Christian Leader says Duhok attacks in
Iraqi Kurdistan were planned
Amir Goka, head of the National Council of Chaldean
and Assyrian Christians bloc in the Kurdistan
Regional Parliament. Photo: Rudaw
Christian leader speaks out following Duhok attacks
in Iraqi Kurdistan
December 15, 2011
Kurdistan region 'Iraq', — In
an interview with Rudaw.net, Amir Goka, head of the
National Council of Chaldean and Assyrian Christians
bloc in the Kurdistan Regional Parliament, said the
recent destruction of on liquor stores, massage
parlors and hotels—mainly run by the Christian
community— in Duhok frightened the province’s
Christian community and claimed the attacks were
Q: During the
riots in Zakho (Duhok province), were you concerned
about the liquor, massage and hotel businesses or
that you there might be a conspiracy against the
Amir Goka: We,
the residents of Zakho -- Muslims and Christians
alike -- are still trying to find out what the real
motives were behind the riots. We still don’t know.
We never anticipated such attacks against Christians
in Zakho. We never expected that someday people
would come and set our property on fire in our own
neighborhood. We won’t accept being associated with
liquor stores and looked down upon. As Christians,
we’re associated with a great culture and
civilization. Besides Christians, thousands of
Muslims consume alcohol and there are even
Christians that have never tasted alcohol in their
entire lives. What happened in Zakho city wasn’t
spontaneous, but rather planned. We express our
gratitude to the Muslims around our neighborhood who
came with their own weapons to protect our churches
Q: What is the
Christian population in Kurdistan?
Amir Goka: We
don’t know for sure because there hasn’t been an
accurate census in Iraq recently. According to the
1980s census, there were 1.5 million Christians in
Iraq but the current number might not even be
500,000. Approximately 300,000 Christians currently
live in the Kurdistan Region. Four thousand
Christian families live in Zakho city now. Around
1,300 Christian families, who left Baghdad and
Nineveh, currently live in Kurdistan.
Q: Some people
believe the Christians were targeted because they
receive special attention from the Kurdish
government. Is this true?
Amir Goka: I
don’t think so. Just a few years ago, a number of
Christian villages were renovated but Muslim
villages were renovated as well. The number of
Christian employees in Kurdistan is less than 1
percent. Christians are being neglected. There are
some political parties that want to benefit from
attacking Christians. We believe the incidents in
Zakho were planned. I believe any attack on the
Christian community can really hurt the Kurdistan
Region’s reputation. If the issues of Kurdistan can
be resolved without us being here, we will leave.
Christians and Muslims have been neighbors in the
region for centuries. We’ve never experienced any
attacks by Muslims because of drinking alcohol, so I
can say the real motive behind the incidents is not
just about the liquor stores.
Q: Police and
Peshmarga forces are deployed in your neighborhoods.
Is the situation that serious to require these
forces to protect your lives?
Christians are in danger. If it wasn’t for these
forces protecting us, we would have been attacked by
people who were ready to do so.
Q: Have you been
contacted by Europe and the Vatican regarding the
current conditions of Christians in Kurdistan?
Amir Goka: Yes,
we are always in contact. Vatican officials were
concerned about the incidents and they were
surprised that the situation of the Christians in
Kurdistan isn’t stable. If it wasn’t for (Kurdistan
Region) President Barzani’s immediate visit to the
hundreds of families may have fled to Europe and
other neighboring countries. We know President
Barzani was deeply hurt by the incidents. I want to
state that no one will attain his goals by being
Q: Whom do you
think is responsible for this situation?
Amir Goka: The
mullahs can play an effective role by preaching and
motivating Muslims to live in peace and harmony with
non-Muslims. The Ministry of Education can also play
a crucial role in curbing violence among people.
Most of the rioters in Zakho were students. The
Ministry of Education must carry out its duty, which
is to educate students. Let’s not just blame the
mullahs. We know what happened to Christians
recently is not what Islam teaches.
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