Assyria: take a peek inside a Christian village on the frontlines with Daesh

Published June 23rd, 2016 - 12:55 GMT

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Once one of the many Christian villages that dot Iraq’s northern Nineveh province, today the tiny town of Baqofah is mostly deserted. Scant electricity flickers in abandoned homes and debris litters the streets. The town’s Assyrian residents, adherents of Chaldean Catholic church, are long gone.    

Most of Nineveh province’s Christians fled for their lives when Daesh (ISIS) fighters seized Mosul and surrounding villages in June 2014.  Peshmerga (military of Iraqi Kurdistan) forces retook Baqofah and some other Christian towns soon afterwards, but many former residents remain in displaced persons camps in Erbil and elsewhere, afraid to return home. Continue reading below »

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A view of the Assyrian Christian village of Baqofah, Iraq from atop Dwekh Nawsha’s base. Dwekh Nawsha is an Assyrian paramilitary group allied with the peshmerga.
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Image 1 of 11:  1 / 11A view of the Assyrian Christian village of Baqofah, Iraq from atop Dwekh Nawsha’s base. Dwekh Nawsha is an Assyrian paramilitary group allied with the peshmerga.

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A street in Baqofah, Iraq.  The village’s residents fled in mid-2014 when Daesh forces overtook Mosul and surrounding villages.
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Image 2 of 11:  2 / 11A street in Baqofah, Iraq. The village’s residents fled in mid-2014 when Daesh forces overtook Mosul and surrounding villages.

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A water pump in Baqofah, Iraq near the village's gates.
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Image 3 of 11:  3 / 11A water pump in Baqofah, Iraq near the village's gates.

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An abandoned house in Baqofah, Iraq.  Many of the Nineveh province’s Christians remain in other cities in Iraqi Kurdistan like Erbil and Dohuk, until they are able to safely return home to their villages.
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Image 4 of 11:  4 / 11An abandoned house in Baqofah, Iraq. Many of the Nineveh province’s Christians remain in other cities in Iraqi Kurdistan like Erbil and Dohuk, until they are able to safely return home to their villages.

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A broken down car in Baqofah, Iraq.
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Image 5 of 11:  5 / 11A broken down car in Baqofah, Iraq.

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A Chaldean cemetery in Baqofah, Iraq.  Many of Baqofah's residents were adherents of the Chaldean Catholic church.
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Image 6 of 11:  6 / 11A Chaldean cemetery in Baqofah, Iraq. Many of Baqofah's residents were adherents of the Chaldean Catholic church.

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Dwekh Nawsha soldiers in Baqofah, Iraq.  Today, the only people who remain in Baqofah are peshmerga and Dwekh Nawsha soldiers, including a handful of western volunteers. They hope to retake Mosul and its outskirts from Daesh.
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Image 7 of 11:  7 / 11Dwekh Nawsha soldiers in Baqofah, Iraq. Today, the only people who remain in Baqofah are peshmerga and Dwekh Nawsha soldiers, including a handful of western volunteers. They hope to retake Mosul and its outskirts from Daesh.

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Fighters from the Nineveh Plains Force (NPF), another Assyrian paramilitary group, in neighboring Tel Eskof, Iraq.
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Image 8 of 11:  8 / 11Fighters from the Nineveh Plains Force (NPF), another Assyrian paramilitary group, in neighboring Tel Eskof, Iraq.

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An NPF soldier in Tel Eskof, Iraq.
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Image 9 of 11:  9 / 11An NPF soldier in Tel Eskof, Iraq.

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A store in the internally displaced persons Ankawa Camp 2 in Erbil, Iraq.  Many Christians from who fled Daesh in June 2014 remain in such camps as they await the region's liberation.
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Image 10 of 11:  10 / 11A store in the internally displaced persons Ankawa Camp 2 in Erbil, Iraq. Many Christians from who fled Daesh in June 2014 remain in such camps as they await the region's liberation.

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View of an Assyrian school in Baqofah, Iraq looking towards Daesh-controlled Batnaya.
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Image 11 of 11:  11 / 11View of an Assyrian school in Baqofah, Iraq looking towards Daesh-controlled Batnaya.

