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WikiLeaks: 2008-10-21: 08BAGHDAD3373: Ninewa: Christian IDPS Flee Mosul for Safer Neighboring Communities; Near-Term Returns Unlikely

by WikiLeaks. 08BAGHDAD3373: October 21, 2008.

Posted: Monday, December 30, 2013 at 11:57 AM UT


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Reference ID Created Classification Origin
08BAGHDAD3373 2008-10-21 13:13 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Baghdad
DE RUEHGB #3373/01 2951313
O 211313Z OCT 08
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 BAGHDAD 003373 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/31/2018 
Classified By: Ninewa PRT Leader Alex Laskaris, Reasons 1.4 (B) and (D) 
This is a Ninewa Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) message. 
1.  (C) Summary:  Christian IDPs who fled Mosul in the last 
two weeks are currently out of grave danger and there is 
currently no humanitarian crisis.  It appears that local 
authorities in the safe-haven communities, with assistance 
from UNHCR and NGOs, have the capacity to supply food, water, 
and required non-food items, although stresses to local 
communities may build over time.  Our field work confirmed 
the figures provided to us by local governments, the UN and 
the International Medical Corps (IMC) -- at least 1,800 
families departed Mosul, primarily between October 9 -13. 
The GOI is trying to entice IDPs back to Mosul with cash 
payments, and Coalition Forces (CF) and Iraqi Security Forces 
(ISF) are trying to enhance protection for the Christians 
remaining in Mosul and nearby Christian communities.  Neither 
course of action is likely to offer sustainable security 
absent a broader political settlement in Mosul and Ninewa. 
IDPs told us they worry that a clumsily implemented American 
response would risk further identifying of the Christians 
with the USG and increase the threat to these communities. 
It was not difficult for the attackers to provoke this IDP 
flight; reversing it will be an order of magnitude harder. 
2.  (C)  Christian political parties have focused on their 
narrow partisan interests at the expense of the broader issue 
of the future of minorities in Mosul.  We heard reports that 
many Moslawis responded in the finest tradition of a 
once-proud cosmopolitan and tolerant city.  Long term, the 
fate of Mosul's Christians will depend on Moslawis 
themselves, and a rekindling of the multi-ethnic, 
multi-sectarian spirit of their city.  With regard to the USG 
response, we are responding aggressively but we also need to 
be cautious to do no inadvertent harm to those we seek to 
help.   End summary. 
3.  (C) PRT Ninewa, joined by Embassy Baghdad political 
officers, 1AD, and UNAMI representatives, toured IDP 
concentrations in seven towns in northeast Ninewa on October 
16-17:  Al Qosh, Tel Uskuf, Batnaya, Tel Kayf, Qarakosh, 
Keramalis and Bartalla.  All are within areas of Ninewa under 
the effective control of the KRG, and all are within 35 km of 
Mosul city.  We spoke with heads of household and family 
members representing more than 500 people over two days, 
using a standardized list of questions.  We also met up with 
GOI, UN and NGO officials on the ground.  We kept our 
participation to the working level, believing that the 
presence of PRT leadership or senior CF personnel would have 
skewed the results of this field work. 
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - 
What Happened? 
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - 
4.  (C) Although accurate casualty figures remain elusive, 
between eight and 16 Christians were reportedly killed in 
Mosul, beginning between September 28 and October 1.  A 
relatively small number of IDPs were personally threatened; 
some got SMS messages or saw photocopied leaflets and others 
had unknown persons asking to see their identity card. 
Others were warned by Moslem neighbors, and some were told to 
leave by parish priests.  The majority appear to have taken 
flight out of fear stoked by the initial reports of murders 
and then the subsequent departure of others.  The numbers 
provided to us by IMC and the local governments appear 
accurate:  at least 1,800 families departed Mosul, with most 
leaving October 9-13.  We cannot say with confidence how many 
Christian families were in Mosul prior to the flight; one 
contact -- whom we have found credible in the past ) told us 
that the number was 2,500.  IDPs appear to have come from all 
parts of the city, but mainly from the east bank of the 
river.  We do not know the identity and purpose of the 
killer(s).  Most of the IDPs had theories, but none offered 
eye-witness accounts or insights that would allow us to 
determine conclusively those responsible or their motives. 
