By David Hovde
In April 2011 Basm William and his family lived in a Shia neighborhood in Baghdad. Some of their neighbors who in the past had visited with them, eaten with them, and spent time with them in their house later told Basm and his family that there was no place for Christians in that neighborhood and that Basm and his family would have to leave the neighborhood and the country. On April 17, 2011 Basm found a note on his car from Kataa’ib Saraya Al Haq (Righteousness Brigade), a militia that broke off of the Mahdi Army. Kataa’ib Saraya Al Haq is trained in Iran and does activities in Iraq against Americans and Christians. In the letter they used many bad words against Basm’s family. The letter said that they had to leave this Muslim country and there was no place for Christians here. It said they had to leave Baghdad immediately or they would kill all his family members.
After two days Basm and his family left Baghdad, leaving their house and furniture behind. They heard that people could go to Syria and stay there for up to three years while applying for asylum in another country. Basm went to Syria to try to apply for asylum. He heard of people who had been there for three years who had spent up all their money and had not been given asylum in another country. He decided to move with his family to Sulaimaniya in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.
Basm and his family now live in Sulaimaniya in a crowded apartment and sleep on the floor. He does not have a job. His wife, Maha Mashalla, sometimes travels all the way back to Baghdad to work. Though his family receives some financial assistance, it is not enough to cover their rent. They desperately want to find asylum in another country. Meanwhile they need financial and material assistance.
Basm says there used to be 1,500,000 Christians in Iraq. Now there are about 300,000. The churches in Baghdad are guarded by troops or behind walls now. Basm says that there is the possibility that someday there will be no more Christians in Iraq.