christians displaced by ISIS, shared with ICC, “I want to describe ISIS in my terms. ISIS was one strong negative impact on Christians’ lives, but not the worst. Actually seeing each other suffering made it easier to accept the reality. I think the worst happened since 2003 until now… I think ISIS is still in Iraq, the only difference is they threw [down] their weapons and they will pick them back up at any weak point.”
Milad echoed this concern that it is only a matter of time before the region is again destabilized by ISIS. He told ICC, “There are two types of people right now. Some are looking to go back to Ankawa; others are trying to sell their houses in Qaraqosh and Bartella and purchase in Ankawa. But the price difference is huge, all of that is because of ISIS expectations.”
One year after their declared military defeat, ISIS has maintained a presence in key locations throughout the Nineveh Plains and the surrounding areas. Many local sources estimate that nearly half of the Christians displaced by ISIS have refused to return home, citing reconstruction and security challenges.
Claire Evans, ICC’s Regional Manager for the Middle East, said, “The ideology of ISIS remains strong despite their military defeat in Iraq one year ago. ISIS existed before their self-declared caliphate, and they continue to exist although they no longer hold large swaths of territory in Iraq. Christians are living within an environment where security and law are absent. For those who have returned to the Nineveh Plains, they are living among an unprecedented level of destruction. ISIS may have been militarily defeated in Iraq, but their genocidal ideology and its consequences will affect Christians for generations.”
International Christian Concern, persecution.org