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Opinion: A Mosul without Christians | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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An Iraqi Christian fleeing the violence in the towns of Qaraqush and Bartala, both east of the city of Mosul in the northern province of Nineveh, prays at the Saint George church on July 1, 2014 in the Kurdish autonomous region’s capital Erbil. (AFP Photo/Karim Sahib)

It is hard to find the words to describe the recent events in Mosul, in northern Iraq, and I can only turn to the words of Nabil Elaraby, the secretary-general of the Arab League, who said that what happened was a disgrace that must never be tolerated and a crime against Iraq and its history, against Arab and Islamic countries, and against all Muslims.

The statement of the Arab League chief came in response to reports last week that Mosul had been totally emptied of Christians for the first time in its entire history after they were expelled at the hands of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Mosul had previously, in fact throughout history, been a land that accommodated Muslims and Christians together, alongside people of other religions, as long as the ground they all shared was citizenship, in its true sense.

Citizenship means living in a country, holding its nationality and belonging to its land, living and dying for it regardless of your religion or what you believe, because that is between the believer and God alone. That is something in which no one should interfere.

Mosul is empty of its Christian citizens at the hands of an organization whose members have long beards and move among Iraqis saying God said this and the Prophet said that. But if any one of them bothered to explore what God said in His Qur’an, and what the Prophet said in his true, indisputable hadiths, none of them would find a single letter that allowed the expulsion of a citizen from their land under any circumstances, and for no other reason than believing in a holy book other than the Qur’an.

Mosul is empty of its 50,000 Christian citizens, according to Bashar Al-Kiki, head of the Nineveh Governorate Council. He said there were many Christians in the city in 2003, but 30,000 of them had since left—and now the appearance of ISIS has resulted in the remainder leaving too.

You may have noticed that 2003 was the year of the US invasion of Iraq, and that 30,000 people were forced out of their homes in Mosul during the American occupation, while the administration in Washington talked endlessly about human rights. And if you looked for any substance on the ground for this talk about human rights by the White House, you would be shocked by the reports from Mosul, which put the bare facts before you in their simplest form.

These departures beg the question whether there is actually any difference in the consequences of actions by the White House and those of an organization that has gone beyond even the limits of other fellow extremists. There seems to be no difference at all, otherwise why were half the Christian citizens of Mosul forced out while the Americans were occupying the country, and then for the other half to be forced out at the hands of ISIS?

What is the difference then, between ISIS and US President Barack Obama in his White House, with all the values we presumed he stood for— values set by the Founding Fathers of the American state, values which include man’s absolute right to freedom of belief, whatever their belief and whatever their conviction, and whatever the faith they keep within their heart?

Mosul is emptied of its Christian citizens for the first time in history, and we hear not a word, not a whisper, from the US administration, which says all that needs to be said: that this was a crime in every meaning of the word, against people who committed no sin other than taking up Christianity as their religion.

Mosul has been emptied of its Christian citizens twice, once at the hands of the Americans and another at the hands of ISIS, and we hear nothing from the US other than silence, just as it kept silent when many Copts left Egypt during the one-year rule of the Muslim Brotherhood—though the Americans used to raise hell when just one Copt was subjected to the most minor harm during the days of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak.

All this clearly demonstrates that the situation of the Christians in the region as a whole, and the Copts in Egypt specifically, does not concern the US administration at all, except in so far as how it can be used as a tool towards achieving specific US interests.

Mosul is emptied of its Christian citizens, and a day is coming when people will say a US president called Obama was in his Oval office while Copts were forced to leave Egypt during the Brotherhood’s rule, that Iraqi Christians were also forced to leave their homes during his term—when he pretended he was deaf, and when he was addressed about the issue, he heard nothing.

Mosul is emptied of its Christians, just as Egypt was almost emptied of its Copts before it, at the hands of people who talk to you every morning, alas, about what God said and what His revered Prophet said, despite the fact that the expulsion in both cases had nothing to do with the Qur’an or its teachings, nor with the hadiths of the Prophet. Whenever a Jew’s funeral went by, the Prophet stood up in a show of respect, because he was human, just a man and nothing more—and this alone was more than enough for the Prophet, peace be upon him.