Iraq 25: “Iraqi Christians fear Muslim wrath”

April 11, 2004

CONTENTS

1. "Excerpts: 'Al-Qaeda tape' threatens attacks" (BBC, April 6, 2004)
2. "Plans set for UN meeting on Israel's construction of wall in occupied territory" (un.org, April 6, 2004)
3. "Iraqi Christians fear Muslim wrath" (By Willis Witter, Washington Times, April 7, 2004)
4. "Another suspect gunned down in Riyadh as hunt for Islamic militants goes on" (AFP, April 6, 2004)
5. "Qatar begins trial of Russians accused of killing Chechen leader" (Russian Mayak radio, April 6, 2004)

 



[Note by Tom Gross]

This is the latest in an occasional series of dispatches concerning Iraq. Today's email is divided into two for space reasons. I attach various articles, with summaries of some of them first.

SUMMARIES

1. "Excerpts: 'Al-Qaeda tape' threatens attacks" (BBC, April 6, 2004) "... God honoured us and so we harvested their heads and tore up their bodies in many places. We challenge the dishonest US media to reveal the real damage and big losses sustained by their forces... There will be more rounds of fighting, God willing. They [Shias] are the ones who killed the mujahidin, assassinated refugees and are the eyes and ears of the Americans... They raped women and violated sanctities and are now killing and liquidating Sunni preachers, ulema and men of learning... Unfortunately, all this is taking place while the Sunnis are asleep due to lies told by their so-called wise men and ulema that drugged the nation and let it down..."

2. "Plans set for UN meeting on Israel's construction of wall in occupied territory" (un.org, April 6, 2004). "A United Nations committee in New York today approved preliminary arrangements for a UN-backed meeting on the consequences of Israel's construction of a barrier in and around the West Bank, set to open next week in Geneva... According to the current plan, a representative of Secretary-General Kofi Annan is expected to be among those speaking at the opening meeting..."

[Tom Gross adds: I attach this item as an example of how, after several days of widespread violence in Iraq, including the reported deaths (on CNN) of over two dozen Iraqi women and children last night, the UN is still discussing how to condemn Israel.]

3. "Iraqi Christians fear Muslim wrath" (By Willis Witter, The Washington Times, April 7, 2004). "BAGHDAD - Two tear-shaped drops of blood remained on the living-room floor, days after Muslim fanatics shot their way into a home and executed two children because the family is Christian. Now, some Iraqi Chaldean Christians say they fear that militants will attack churches in Baghdad on Easter Sunday. Chaldea was the name 2,000 years ago of a portion of Iraq... "Our people are afraid of some sort of massacre on Easter. Four churches have come to us to ask about how to hire security," said Isoh Barnsavm, an officer in the Bethnahrain Patriotic Union, one of several political parties that represent segments of Iraq's million-strong Christian minority... "After the war, we have documented 49 kidnappings, killings and rapes against Mandeans in different parts of Iraq," said Karam Majeed, who is creating an organization to preserve Mandean culture..."

[The full article on Iraqi Christians, below, is worth reading for those interested in this subject]

4. "Another suspect gunned down in Riyadh as hunt for Islamic militants goes on" (AFP, April 6, 2004). "Saudi security forces have gunned down another suspected militant in their ongoing crackdown against presumed Al-Qaeda sympathizers, but with authorities giving little away, initial signs were that he did not figure on a most-wanted list... Policemen at the site and several newspapers Tuesday said the pair were not on the list of 26 most wanted suspects, which has gone down to 22 since it was issued in December following a series of suicide bombings targeting residential compounds that killed 52 people here last May and November... The interior ministry said only that it was trying to establish the identities of the two men, whom it did not even describe as wanted militants."

[Tom Gross adds: I attach this article to show that other countries besides Israel, are targeting terrorists, although only Israel is condemned by virtually the entire world for doing so. As this and other articles suggest, in its crackdown on terror, Israel is far more accurate in avoiding harm to innocents than countries such as Saudi Arabia.]

