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WikiLeaks: 2007-08-20: 07BAGHDAD2782: Ninewa: Christians Relatively Secure in Bartallah but Complain of Shabak Encroachment

by WikiLeaks. 07BAGHDAD2782: August 20, 2007.

Posted: Tuesday, October 30, 2012 at 05:51 PM UT


Viewing cable 07BAGHDAD2782, NINEWA: CHRISTIANS RELATIVELY SECURE IN BARTALLAH

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07BAGHDAD2782 2007-08-20 11:44 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Baghdad
VZCZCXRO4626
PP RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHIHL RUEHKUK
DE RUEHGB #2782/01 2321144
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 201144Z AUG 07
FM AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2887
INFO RUCNRAQ/IRAQ COLLECTIVE
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BAGHDAD 002782 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/18/2017 
TAGS: PGOV PBTS PINR PHUM IZ
SUBJECT: NINEWA:  CHRISTIANS RELATIVELY SECURE IN BARTALLAH 
BUT COMPLAIN OF SHABAK ENCROACHMENT 
 
REF: BAGHDAD 276 
 
Classified By: Ninewa PRT Team Leader Jason Hyland:  1.4 (B) and (D) 
 
This is a Ninewa Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) message. 
 
SUMMARY 
------- 
 
1. (C) Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) Leader Hyland and 
other PRT members, along with the 4-1 Brigade Combat Team 
Chaplain, August 18 visited Bartallah, a majority Christian 
town in the northern Iraqi province of Ninewa, part of the 
historic Iraqi Christian heartland.  Local Christian 
politicians and a priest said a local Christian security 
force, with support from the Kurdish Peshmerga militia and 
Assayish intelligence service, keeps the roughly 13,500 
Christians in the town relatively safe.  However, the leaders 
complained of encroachment and harassment by Shabak, a 
minority Shi'a sect who they say are trying to push the 
Christians off their land in the countryside surrounding 
Bartallah.  Despite these complaints, the Christian leaders 
said they remain deeply committed to the nation of Iraq. 
 
Private Guards Protect Town 
--------------------------- 
 
2. (C) Christian leaders described the 500-man private 
security force of motivated young local Christian men that 
guards their neighborhoods in Bartallah, a town in the 
Christian heartland of the Ninewa Plain region east of Mosul. 
 The leaders included Assistant Governor Yousif Lalo, three 
members of the Bartallah local council, a manager of the 
security force, the mayor of nearby Tel Kaif, and the parish 
priest of the town's minority Assyrian Catholic church.  The 
guard force is armed with AK-47s and employs check points, 
guard shacks and razor wire to define and control their area 
of responsibility.  Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) Finance 
Minister Sarkis Aghajan, an internationally respected 
Christian philanthropist, finances the force.  The parish 
priest said the Christian community also benefits from 
Kurdish Peshmerga and Assayish presence in the area. 
 
3. (C) Despite four years of war, the town market just 
outside the guarded zone seemed vibrant August 18, with 
Christian leaders saying that both Christians and Shabak shop 
at the town's market. (Note: The priest expressed concern to 
the PRT Leader that because the market is outside the guarded 
perimeter of town there is the risk of a terrorist bombing 
there.)  Estimates of the Christian population of Bartallah 
itself range from 12,000 to 15,000, or about 80 to 85 percent 
of the town's residents, according to the leaders. 
 
Tensions With Shabak Over Land 
------------------------------ 
 
4. (C) While the Christians' private security force provides 
basic security inside Bartallah, the leaders repeated earlier 
complaints that long-standing land disputes with Shabak in 
the surrounding countryside lead to frequent, and sometimes 
violent, confrontation.  The leaders complained that most of 
the town's executive officials are Muslims - appointed by 
Coalition Forces in 2003 - who disadvantage the Christians in 
several areas of essential services and security, including 
police operations, electricity provision, and court 
decisions. 
 
5. (C) Looking to the future, the Christian leaders said it 
would be impossible to work with the Shabak to find common 
ground.  Instead, they said the Christians should be allowed 
to establish a zone within the town of Bartallah that would 
be a solely Christian preserve, where they could practice 
their religion and traditions in peace.  The leaders said 
they have never met - and had not interest in meeting - the 
area's senior Shabak leaders to discuss land ownership and 
security issues, though three Christian politicians share 
half of the seats on Bartallah's subdistrict council with 
Shabak. 
 
Leaders Support Article 140 Process 
----------------------------------- 
 
6. (C) The Christian leaders said they look forward to the 
full implementation of the Article 140 process, for which 
they are willing to wait up to two years.  The leaders 
expressed mixed sentiments about whether the local Christian 
community would choose to join the KRG.  Several leaders said 
they would prefer to remain full citizens in a 
multi-sectarian Iraq, albeit one in which they are given 
"fair" and "just" treatment, including the return of lands 
transferred to Muslim control under Saddam Hussein's regime. 
Some leaders also suggested Christians use the  Article 125 
 
BAGHDAD 00002782  002 OF 002 
 
 
in Iraq's constitution (Note. Article 125 guarantees the the 
"administrative, political, cultural, and educational rights" 
of Iraq's various groups, including Christians. End Note.) to 
justify the creation of a semi-autonomous local 
administrative region. 
 
COMMENT 
------- 
 
7. (C) While the PRT regularly visits Bartallah and other 
Christian communities as part of overall PRT outreach, we 
wanted also to confirm this minority Christian community's 
security situation in the wake of the August 14 attacks on 
the minority Yezidi community of western Ninewa.  Even though 
the Bartallah Christians are locked in low-intensity local 
competition with Shabak over land ownership and cultural 
assimilation, the greater concern is that their location on a 
fault line between KRG and Arab control could make them a 
target for a major terrorist attack.  The Christian security 
force seems sufficient to protect the community from its 
neighbors, but has not been tested against a wider radical 
Sunni Arab threat. 
 
8. (C) Even as the Bartallah Christians outline their 
grievances, the Shabak make counter claims of harassment and 
intimidation by the Christians (reftel).  PRT will continue 
to work with the two communities to build a local capacity 
that encourages cooperation in governance and security.  In 
one initiative, which we will report septel, the PRT is 
exploring support for an agro-business project in Bartallah 
that would encourage participation from - and ultimately 
benefit - both the Christian and Shabak communities. 
CROCKER

 



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