Iraq — June 2007

Sociopolitical Situation

The outlook is bleak: Iraq is suffering a complete breakdown of law and order. The land is practically divided along ethnic and sectarian lines. The economy is in disarray while the general infrastructure of the country has been practically destroyed. Government institutions barely function.

Iraqis fleeing their country are finding it much harder to get into Jordan and Syria since authorities in these countries have recently began implementing much stricter border controls. To enter Jordan, Iraqi refugees must be over 40 years old or under 20; they must prove that they have sufficient funds to support themselves and, most importantly, must hold a new ‘G’ type passport issued for individuals only, unlike others that once included a spouse and children under 18 years of age. These passports are machine-readable, more secure and are difficult to get because the Iraqi Ministry of Interior is allegedly controlled by the Shiite Militia.

According to the United Nations and the World Health Organization, at least U.S. $325 million is needed in emergency funds for health, nutrition, water and sanitation. The health status of the Iraqi people has been seriously affected. Infant and child mortality rates have increased sharply: one out of eight dies before the age of five; one in three is malnourished and one in four begins life underweight. Half of the country’s 24.5 million people are children, whose future depends on a massive and rapid improvement in healthcare and infrastructure.

Tens of thousands of people (mainly Sunnis and Christians) have fled Baghdad, the epicenter of violence, and taken refuge in Kurdistan. Authorities of Arbil, the Kurdish capital with a population of about a million, are beginning to feel the strain. Hundreds of doctors, professors and businesspersons have not registered as refugees and have declined emergency relief — they have found permanent jobs there. Authorities have been trying to help other refugee families with logistical help, such as transferring ration cards so families can still get subsidized food. The construction of a camp to house those refugees who cannot afford to rent a house or an apartment would help shelter those now exposed to the elements.

Religious Situation

The ongoing deterioration of security in Baghdad, and the kidnapping of six priests by gunmen, forced the Chaldean Christian College and Seminary in Baghdad (which had been closed for months) to relocate to Arbil.

News from Iraq confirms that armed groups of militants are threatening Christian families in many areas of Baghdad. These groups warn Christian families to convert to Islam within 24 hours or leave the area, otherwise they will be slaughtered. We have also learned that the majority of those families that have fled have been forced to leave behind everything.

Frankly, there is no secure area, and the Christians are facing increasingly aggressive attacks. A huge explosion recently occurred in the main street of the Christian town of Tellskuf, some 25 km north of Mosul and 15 km north of Telkaif. The explosion killed many people and destroyed a convent, kindergarten, elementary school, community hall, internet café, and many shops and workshops.

On 3 June, after celebrating the Chaldean eucharistic liturgy, 34-year-old Father Ragheed and three subdeacons were assassinated in their car in Mosul.

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