5. "Qatar begins trial of Russians accused of killing Chechen leader" (Russian Mayak radio, April 6, 2004)

[I attach this an example of how countries such as Russia, which vociferously condemned Israel's targeting of Sheik Yassin, continue to target political opponents responsible for far less terror than Yassin.]

 


FULL ARTICLES

EXCERPTS: 'AL-QAEDA TAPE' THREATENS ATTACKS

Excerpts: 'Al-Qaeda tape' threatens attacks
BBC
April 6, 2004

Here are excerpts of a taped message purporting to be from Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Jordanian-born al-Qaeda suspect, threatening attacks on US commanders in Iraq. The recording appeared on an Islamist website.

To my dear nation, the best nation brought to mankind, may the peace and blessings of God be upon you...

God honoured us and so we harvested their heads and tore up their bodies in many places:

The United Nations in Baghdad; the coalition forces in Karbala; the Italians in Nasiriya; the US forces on Khalidiya Bridge; the US intelligence in Al-Shahin Hotel and the Republican Palace in Baghdad; the CIA in the Rashid Hotel; and the Polish forces in Al-Hilla.

The speaker claimed responsibility for the Mount Lebanon Hotel attack
And last but not least the Israeli Mossad in the Mount Lebanon Hotel. There is more and more; in fact, there is a long list of them.

We challenge the dishonest US media to reveal the real damage and big losses sustained by their forces...

There will be more rounds of fighting, God willing.

If John Abizaid escaped our swords this time, we will be lying in wait for him, for Bremer, for their generals and soldiers and their collaborators...

Call for action

They [Shias] are the ones who killed the mujahidin, assassinated refugees and are the eyes and ears of the Americans...

They raped women and violated sanctities and are now killing and liquidating Sunni preachers, ulema and men of learning...

Unfortunately, all this is taking place while the Sunnis are asleep due to lies told by their so-called wise men and ulema that drugged the nation and let it down...

Hero mujahidin... God has honoured you and by your hands, the greatest power throughout history has been forced to submission.

Be resolute, kneel down before God, sharpen your swords and burn the land under the feet of the invaders.

Let them taste the bitter defeat and throw them into hell.

 

PLANS SET FOR UN MEETING ON ISRAEL'S CONSTRUCTION OF WALL

Plans set for UN meeting on Israel's construction of wall in occupied territory
April 6, 2004
UN.org

www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=10332&Cr=palestin&Cr1=

A United Nations committee in New York today approved preliminary arrangements for a UN-backed meeting on the consequences of Israel's construction of a barrier in and around the West Bank, set to open next week in Geneva.

The Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People adopted a provisional programme and accredited 12 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to participate in the two-day forum, which is scheduled to run from 15 to 16 April.

The Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority, Ahmed Qurei, might address the meeting's opening session, Committee Chairman Paul Badji of Senegal told participants today as plans for the "International Meeting on the Impact of the Construction of the Wall in the Occupied Territory, Including in and around East Jerusalem" moved forward.

According to the current plan, a representative of Secretary-General Kofi Annan is expected to be among those speaking at the opening meeting. A plenary discussion will then address the scope of the wall's construction and its affect on the humanitarian situation. The views of both Palestinians and Israelis as well as those of the wider international community will be heard at that event.

On the second day, discussions will focus on the international legal implications of the wall as well as the fate of the political process towards a two-State solution to the conflict, with emphasis on the Road Map plan for achieving this sponsored by the diplomatic Quartet - the Russian Federation, the United States, the European Union and the UN.

 

IRAQI CHRISTIANS FEAR MUSLIM WRATH

Iraqi Christians fear Muslim wrath
By Willis Witter
The Washington Times
April 7, 2004

BAGHDAD - Two tear-shaped drops of blood remained on the living-room floor, days after Muslim fanatics shot their way into a home and executed two children because the family is Christian.

Now, some Iraqi Chaldean Christians say they fear that militants will attack churches in Baghdad on Easter Sunday.

