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MRG urges Iraqi government to protect minorities on second anniversary of church massacre

31 October 2012

On the second anniversary of a violent attack on Christians attending mass in a Syriac Catholic church in Baghdad, in which 50 people died, Minority Rights Group International (MRG) calls on the Iraqi government to fulfil its obligation under international law to provide effective protection for minorities.

Louis Climis, Vice-Chairman of MRG partner organisation the Iraqi Minorities Council, and his youngest son, were attending mass at the Our Lady of Salvation church when the gunmen, and then later Iraqi security forces, stormed the place of worship. Both were wounded in the attack, and he says they escaped death only ‘by a miracle’ and witnessed the ‘brutal’ murders of two priests and other members of the congregation.

To commemorate the massacre, MRG has published Climis’ moving and harrowing account of the four hours he spent in the church as a hostage on 31 October 2010.

‘This tragedy struck fear into the hearts of Christians and all minorities in Iraq. Two years on they still feel highly vulnerable,’ says Chris Chapman, MRG’s Head of Conflict Prevention.

According to MRG’s July 2012 report, Improving Security for Minorities in Iraq, many minorities continue to have little faith in the Iraqi security forces, and see them as being corrupt and easily infiltrated by extremists.

Christians, who number some 600,000-800,000, are at particular risk because of their religious ties with the West and the fact that they were allowed to trade in alcohol in Iraq under Saddam Hussein, making them a target in an increasingly strict Islamic environment.

Raids by the Iraqi security forces on legitimately licensed Christian and Yezidi social clubs in September 2012 show that, even within government, there are those who are seeking to impose a strict interpretation of Islam in all areas of life,’ added Chapman.

Iraq continues to be one of the most dangerous places in the world for minorities, ranking fourth in MRG’s 2012 Peoples under Threat index, which highlights those countries where the risk of mass killing is greatest.