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December 05, 2011

Christians Attacked in Iraq by Kurdish Extremists

Rioter on Wall.jpg
A still image from video of a riot in Iraq

The Kurds are often portrayed as the "Good Guys" of Middle Eastern politics. Having endured oppression and violence at the hands of ethnic majorities in Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey, the Kurds have a story of cultural survival to tell.

Sadly, they are also responsible for the mistreatment of Christians who live among them. The oppression endured by Christians living alongside Kurds passes largely unnoticed in Western media outlets but one attack, which took place in the city of Zakho in Iraq on Dec. 1, 2011 did catch the notice of CNN:

At least 25 people were wounded in northern Iraq in alleged "acts of sabotage" carried out by men who had been "instigated" by Muslim clerics, a Kurdish leader and local security officers said.

The incident occurred Friday afternoon in Zakho, which is in Iraq's Kurdistan region near the Turkish border and about 540 kilometers (335 miles) north of Baghdad.

Security officers in the Dohuk Governate, which includes Zahko, said that "dozens of young men" attacked at least 15 liquor stores, two massage parlors and two hotels after Friday noon prayers.

So far there are no reports of any fatalities as a result of this attack, but the events are still pretty disturbing. Videos of the attack and its aftermath has been uploaded at, a website that serves the Assyrian community and can be seen here, and here. At about 2 minutes and 45 seconds into the last video, a young man can be seen standing on top of a wall with his arms raised. The act of raising his arms elicits cheers of approval from the young men standing across the street. More troubling video can be seen here:

At about four minutes into this video, a crowd of young men can be seen thrashing a storefront. Young men can be heard changing Allahu Akbar! Other young men are seen recording the event with their video cameras. At about 5 minutes, 30 seconds into this video, fire can be seen.

A group of Assyrian activists has issued a petition which provides some more detail:

Thousands of Kurdish Muslim men took to the streets after a Fatwa (religious decree) was issued by a Muslim cleric at a Friday prayer. The Fatwa ordered the Islamists to assault those who violate the Sharia Law. Numerous Christian businesses were destroyed by fire as the criminals stood by watching, congratulating one another for their supposed victory. Video shot by bystanders show men chanting Alah-O- Akbar (God is Great) as they approached Christian stores.

This is not the first attack on Christians by their Kurdish neighbors. In 2005 a researcher compiled a list of anti-Christian attacks associated with the rise of Kurdish power in Iraq. The list can be found here.

Posted by dvz at December 5, 2011 10:14 AM


this incident is not even about Christians , as there was not a single one of them injured unlike they get blown up in baghdad . it was an escalation between KRG and KIU (kurdistan islamic union) which is an off shoot of Muslim brotherhood , they should be banned by the kurdistan government and Islam should not be involved in politics at all . some liqour shops and massage places were attacked by the KIU supporters which mostly are owned by Kurds with the Yazidi religions , and one even in Silemani city which has 0 christian or yazidis .

viva kurdistan

Posted by: alan at December 5, 2011 12:56 PM

This article is completely inaccurate and misleading. In fact no Christian was harmed and most of the liquor shops that were attacked are owned by muslim Kurds. This was an act of riot by an extremist mob. Arrests have been made and investigations are continuing.

Kurdistan President Barzani in a meeting with the Christian and non- muslim-Kurd communities openly declared that he "would even go to was to protect their rights!". So get your facts rights!!

Posted by: A Kurd at December 5, 2011 11:15 PM

I think Kurds and other minorities have got along reasonably well in Kurdistan. Ugly scenes like the one that emerged in Zaxo should not undermine the coexistence of different ethnicities and cultures in the region. We cannot allow a handful of extremists to highjack the future. We should all stand together to prevent this cancer from spreading in Kurdistan towns and cities. The mullahs should be held accountable when they preach violence to their congregates. Freedom of expression does not mean freedom to preach hate!

Posted by: Newroz at December 6, 2011 12:23 AM

This is sad, when Islamic extremist attack liquor store, because an idiot clergy encourages them. What is really disturbing is how media including this article twists the event and ignites hatreds between Kurds and Christians. First, the liquir store owners are Yazidi Kurds and Christians. Two, in return, the pro KDP men attack offices of Islamic Party and set them on fire, including radio and TV stations. Now, why this writer does not mention above facts and calls it thousands of Kurdish Muslim instead of few hundred Islamic extremist. We need peace and harmony in Kurdistan and rest of Iraq

Posted by: Azad at December 6, 2011 12:41 AM

Ridiculous post by the blogger. You are talking about Kurds as if it was the whole nation against Christians. For your information- the majority of the Kurds, meaning 99%, have condemned those incidents and it was an attack on the free society, not on Christians.

Posted by: Belle at December 6, 2011 03:32 AM

Thousands of men? lol

Stop making up fairy tales. It was a group of idiots fueled up by some extremists. This doesn't represent the Kurdish people and their attitude against Assyrians. Why didn't you mention how Muslim Kurds started rioting on a much bigger scale after the event against an Islamic party they suspected of being behind the "anti Christian" riot? Why didn't you mention those 30 policemen who were injured? Article is manipulative, totally biased and ignorant, full of incorrect information. Not even ONE church were even looked at. In the Arab parts churches are the most attractive targets. Only an Anti Kurd or very ignorant person would write such an pathetic article.

