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Iran & Iraq

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Iran
Though Iran recognizes Assyrian and Armenian Christians as ethnic and religious minorities (along with Jews and Zoroastrians) and they have representatives in the Parliament, they are nonetheless forced to adhere to Iran's strict interpretation of Islamic law. After the 1979 Revolution, Muslim converts to Christianity (typically to Protestant Christianity) have been arrested and sometimes executed. Youcef Nadarkhani is an Iranian Christian pastor who was arrested on charges of apostasy in October 2009 and was subsequently sentenced to death. In June 2011 the Iranian Supreme Court overruled his death sentence on condition that he recant, which he refused to do. In a reversal on 8 September 2012 he was acquitted of the charges of apostasy and extortion, and sentenced to time served for the charge of "propaganda against the regime," and immediately released.

Iraq
According to UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees), although Christians (almost exclusively ethnic Assyrians and Armenians) now represent less than 5% of the total Iraqi population, they make up 40% of the refugees now living in nearby countries.

In 1987, the last Iraqi census counted 1.4 million Christians. They were tolerated under the secular regime of Saddam Hussein, who even made one of them, Tariq Aziz his deputy. However persecution by Saddam Hussein continued against the Christians on an ethnic, cultural and racial level, as the vast majority are Mesopotamian Eastern Aramaic-speaking Ethnic Assyrians (aka Chaldo-Assyrians). The Assyro-Aramaic language and script was repressed, the giving of Hebraic/Aramaic Christian names or Akkadian/Assyro-Babylonian names forbidden (Tariq Aziz's real name was Michael Youhanna for example), and Saddam exploited religious differences between Assyrian denominations such as Chaldean Catholics, Assyrian Church of the East, Syriac Orthodox Church, Assyrian Pentecostal Church and Ancient Church of the East, in an attempt to divide them. Many Assyrians and Armenians were ethnically cleansed from their towns and villages under the al Anfal Campaign in 1988, despite this campaign being aimed primarily at Kurds.

In 2004, five churches were destroyed by bombing, and Christians were targeted by kidnappers and Islamic extremists, leading to tens of thousands of Christians fleeing to Assyrian regions in the north or leaving the country altogether.

In 2006, the number of Assyrian Christians dropped to between 500,000 and 800,000, of whom 250,000 lived in Baghdad. An exodus to the Assyrian homeland in northern Iraq, and to neighboring countries of Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey left behind closed parishes, seminaries and convents. As a small minority, who until recently were without a militia of their own, Assyrian Christians were persecuted by both Shi'a and Sunni Muslim militias, Kurdish Nationalists, and also by criminal gangs.

As of 21 June 2007, the UNHCR estimated that 2.2 million Iraqis had been displaced to neighbouring countries, and 2 million were displaced internally, with nearly 100,000 Iraqis fleeing to Syria and Jordan each month. A 25 May 2007 article notes that in the past seven months 69 people from Iraq have been granted refugee status in the United States.

In 2007, Chaldean Catholic Church priest Fr. Ragheed Aziz Ganni and subdeacons Basman Yousef Dawid, Wahid Hanna Esho, and Gassan Isam Bidawed were killed in the ancient city of Mosul. Ganni was driving with his three deacons when they were stopped and demanded to convert to Islam, when they refused they were shot.  Ganni was the pastor of the Chaldean Church of the Holy Spirit in Mosul and a graduate from the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas, Angelicum in Rome in 2003 with a licentiate in ecumenical theology. Six months later, the body of Paulos Faraj Rahho, archbishop of Mosul, was found buried near Mosul. He was kidnapped on 29 February 2008 when his bodyguards and driver were killed. See 2008 attacks on Christians in Mosul for more details.

In 2010 there was an attack on the Our Lady of Salvation Syriac Catholic cathedral of Baghdad, Iraq, that took place during Sunday evening Mass on 31 October 2010. The attack left at least 58 people dead, after more than 100 had been taken hostage. The al-Qaeda-linked Sunni insurgent group The Islamic State of Iraq claimed responsibility for the attack; though Shia cleric Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, amongst others condemned the attack.

In 2013, Assyrian Christians were departing for their ancestral heartlands in the Nineveh plains, around Mosul, Erbil and Kirkuk. Assyrian militias were established to protect villages and towns.

During the 2014 Northern Iraq offensive, the Islamic State of Iraq issued a decree in July that all indigenous Assyrian Christians in the area of its control must leave the lands they have occupied for 5000 years, be subject to extortion in the form of a special tax of approximately $470 per family, convert to Islam, or be murdered. Many of them took refuge in nearby Kurdish-controlled regions of Iraq. Christian homes have been painted with the Arabic letter ن (nūn) for Nassarah (an Arabic word Christian) and a declaration that they are the "property of the Islamic State". On 18 July, ISIS militants seemed to have changed their minds and announced that all Christians would need to leave or be killed. Most of those who left had their valuable possessions stolen by the Islamic terrorists. According to Patriarch Louis Sako, there are no Christians remaining in the once Christian dominated city of Mosul for the first time in the nation's history, although this situation has not been verified.

During an attack on the Assyrian Christian town of Qaraqosh, a 5-year-old boy, who's the son of a founding member of St. George's Anglican Church in Baghdad, was slaughtered by Islamic State terrorists, better known as ISIS, who cut the boy in half.

wikipedia.org

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