Iraqi Christians fly to new life in France after escaping Islamic State

September 22, 2014
(Displaced Iraq Christians who fled from Islamic State militants in Mosul, pray at a school acting as a refugee camp in Erbil September 6, 2014. REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah )

(Displaced Iraq Christians who fled from Islamic State militants in Mosul, pray at a school acting as a refugee camp in Erbil September 6, 2014. REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah )

On a warm evening at Arbil International Airport in Iraqi Kurdistan some 150 mostly Christian refugees anxiously waited to flee their homeland aboard a French government plane.

The refugees, of all ages and from 25 different families, had one message as they prepared to fly to Paris to escape the threat of Islamic State militants: Christians and Muslims can no longer live together in Iraq.

Shakeep, a 46-year-old lawyer who worked at Mosul’s main law court, was taking his wife, mother, daughter and nephew to Tours in western France, where his uncle lives. One bag each was all they had left of their belongings.

“There is no future in Iraq. There can be no future between Muslims and Christians here. I leave my life. I’m┬ábetween sadness and happiness?. But with Daech, we can’t come back,” he said, using the Arabic acronym for Islamic State.

The family left Mosul six weeks ago after being given an ultimatum to convert or be killed by the Islamic State militants, who have seized large swathes of Iraq and Syria.

France has led European efforts to bring humanitarian aid to refugees. The government plane, an Airbus A310, delivered 10 more tonnes of blankets, tents, jerry cans and hygiene kits before transporting the refugees back to Paris.

“There are people sleeping outdoors at the moment, but the focus of this delivery is to prepare for the thousands who will still be here in the winter,” a French diplomat said. “It’s a veritable ethnic cleansing that we’ve witnessed here.”

via Iraqi Christians fly to new life in France after escaping Islamic State | Reuters.

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