24 September 2004

Armenian Life in Baghdad

AZAD-HYE (24 September 2004): We received the following correspondence from Sona Torosian, an Iraqi Armenian, who lives in Baghdad and can be reached at the following e-mail address:

"We the Armenians live in relative peace in Baghdad. Nobody harms us. Every Friday most of us visit the St. Garabed Armenian Apostolic Church, which is not far from the Armenian Club.

Our children learn the mother tongue in the Friday Weekly Armenian School. Lately, the Government returned back to us two Armenian schools, which were confiscated in the past. Community leaders are working now to reopen one of these schools as a united school for the whole Community. Armenian teachers with high qualifications will be invited to teach there. The other school belongs to the Catholic Armenians. Armenian Communities in the nearby countries are welcoming us during our visits, such as the recent visit to Antranik Sport Club in Beirut by a group of Iraqi Armenians, which lasted 10 days and was a valuable opportunity to meet new people. An Armenian basketball team from Iraq soon will head for Beirut, to have friendly matches. Some 30 children are hosted these days by Armenians of Amman, Jordan.

The main problem with these movements is the security situation in Iraq. Whoever is proved working for the US Army is harmed and even killed in Iraq, whether he is Armenian or not. International reports certainly show how the situation is deteriorating. Instability and the lack of individual security are forcing many Iraqis, including Iraqi Armenians to go away. They are leaving their houses and cars and taking refuge in other countries, until there is improvement in the overall situation. It is completely uncertain what is waiting for us here in Iraq. Nobody can guess what kind of surprises await. We have faith in a better future and all we need is to live in a peaceful Iraq.

God bless all the Iraqis and all the peoples of the world. Thank you for devoting time to read my message".

In 20th September 2004 “Time” Magazine published an article by Christopher Allbritton and Samanth Appleton, under the title “Iraq’s Persecuted Christians”. Here are excerpts from this correspondence:

”Between 10,000 and 30,000 of Iraq's 800,000 Christians have fled the country since the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime, according to Christian groups in Baghdad. Although Christians make up only about 3% of Iraq's 25 million people, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees has said they account for about 20% of the refugees fleeing Iraq for Syria. They are escaping a climate of violence and a surging Islamic radicalism that have made the practice of their faith a deadly enterprise.

The worst moment came on Aug. 1 when Islamic insurgents - most likely connected with terrorist leader Abu Mousab al-Zarqawi, according to Iraqi government officials - attacked five churches in Baghdad and Mosul with car bombs, killing a dozen people.

The campaign against Christians appears to be becoming more organized. Christians today keep a low profile. While most of the anti-Christian violence has been committed by a small group of Islamic extremists, Christians say they are encountering rising anger among their Muslim neighbors".

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