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Chaldean Catholics in Brisbane have different view of Iraqis returning to homes

Iraqi Christians

Danger zone: A nun leads prayer for displaced Iraqi Christians who fled Islamic State militants at a school acting as a refugee camp in Iraq.
Photo: CNS

CHALDEAN Catholics and former Iraqis living in Brisbane, Asaad and Sahar Jarjees, dispute reports that Christians were returning to Alqosh in their homeland because it was safe to do so.

Assyrian International News Agency reported on September 16 that more than 75 per cent of Alqosh’s residents had returned to the town after having fled from Islamic State militants on August 7.

Mr and Mrs Jarjees said residents had returned to Alqosh, near Mosul, but not because it was safe. According to what relatives in Iraq had told them, they said many had returned because they felt they had no other choice.

“They tried to escape but (the authorities) don’t try to give them any chance to go anywhere,” Mr Jarjees said. “When my (brother-in-law and his family applied) for an interview with the United Nations they told him (he would have an interview in 2017).

“Imagine, he left his country and is living in (Turkey).

“They don’t have any money. They don’t have anything. I don’t know how they make the interview in 2017. It means they will stay in Turkey for three years.”

Mr Jarjees said others were told they would have a longer wait so they returned to Alqosh.

“It’s like they closed the door in front of them so they have to go back. And they are not safe,” he said.

Mrs Jarjees’ brother and his family are trying to stay in Turkey but her mother, father and younger brother are in Alqosh. She said the Islamic State militants were only 20km from Alqosh so her family and others living there were still in constant fear.

“Nobody is there,” Mrs Jarjees said. “They have no security, no government, nothing.

“They don’t have anything – just there by themselves. They don’t sleep all night. They can’t sleep.”

Mr Jarjees said the men kept watch through the night on a roster.

“But still, if something happened they can’t do anything,” he said. “They just get enough time to get their kids and family away from these people.”

Mr Jarjees said his wife phoned her family every day or every couple of days.

“Every day there is a story,” he said. “They say, ‘Oh, we hear a bomb here.’ ‘We hear a fight somewhere close to us’. They are scared.

“They don’t know next day what’s going to happen. They live day by day, which is the horrible thing.

“Every day they wake up (and say), ‘Oh, thanks God; we are still alive.’”

Mrs Jarjees said they could only pray.

“The UN, they have to do something quickly to save these people,” she said. “If they’re going to go back to Iraq again it’s not safe. It’s really dangerous.

“If they’re going to stay in Turkey it is too expensive.

“… It’s hard to live there in Turkey, and everywhere else, because they don’t have that much money to live because they left everything behind.”

Mr and Mrs Jarjees said the United States and their allies may stop the Islamic State’s attacks, but they believe that would take such a long time.

They also expect that, if Islamic State were stopped, another radical Islamic force would emerge to replace it. They don’t believe there is a future for Christians in Iraq.

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