Iraqi Christians documenting ISIS crimes before cleaning up liberated towns

Christians in Iraq are seeking to document the crimes Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants have committed before cleaning up their liberated villages.

(Reuters/Ahmed Jadallah)An Iraqi Christian police attends the first Sunday mass at the Grand Immaculate Church since it was recaptured from Islamic State in Qaraqosh, near Mosul in Iraq, October 30, 2016.

Fr. Ammar, who fled Qaraqosh and sought refuge in the Kurdish city of Irbil, returned to his hometown days after Iraqi forces liberated it from the clutches of ISIS. He shared how he cried when he saw the damage to their local hospital and church, Deutsche Welle (DW) relays.

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The Qaraqosh priest said he could not recognize both the hospital and the church, and this drove him to tears. He also revealed that the residents are angry at the government for wanting to clean up the town and hide ISIS' crimes.

"They are angry that the government wants to clean up in Qaraqosh, to hide the crimes," said Fr. Ammar. "We want to document everything, all the damage and destruction, before anything is cleaned. Already something has been changed, the IS slogans have been painted over."

In addition, Fr. Ammar said ISIS leaders occupied the best houses in Qaraqosh. He showed DW a photo with several names starting with "Abu" and said the militants wrote their names on the wall of the Church of The Immaculate.

The priest said many of the jihadists were locals from other villages and that they supplied the leaders with fuel and food. The militants also looted all the houses in Qaraqosh and even opened graves to take valuables buried with the dead. They reportedly turned Yazidi women into their slaves.

Right now, Iraqi Christians fear that they will still be persecuted in the post-ISIS years. In an interview with The Christian Post, Chaldean Syriac Assyrian Popular Council's head of foreign relations committee Loay Mikhael said the Christians will not go back to their homeland unless the Iraqi government, Kurdish Regional Government (KRG), and the international community guarantee them a life free of another radical Islam uprising.

At present, the future of Christians in post-ISIS Iraq is still unclear, but Mikhael said they should be able to return to their homelands and "rule themselves" in a special province or a safe haven. The central government and KRG's conflict over the claim on the Nineveh Plains should also come to an end.

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