Baghdad Christians Find New Life in Kurdish North

New York Times | John Spanner | June 27, 2007

Some Iraqi Christians who fled the violence of Baghdad have returned to their ancestral homeland in the country’s north.

KARA-ULA, Iraq — The 70 houses of this tiny village spring from the treeless, arid plain here in the northern tip of Iraq with the uniformity of an army camp.

Built over the past four years of war, they house Christian refugees from some of Baghdad’s most dangerous neighborhoods: Dora, New Baghdad and Mashtel.

There the residents did not know one another, busy with their city lives. Now a barber, a bank manager, a news anchor and an electrician are comrades in the misery of flight.

“We saw everything a human can see,” said Majida Hamo, a mother of four who came from Mashtel recently. “It was a kind of genocide killing.”

“We were saying to Jesus, ‘See us and save us.’ ”

The Iraqi exodus is one of the largest displacements in the Middle East since the creation of Israel in 1948. Many have fled to Jordan and Syria, countries where Arabic is spoken. Others have stayed within Iraq’s borders, moving into the largely peaceful Kurdish north, which is more foreign to them than neighboring countries because the main language is Kurdish, not their native Arabic.

The choice of this small patch of land along the Turkish border was not arbitrary. On a gray day in 1975, the refugees’ parents were driven from their farms here, caught in one of Saddam Hussein’s cruel sectarian relocation plans, residents said. They were given a few hours to gather their possessions and get into army trucks. They ended up in Baghdad.

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