MESOP ALERT : Extortion of Christians in Baghdad By Sunni Muslims in Advance of ISIS Arrival

By Nuri Kino – 15.6.2014 – (AINA) — Today it was difficult to get through to Bagdad by telephone. When finally I got through late in the evening, I spoke with a woman I first met in Damascus in 2009. Back then, she and her family had fled from persecution and oppression of Christians in Iraq.

Churches had been attacked and bombed. The raping of Christian women was part of everyday life. Priests and bishops were kidnapped and beheaded. Liquor stores and other shops owned by Christians were bombed. Christians were seen as allies of the United States because of their religion and killed only because of that. She testified to these horrific events back then in Damascus.

The worst of which was the threat from the Shiite Mehdi militia. Just over a year ago, she and the rest of her family fled back to Baghdad, as the war in Syria made it impossible to remain there. UNHCR had placed her family on a list of quota refugees. This had taken years with a promise to locate them in a country in the West. But it never happened. As I reach her by phone, she, her husband and three children are paralyzed by fear. Sunni Muslims have knocked on their door and have demanded money from them — protection money. They were told they must pay so that their children would not be kidnapped.

“I promise you that the moment Da’esh (ISIS) come here,” she says, “it will prove that they have many sympathizers among Sunnis in Baghdad. The money they demand from us, this so called protection money, is how they pay for themselves, how they fund their arrival.”

When I ask if she is thinking of going to the police, she laughs hard. Then it gets quiet. I hear her crying.

“Who would care about us and our report?”

I ask if they can afford to pay protection money, I know since her time in Syria that the family is struggling financially. Surprisingly she says “The worst thing is my daughter’s beauty, she is 15-years old now and I have seen how the Muslim neighbors look at her. I am very afraid that she will be kidnapped.” Assyrian International News Agency