Chaldea was the name 2,000 years ago of a portion of Iraq, then part of the Persian Empire. Chaldean Christians broke from the early Christian church over the question of Jesus' divinity but were reunited with the Roman Catholic Church in the 1670s.

"Our people are afraid of some sort of massacre on Easter. Four churches have come to us to ask about how to hire security," said Isoh Barnsavm, an officer in the Bethnahrain Patriotic Union, one of several political parties that represent segments of Iraq's million-strong Christian minority.

"Neighbors are now receiving threatening letters. Some of the threats are from unknown groups," Mr. Barnsavm said. "Others are from Ansar al-Islam," a group linked with al Qaeda that was targeted by U.S.-led forces during the war.

"They say, 'You have to be a Muslim, or else we will kill you.'"

Late last month, the family of the two murdered children received a note warning that they would be killed and "doomed to hell."

The next day, the gunman came and killed the two children, each with an AK-47 rifle shot to the head that left blood flowing across the living room. Their mother and several other children in the house were allowed to live, presumably to tell others.

Some blood remains on the floor and wall, where a framed picture of the Virgin Mary with a golden halo looks out over the room.

Sleepless nights

Two uncles have since moved in to protect the family.

One of the men, disheveled after another sleepless night spent clutching his own AK-47, pleaded with a visiting reporter for help as his eyes filled with tears.

"How can you guarantee we won't be killed? We can't sleep. We can't go out to work. We're so scared that we are carrying our guns all the time. It all happened in less than 10 seconds," the uncle said.

The mother, rail thin beneath her black mourning dress, sat quietly with her surviving children.

Mr. Barnsavm said: "There have been hundreds of attacks. Every day we hear of a new attack." He estimated that up to 200 Iraqi Christians have been killed by Muslim extremists since the war began last year.

Many have been killed while working as interpreters for the coalition, in attacks that had no apparent religious motive.

But Mr. Barnsavm says he is especially worried about incidents in which people are targeted simply because they are Christian.

In the killing of the two children, the warning was written on a computer, printed and reproduced on a photocopier. It was signed Ansar al-Islam. It accused the family of selling "narcotic liquid," an apparent euphemism for alcoholic beverages. In Iraq, only Christians are permitted to buy or sell alcohol.

Officials at the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority declined to comment for this article.

A public information officer said the case of the murdered children was a matter for the Iraqi Interior Ministry to take up as a "police case, such as breaking and entering or murder."

An officer at the U.S. Consulate, asked by e-mail for information on how a family would go about applying for political asylum, said she was not authorized to talk to the press.

Members of the Bethnahrain party say they have no access to anyone in the coalition.

"They won't even allow me into the CPA building because I have no badge," said one senior party official, who asked not to be named.

Chaldean minority

Chaldean Christians are said to number about 600,000 in Iraq, with at least twice that many having emigrated to the United States, Western Europe and Australia over the years. A large Chaldean community thrives in Southfield, Mich.

"We have one family who has been threatened with a note: 'If you visit a church, we will kill you,'" said the senior Bethnahrain party official, who is also a history professor and well-known writer.

In Iraq, the Chaldeans are particularly upset because they are not represented on the 25-member Iraqi Governing Council, which was appointed by the chief U.S. administrator, L. Paul Bremer.

The one non-Muslim member of the council, Yonadam Kanna, represents Assyrian Christians, the smallest of three main Christian groups. A third group, Syriac Christians, is divided into Catholics loyal to Rome and Orthodox members with a patriarch.

Iraq's interim constitution was accepted by the Iraqi Governing Council. But 12 of 25 members did so under protest and demanded there be changes after June 30, when the document takes effect.

The constitution proclaims Islam the state religion.

Elsewhere, it mentions Turkmen and Chaldo-Assyrians as examples of minorities whose rights are to be protected.

"It doesn't say what a Chaldo-Assyrian is. We never heard the term before. Is it a nation? Is it an ethnic group, a religion?" asked Nahrain Kohoshaba Toma, leader of the Bethnahrain Free Woman's Union of Iraq.

