Can Safe Zones Save Iraq's Dwindling Christian Population?

Published October 25th, 2017 - 06:00 GMT
ISIS has repeatedly attacked Christians in recent years (AFP)
ISIS has repeatedly attacked Christians in recent years (AFP)
  • A leading Christian researcher has called on officials to establish safe zones to protect Iraqi Christians
  • A minority group in the region, Christians have suffered has suffered badly under ISIS and other extremist groups
  • However, some analysts have argued over the effectiveness of so-called 'safe zones'
  • The Christian population in Iraq has dwindled to around 500,000 compared to 1.5 million in 2003


Researchers have called for safe zones to be set up for Iraq’s Christian communities.

Saad Salloum, of the Iraqi Council for Interfaith Dialogue, made the call at a conference for Christians in the Middle East.

The news comes following the defeat of ISIS in Mosul and in Syria’s Raqqa.

Christians faced torture and death under the militant group.

Salloum has urged officials to set up a “safe zone” for Christians in Iraq in the wake of the poor security situation.

The idea is now becoming popular following initial controversy among political groups in Iraq.

ISIS heightened the threat of physical violence against Christian communities in Nineveh in recent months.

The number of Christians in Iraq has been hotly debated by politicians in recent years.

Activists have called for the arming and training of Christian militia groups along with Kurdish fighters to protect Christians in Northern Iraq.

Speaking in 2015, Loay Mikhael, head of the Foreign Relations Committee at the Chaldean Syriac Assyrian Popular Council, told Al-Monitor.

“If they decided they want to save that area, then OK, train our people, train the Kurds, give them more equipment — or liberate Ninevah Plain for us, and we will protect it, Without a safe haven — without international protection for the Ninevah Plain — there will be no Christians living in Iraq anymore,” he added.

The exact workings of a safe zone in Iraq have yet to be clearly defined.

However, many believe that it would function similar to safe zones set up to protect minorities in Bosnia and Rwanda where humanitarian assistance was provided to minority groups in a specific area.

Some criticized the zones for their lack of safety and security and in fact claim that such zones single out minority groups and lead to re-traumatization of people once the conflicts had ended.

A survey by U.S.-based NGO OpenDoors USA found that Iraq is the seventh most dangerous country in the world for Christians.

Before the American invasion in 2003, there were roughly 1.5 million Christians in Iraq. Since then, their numbers have dwindled to 500,000.

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