Posted by: Rebaz T Benjamin at December 6, 2011 09:45 PM

DVZ writes:

Thanks everyone for your responses.

The evidence seems pretty conclusive that Christians are subjected to oppression in Kurdish majority areas in Iraq. Clearly, this oppression is not as bad as it is in Arab majority areas, but it is still a problem.

To wit:

1. There has been a history of violence against Christians in the Kurdish controlled areas of Iraq. The last link in the entry above provides a list of attacks that took place during the first half of the last decade. No one challenged the accuracy of the last link in the entry.

2. Credible reports that Christian (and Yazidi) shops were attacked because they violated Shariah law, which by definition, calls for the subjugation of non-Muslims, Christians and Jews especially.

3. While Kurds have provided safe haven for Christians under attack in Iraq, there is more to the story. An article republished in the Middle East Forum in late September 2011 ( reports the following:

"Since gaining autonomy in 1991 after the First Gulf War, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has engaged in an active campaign of discrimination and cultural imperialism against the Assyrian Christians (as well as other non-Kurdish minorities like the Yezidis and Shabaks, who are not recognized as separate ethnic groups in the KRG Constitution), a problem that has only intensified since the American-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

"Most notably, Peshmerga militias have routinely confiscated Assyrian land, and in October 2002, a resolution was passed by the KRG to legalize such thefts by Peshmerga militiamen. In addition, the Iraqi Kurds have attempted to marginalize the legitimate representative of the Assyrian people in Iraq: namely, the Assyrian Democratic Movement. As Assyrian scholar Peter BetBasoo points out, during the 2005 general elections in Iraq, Kurdish authorities tasked with delivering ballot boxes to Assyrian districts in the north failed to do so as part of an attempt to block them from voting, while Assyrian election workers were fired on and killed.

"Indeed, as a 2007 report by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom notes:

'KRG officials were also reported to have used public works projects to divert water and other vital resources from Chaldo-Assyrian to Kurdish communities…leading to mass exodus, which was later followed by the seizure and conversion of abandoned Chaldo-Assyrian property by the local Kurdish population.'

"Meanwhile, as part of its cultural imperialism, the KRG promotes pseudo-history in the same way Palestinian media have denied historical Jewish connections to the land of Israel. In particular, the KRG falsely portrays the Kurds as the true indigenous inhabitants of northern Mesopotamia and southern Anatolia. For example, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan- one of two parties in the ruling KRG coalition- recently reaffirmed the claim to oil-rich Kirkuk as a Kurdish city that was supposedly founded by Kurds."

The article concludes:

"Pundits frequently (and rightly) complain of the maltreatment of minorities by those who identify as Arab Muslims. Nonetheless, it is also evident that appreciation of tolerance and diversity is a virtue yet to be learned by Kurds at large. The sooner the KRG is pressured to reverse its discrimination against minorities, the better for future Kurdish-Christian relations, both in Iraq and the wider region."

Again, thanks everyone for your comments.

Posted by: Dexter Van Zile at December 8, 2011 04:30 PM

This is how i imagine it all got started 90 yrs ago when the kurds and turks committed the Genocide against the Assyrian/Armenian/Pontics . First intimidation which the kurds have been committing for a decade towards the Assyrians. Secondly, confiscation and burning of properties , which the kurds are now openly committing. Third, just all out murdering which they have been committing but on a grand scale will follow , it's now just a matter of time.

Posted by: Michael P. at December 9, 2011 10:54 PM

The autonomous kurdistan will not last for long let alone ever becoming a independent country. It is build on lies, deception,hatred and most importantly on the lands of the Assyrians. Demographics is everything , the kurds are the majority in northern Iraq today. They have managed to do so through fear tactics,killings and all out massacres for centuries. The Assyrians are a drop in the vast ocean of islam , they have managed to stay alive this long, but it really is a uphill battle for survival.

Posted by: Ash at December 10, 2011 12:18 AM

Wow. Extremely disappointed in the Kurds. As an American who served in Ninewa Province, Mosul and Irbil, Iraq for the US Government.. The Kurds where are friends. By doing this it seems the Kurds have turned their backs on the USA. If they cared what America thought this would have never happened to the Christian minority. When I heard about this on the news I thought maybe 50 to 100 guys fired up after Friday prayers.

I just watched the video. It is thousands of guys. No police, military or people saying no. After the USA has bailed out the Kurds and saved millions of their lives.. They demonstrate what they really think about others and western ideas. They acted just like some of the extreme Sunni Arabs from Mosul.

This video would not be a good selling point for an independent Kurdistan in the USA eyes. More things like this and the US will write off Kurdistan. Forget about foreign investment. Some will still invest in the oil in Kurdistan but forget the rest.

If Kurdistan wants to be- forgotten, isolated, poor and hated by the world, especially the USA... then keep this foolishness up.

Posted by: Mike at October 9, 2012 07:35 PM

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