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A view of the Assyrian Christian village of Baqofah, Iraq from atop Dwekh Nawsha’s base. Dwekh Nawsha is an Assyrian paramilitary group allied with the peshmerga.

Image 1 of 11A view of the Assyrian Christian village of Baqofah, Iraq from atop Dwekh Nawsha’s base. Dwekh Nawsha is an Assyrian paramilitary group allied with the peshmerga.

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A street in Baqofah, Iraq.  The village’s residents fled in mid-2014 when Daesh forces overtook Mosul and surrounding villages.

Image 2 of 11A street in Baqofah, Iraq. The village’s residents fled in mid-2014 when Daesh forces overtook Mosul and surrounding villages.

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A water pump in Baqofah, Iraq near the village's gates.

Image 3 of 11A water pump in Baqofah, Iraq near the village's gates.

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An abandoned house in Baqofah, Iraq.  Many of the Nineveh province’s Christians remain in other cities in Iraqi Kurdistan like Erbil and Dohuk, until they are able to safely return home to their villages.

Image 4 of 11An abandoned house in Baqofah, Iraq. Many of the Nineveh province’s Christians remain in other cities in Iraqi Kurdistan like Erbil and Dohuk, until they are able to safely return home to their villages.

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A broken down car in Baqofah, Iraq.

Image 5 of 11A broken down car in Baqofah, Iraq.

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A Chaldean cemetery in Baqofah, Iraq.  Many of Baqofah's residents were adherents of the Chaldean Catholic church.

Image 6 of 11A Chaldean cemetery in Baqofah, Iraq. Many of Baqofah's residents were adherents of the Chaldean Catholic church.

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Dwekh Nawsha soldiers in Baqofah, Iraq.  Today, the only people who remain in Baqofah are peshmerga and Dwekh Nawsha soldiers, including a handful of western volunteers. They hope to retake Mosul and its outskirts from Daesh.

Image 7 of 11Dwekh Nawsha soldiers in Baqofah, Iraq. Today, the only people who remain in Baqofah are peshmerga and Dwekh Nawsha soldiers, including a handful of western volunteers. They hope to retake Mosul and its outskirts from Daesh.

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Fighters from the Nineveh Plains Force (NPF), another Assyrian paramilitary group, in neighboring Tel Eskof, Iraq.

Image 8 of 11Fighters from the Nineveh Plains Force (NPF), another Assyrian paramilitary group, in neighboring Tel Eskof, Iraq.

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An NPF soldier in Tel Eskof, Iraq.

Image 9 of 11An NPF soldier in Tel Eskof, Iraq.

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A store in the internally displaced persons Ankawa Camp 2 in Erbil, Iraq.  Many Christians from who fled Daesh in June 2014 remain in such camps as they await the region's liberation.

Image 10 of 11A store in the internally displaced persons Ankawa Camp 2 in Erbil, Iraq. Many Christians from who fled Daesh in June 2014 remain in such camps as they await the region's liberation.

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View of an Assyrian school in Baqofah, Iraq looking towards Daesh-controlled Batnaya.

Image 11 of 11View of an Assyrian school in Baqofah, Iraq looking towards Daesh-controlled Batnaya.

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Families continue to leave their homes by the hundreds in the northern Nineveh province as fighting rages between Daesh and a coalition of pro-Iraqi forces in the struggle to retake Mosul from the extremists. Recent small victories in the city’s outskirts seem to bode well for the slow-moving offensive, but Mosul remains the grand - and elusive - prize in Iraq’s fight against Daesh.

Still, there is hope.  Last week, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced the “liberation” of Fallujah, just 50 kilometers west of the capital Baghdad, after two years of Daesh control.  He promised Mosul would be next.  

Meanwhile, signs of the Mosul offensive are visible in Christian villages like Baqofah, where the only residents are peshmerga and allied forces using the town as a military base.  

Al Bawaba offers you a look inside Baqofah-a glimpse of what Assyrians will return to once Nineveh and greater Mosul are free of Daesh. 

(Photos by Adam Lucente, words by Madeline Edwards)

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