"We need to work with coalition forces to provide some sort of security for Christian families. Arab have clans. They have security from their clans. Kurds have clans.

"Christians don't have clans. They need security, and it starts with the law. Read the new constitution; it does not even say that Christians exist in Iraq," Miss Toma said.

Mr. Barnsavm said a religious war is already under way in Iraq. He sometimes uses the terms "clash of cultures" and "clash of civilizations" terms that U.S. officials avoid.

"On one side there's globalization, the borderless world, the concept of democracy, culture that flows across borders. Now the central power against this new system comes from the Middle East, from the Islamic fanatics and a tribal culture.

"This is not just the Muslims against Christians. It's the fanatical Islamists striking the West. The Kurds near the Iranian border are being attacked by Ansar al-Islam, which says they are not real Muslims.

"But the fanatics see us as part of the West, so we become the first target inside the country," Mr. Barnsavm said.

Saddam Hussein's government gave a measure of protection to Christians and other religious minorities. None among dozens of Christians interviewed in the past month suggested they miss him.

"We are quite happy that Saddam is gone, to end the rule of such a dictator," Mr. Barnsavm said. "The attacks that are happening to us are the price we pay for a new system, ending a dictatorship and building a new system.

"We paid for these kinds of changes throughout history with our blood, every time in history there was a conflict between East and West."

Much of the blood spilled by Muslim fanatics in post-Saddam Iraq has been from Mandeans, a Biblical sect known for its white robes, river baptisms and devotion to the teachings of John the Baptist.

"After the war, we have documented 49 kidnappings, killings and rapes against Mandeans in different parts of Iraq," said Karam Majeed, who is creating an organization to preserve Mandean culture.

Shortly after the war, a senior Muslim cleric based in southern Iraq published a fatwa, or religious edict, on his Web site: "When we consider Mandeans, we don't know much about their religion, but they are unclean."

Said Mr. Majeed: "This is a very dangerous order because it means a Muslim cannot have contact with a Mandean. It also means that Muslims have the right to attack Mandeans. They don't consider it a crime to attack someone who is 'unclean.'"

He read from a dossier of attacks during the past year:

In Sadr City, a vast Shi'ite slum that houses more than half of Baghdad's 5 million people, gunshots were fired into shops owned by Mandeans and the words "your day is coming" were written on a wall.

A woman in Baghdad was handed a note that read: "You are a Mandean, so you must pay 1 million Iraqi dinars , or we will kill your three daughters."

In Falluja, the stronghold of Sunni Muslim insurgence a city now sealed off by U.S. Marines after the murder-mutilation of four Americans last week Mandean families have been forced to convert to Islam.

If they refuse, they must leave Falluja or be killed.

In the city of Kut, five houses owned by Mandeans were blown up, one last April and four in June.

Police efforts

The police are typically of little help, and little effort is made to differentiate between common crime and attacks motivated by religion.

When people are kidnapped for ransom a crime that has become commonplace but was unheard of in Saddam's time police often tell families of whatever religious faith to pay the kidnappers because there is nothing they can do.

As for crimes with a clear religious motive, the situation is even worse, said Mr. Majeed. "We can't even go to the Interior Ministry. They won't even admit there is Islamic persecution of minority religions. The only people who can do anything about this are the Americans."

The spiritual leader of the Mandeans, Satar Jabar, who has a long white beard, has written several letters to Mr. Bremer but received no response.

"We don't have representation in the Governing Council or any of the ministries. They didn't ask us for anything," Mr. Jabar said.

As for the family of the two murdered children, an aid group took the father to Amman, Jordan, and two uncles moved in to guard the wife and children, whose shy smiles belie their recurring nightmares of the attackers coming back.

 

ANOTHER SUSPECT GUNNED DOWN IN RIYADH

Another suspect gunned down in Riyadh as hunt for Islamic militants goes on
AFP
April 6, 2004

Saudi security forces have gunned down another suspected militant in their ongoing crackdown against presumed Al-Qaeda sympathizers, but with authorities giving little away, initial signs were that he did not figure on a most-wanted list.