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - 
Current status of IDPs 
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - 
5.  (C) The IDPs have reached safe havens.  While we cannot 
exclude the possibility of future attacks, IDPs are behind 
KRG lines in smaller communities which have had significantly 
better security than Mosul itself.  Most of the IDPs found 
accommodation with friends or relatives in nearby towns and 
villages; others rented houses in safe areas.  Some are 
living in monasteries, parish halls, or other public 
buildings.  (Tents hastily erected on orders of the Ministry 
BAGHDAD 00003373  002 OF 003 
of Migration and Displacement (MODM), probably as a publicity 
exercise, were never used and later removed.) 
USAID/OFDA-grantee IMC, notified of the problem on October 9, 
moved quickly starting October 10 to distribute non-food 
items funded and /or provided by UNHCR and USAID/OFDA. They 
have produced daily humanitarian situation reports since 
then.  KRG Finance Minister Sarkis Aghagjian made cash 
payments to the families.  MODM also delivered food and 
supplies and promised cash stipends to the displaced. 
Medical workers who traveled with the teams reported no 
serious health problems, although the IDPs living in public 
buildings will need better sanitary conditions if they 
shelter in place.  Food appeared to be in ample supply.  The 
most common complaints from public sector workers were loss 
of salaries, and parents' worries about disruption of 
children,s education. 
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - 
GOI response 
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - 
6.  (C) The Government of Iraq has responded with the right 
messages, but its policy response is circumscribed by the 
limits of its tools:  money, police and army.  Despite his 
responsibilities directing a major ongoing ISF offensive 
(supported by CF) in Mosul, Ninewa Operations Command (NOC) 
leader LTG Riyad Talal joined senior CF personnel at an 
October 11 PRT-convened town hall meeting in Bartalla.  This 
was the first time that this group of Christian community 
leaders had engaged Riyad.  For his part, Riyad showed what 
we believe to be a genuine concern for the Christian 
community of his native city and pledged additional security 
assets from both Iraqi Army and Police under his command. 
Governor Kashmoula offered immediate cash benefits to IDPs; 
both he and Vice Governor Goran reassured civil servants that 
their salaries would continue to be paid.  The Baghdad and 
KRG Ministries of Return/Migration were on the scene pledging 
assistance.  However, IDPs we interviewed evinced no 
confidence in either the government or the police; attitudes 
towards the army were better, but insufficient to convince 
IDPs to return.  CF were also widely criticized as 
ineffective on this issue. 
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - 
Christian political party response 
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - 
7.  (C) Christian political party leaders were quick to 
ascribe blame for the IDP flight, while our interviews with 
IDPs revealed deep resentment toward the Christian political 
leadership.  Political party representatives portrayed the 
events of the previous two weeks in a manner consistent with 
their longstanding political views on key issues.  Assyrian 
Democratic Movement (ADM) officials ) who oppose membership 
in the KRG ) were quick to lay the blame on Kurds.  The 
pro-KRG Assyrian Patriotic Party said that AQ/ISI, in 
collaboration with the Iraqi Police, was responsible for the 
violence, and the ineffectiveness of the GOI response 
demonstrated that Christian interests were best served by 
integration into the KRG.  Other Christian political leaders 
said that the violence was a result of Christian protests 
over the CoR's rejection of Article 50 of the elections law; 
still others said that the IDP flow demonstrated that an 
autonomous Christian political entity was the community,s 
only option.  By contrast the IDPs we spoke with raised none 
of these political issues, except to express anxiety that 
Christian political activity (even seeking to have the GOI 
hire more Christian Police) could further provoke those who 
were attacking them. 
