10/16/2021 Iraq (International Christian Concern) – The Kurdistan Region Prime Minister Masrour Barzani announced on October 4 that Ankawa, currently a suburb of Erbil, will now become its own district with administrative control. “From now, Ainkawa will be the biggest district of Christians in the Middle East. Most of its residents have fled persecution in Nineveh, Baghdad & Syria. They have been welcomed among us. And now we offer them the chance to lay deeper roots in a sanctuary of their own,” Barzani tweeted.
During the conquest of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, Christians fled their homes in the surrounding areas to come to Ankawa, ballooning the population. In recent years, the suburb became host to the Catholic University of Erbil, the head of several Christian denominations, and some 40 churches. Though exact numbers vary, 80 to 90 percent of the population are Christians, with Chaldean, Assyrian, and Syriac backgrounds.
Barzani commented on the significance of Ankawa saying it “has become an important center for religious and social coexistence as well as reconciliation.” During a visit to the area, Barzani met with local leaders and now that the Iraqi parliamentary elections have been completed, will begin assisting with the building of the new district. Locals can elect their own mayor, civic leaders, and manage their security.
After nearly two decades of turmoil that have pushed Christians out of Iraq, many view the new district designation of Ankawa as a symbol and hope for Iraq’s vulnerable religious community to relocate internally, rather than leaving the country.