A terse statement by the interior ministry on a car chase in an eastern district of Riyadh late Monday that left one man dead and another wounded also left the door open to contradictory accounts about the incident.

Policemen at the site and several newspapers Tuesday said the pair were not on the list of 26 most wanted suspects, which has gone down to 22 since it was issued in December following a series of suicide bombings targeting residential compounds that killed 52 people here last May and November.

The interior ministry said only that it was trying to establish the identities of the two men, whom it did not even describe as wanted militants.

Instead, security forces had been on the lookout for the car "with stolen license plates" in which they were traveling, and the shootout occurred when security men caught up with them after they resisted orders to stop, opened fire and sped away.

Witnesses said special forces were dispatched to reinforce security patrols which cordoned off the site in Al-Rawdah district, and their accounts of a siege of a villa in the area was backed up by some newspapers Tuesday.

However, while one report said the wounded man fled to the villa and was captured there, another spoke of a third man who was suspected of having taken refuge in the house.

The incident was the latest in a series of similar gunbattles which have taken place, chiefly in Riyadh, since the May 2003 bombings.

Security measures have since been tightened around government institutions, foreign embassies grouped in a so-called "diplomatic quarter," and other facilities, such as hotels, considered potential terrorist targets.

Many suspects, as well as security personnel, have been killed in the clashes.

Hundreds more presumed Islamist extremists have been rounded up across the vast kingdom, and authorities have reported seizures of huge caches of weapons and explosives, including hundreds of explosive belts.

The biggest catch for authorities came on March 15 when security forces shot dead a Yemeni national who was subsequently described as Al-Qaeda's head of operations in Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Gulf.

Khaled Ali bin Haj, who ranked third on the most-wanted list, was suspected of having ordered the attacks on residential complexes, according to Saudi security sources.

Two other men on the list had earlier been killed in clashes with security forces -- one of whom had been only wounded but was left to die by his comrades, according to authorities -- while a third man turned himself in.

One of the claims made during Monday night's episode, which lasted some four hours, was that security forces were besieging the number one on the list, Abdul Aziz al-Megren, in an uninhabited villa in Al-Rawdah.

The claim fueled the rumor mill that usually accompanies and follows such incidents.

It also showed that authorities still have some way to go to end the terror threat despite their unrelenting pursuit of suspects that has earned plaudits even from Washington, which once accused Riyadh of being lenient toward terrorists.

The Saudi government has tried to enlist the help of the public in tracking down militants believed linked to Saudi-born Osama bin Laden (news - web sites)'s Al-Qaeda, posting rewards of up to 1.9 million dollars for information that would thwart a potential attack or lead to the capture of one or more suspects.

But officials have not ruled out the possibility of further attacks.

And they have yet to find a vehicle rigged with explosives which, according to an interior ministry statement issued on February 13, has been wandering around in the Saudi capital.

 

QATAR BEGINS TRIAL OF RUSSIANS ACCUSED OF KILLING CHECHEN LEADER

Qatar begins trial of Russians accused of killing Chechen leader
Text of report by Russian Mayak radio on
April 6, 2004

Russian diplomats have gone on trial in Qatar, Qatari Foreign Minister Shaykh Hamad Bin-Jasim Bin-Jabr Al Thani has said. He added that he was not sure if the trial would take account of a recent law introducing the death penalty for terrorism.

Three Russian citizens, who were on a business trip to Qatar, were arrested in Doha in the early hours of 19 February. They are accused of involvement in the assassination of Chechen separatist [leader] Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev [on 13 February 2004].

[Russia has said that it is making every effort to free its citizens, the Russian RIA agency (Moscow, in Russian 0601 gmt 6 Apr 04) reported. "Russia is continuing to make every possible effort to bring our citizens back to Russia," a Russian official said, according to the agency.]


All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.