Iraqi Christians Find their Hometown in Ruins After ISIS Leaves

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By NTD Newsroom
February 8, 2017News
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A group of volunteers arrived to once-thriving Christian town of Qaraqosh near Mosul on Tuesday (February 7), three months after militants were driven out of town, to erase the signs Islamic State left behind.

 

Many residents of Qaraqosh, once home to some 50,000 people, say they still do not feel safe to return. But a group of volunteers arrived in town to wipe out signs and slogans painted on the walls by the Islamic State, saying getting rid of signs of the militant propaganda will be the first step to rebuild the community and bring the town to what it was before the Islamic State overran it in August 2014.

 

”These are superficial, the writings on the wall and all that. They are just superficial. They can be erased easily, it is just paint, it can be erased,” said one volunteer, Ekhlas Matteh.

However, Matteh, a teacher at the local school said, there were more difficult tasks ahead of the town people.

 

“We have to reform from the inside, to fix our ideologies and our concept of humanity. How to make others love us and to be loved by us, how to understand and to be understood, how to coexist together. That is the difficult part. That is very difficult. It will take generations,” Matteh said.

 

Most of Qaraqosh inhabitants fled to cities and towns in northern Iraq’s Kurdish region, some emigrated abroad.

 

Another volunteer, Wissam Nouh Butros, urged international community not to turn a blind eye to the fate of Iraqi minorities.

 

”We want guarantees from the international community that this will not happen again… .These minorities are ancient in this community and they built the heritage of this country. They have to think seriously about what they can do for these people, who have been here for the past 6,000 years,” Butros said.

 

The city, once known for its flourishing academic and scientific community, appeared mostly deserted with only a few residents walking through ruined streets.

 

One of them, 30-year-old Marie Sabri, said her home and those of her relatives had been destroyed.

 

”What is there to go back to, destruction? What city is there to go back to? A devastated one? Our beautiful city, Hamdaniyah (another name used for the town of Quaraqosh), where we used to live happily, go to parties, and now go back to this? To this destruction and injustice? They burned down homes and this…this tragedy,” she said looking at the remnants of her uncle’s home.

 

Abou George, a collector of vintage books and antiques, stood at the ruins of his home looking at what remained of his living room where he used to hang pictures of ancient Syriac calligraphy.

 

”We have to stay where our roots are. We don’t want to leave. Go and emigrate somewhere and live in a small apartment and wait to receive 500 pounds a month or dollars,” he said.

 

Unlike his two brothers who have emigrated to Britain and France, 66-year-old Abu George says he is determined to stay and rebuild his home.

 

“Our lands and homes are here, this is our country where we are not hated,” he said.
(Reuters)

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