Nineveh Plains Transitional Justice Report: April – A change in the Christian role
While the pandemic dominates most of daily life in the Nineveh Governorate, sectarian tensions are further defining the landscape. Christian immigration has become a source of political tension. Meanwhile, residents report competing mandates between the governorate and checkpoints operated by the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF). Also, Shabak activism has increased regarding their growing presence near Christian areas. Christians are negotiating their role with the immigration portfolio in Iraq’s government.
Nearly 30 NGOs have warned that COVID-19 has the potential for disaster in Northern Iraq. Nineveh lacks a solid infrastructure system, thus impacting health care access. The expense of traveling to medical facilities is already a significant burden for families impacted by ISIS.
These challenges could be impacting numbers reported to WHO. Another challenge, reported by Reuters, is that Iraq is significantly underreporting confirmed COVID-19 cases and is making attempts to restrict ‘whistleblowing’ efforts.
Because of the low number of cases in Nineveh, Governor Jabouri had reduced restrictions on movement beginning on April 18th “to relieve the burden of citizens as the month of Ramadan approaches.”
As a disputed territory, the future of the Nineveh Governorate is constantly caught between the cross-hairs of Iraq’s competing militia and political system.
Christian tensions in Nineveh appear to have become slightly more elevated through media engagement. The Shabak, who are supported by Iran, have repeatedly been reported as facilitating demographic change in Christian areas such as Bartella. In one recent media report, Shabak activists stated that:
“Many Christians have left Iraq, so areas became Shabak and pictures of Imam Hussein appeared.”
“It was a result, not a plan. We just wanted water, services, schools for the children. If the government had given us land, we would’ve never left our areas.” he added.
Meanwhile, Christian immigration has become a source of political tension. Because of the massive amount of Christian immigration due to persecution, it has become traditional for Christians to handle the Central Government’s Ministry of Displacement and Migration portfolio. However, the appointment has been lacking because of the authorities’ inability to form a united government and underlying sectarian tensions.