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - 
Moslawi Muslims take a stand 
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - 
8.  (C) A common theme we heard from the IDPs was how their 
Muslim friends and neighbors have supported them over the 
last two weeks.  We heard stories of Muslims warning their 
Christian neighbors that strangers were asking questions in 
their neighborhoods.  One elderly man whose brother was 
murdered told us that his Muslim neighbors all came to pay 
their respects to his family.  We heard stories of Muslims 
who told strangers that there were no Christians in their 
apartment buildings and who are taking food and supplies to 
Christians who have remained in their homes.  IDPs told us 
that they are getting phone calls from their Muslim neighbors 
assuring them that their homes and businesses are being 
watched over.  Some of these attestations may exaggerate 
inter-communal ties.  We also heard from some victims that 
the terrorists relied on local Muslims to identify their 
targets.  Several said "Arabs" were told not to damage 
BAGHDAD 00003373  003 OF 003 
Christian properties, since they would inherit them after the 
Christians fled.  One factory owner who fled last year was 
told by neighbors that he would be prohibited from removing 
his factory equipment, although he was welcome to return. 
Nevertheless, the overwhelming message our teams received was 
that Muslim Moslawis were energized by the plight of their 
Christian neighbors, even in the face of potential threat to 
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - 
Two analyses that may have merit 
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - 
9.  (C) Ninewa Vice Governor Keshro Goran (a Kurd) told us he 
believed that the Christians were targeted because they had 
organized political demonstrations in the wake of the 
rejection of Article 50.  He said that there has been 
mandated minority representation in Iraq in the past that, 
generally speaking, it was not objectionable.  Goran noted 
that radical Islamists were opposed to the notion of a 
Christian political demonstration, and of any non-Islamic 
political identity in Iraq.  When asked who was responsible 
for the crisis, Ninewa Deputy Governor for Administrative 
Affairs Yussuf Lalo (strictly protect), a Bartalla Christian 
said  &we don,t know and we couldn,t say it if we did ( 
that would mean more attacks against us ( we are in 
darkness, and all people fear the darkness.8  As to the 
motive, Lalo said &to punish us, to punish you ( it,s the 
same to them.8  He said that many believe that the 
Christians support the coalition, and many more believe that 
the coalition supports the Christians.  &Killing us causes 
you pain8 he said.  Many IDPs said they had been directly 
threatened also told us they were unwilling to speculate on 
the identity of the culprits out of fear. 
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - 
Comment:  Helping, and Avoiding Harm 
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - 
10.  (C) With minimal effort, someone or some group provoked 
the flight of at least 1,800 families from Mosul, perhaps 
half of its Christian population.  In contemporary Ninewa, 
the most violent province in Iraq, the attacks and threats 
against Christians have a political influence far in excess 
of their statistical incidence.  To get the IDPs to return 
will require far more than the status quo ante (and more than 
just the pledged GOI payments to returnees of one million 
Iraqi dinars ($840) ) the same it pays to any returnee 
nationwide).  Perceptions of security will determine whether 
and when people return, and that may await an underlying 
political settlement.  In the meantime, U.S.-funded 
humanitarian organizations are responding to humanitarian 
needs.  Coalition Forces have significantly augmented 
presence in Mosul in connection with the ongoing Operation 
"Mother of Two Springs II."  There are now Iraqi Security 
Forces guarding many Christian facilities and houses in 
Mosul.  To return the Christians to fortified communities, 
guarded temporarily by ISF and living behind T-walls, 
however, could single them out for future attacks.  We will 
want to maintain contact with Christian IDPs to avoid taking 
steps that could be counter-productive or inadvertently lead 
to the extinction of the Christian community from Mosul. 
11.  (C) In the longer term, especially following the 
withdrawal of U.S. combat power, the hope of the Christian 
community will rest in large part on their fellow Moslawis. 
We believe most Moslawis view their Christian brethren as 
part of the social fabric of their once-proud city; essential 
humanity and civic commitment has apparently survived intact 
the depredations of recent times among many Moslawi.  Jewish 
life in Mosul was extinguished in the wake of Israeli 
independence.  The Shebak largely fled the city in 2004.  The 
Yezidi departed en masse in 2007.  We will have to think 
creatively and respond robustly to prevent history from 
repeating itself.  End Comment. 


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