Even if Mosul is Taken from ISIS, Many Christian Families Can Never Go Back

Anne plays with Rita, now nine, and her 10-month-old son Joseph, at the church in Amman, Jordan.
Anne plays with Rita, now nine, and her 10-month-old son Joseph, at the church in Amman, Jordan.

Anne Danyale can never go back to Mosul.

It has been two years since her family fled from the Iraqi city fearing for their lives, as ISIS ushered in a reign of terror.

As part of the local Christian population, there were only two choices facing Anne, her husband Sabhan and their two children: run or die.

“When we left it was all over for us,” she told CNN. “We lost our homes, our memories… everything.

“We even lost our jobs, which we had worked hard for all our lives… I don’t think we’ll ever go back. It’s too hard.”

Seeing the sea

It was in 2014, that I met Anne and her family after they had reached safety in Jordan.

Her daughter, Rita, was just seven and struggling to cope. She missed her toys, her own pillow and more than anything she missed Mosul, the place she called home.

She told us of her hopes and dreams and the desire to create a new life for herself in Australia because she had only ever seen the sea on television. She wanted to experience it in real life.

Perhaps it was fate. Earlier this month the family received the news they had been waiting for — they had been granted asylum in Australia. They will travel there to begin a new life in the coming months.

But the prospect of yet more upheaval takes its toll.

Rita cried. She does not want to leave home again. She told her parents she did not want to leave her new friends behind.

Anne too had mixed feelings, the anxiety of moving to a country so far away with a vastly different culture will not be easy to adjust to — though she remains adamant that it is imperative for the welfare of her children.

“I do not want my children to live through the same experience again,” she said. “We paid the price and I don’t want to go back in a few years and go through it again.

“There is constant violence in Iraq. It’s never quiet. We had a much better life before the fall of the regime.”

Before the US-led invasion of 2003, Iraq was home to an estimated Christian population of more than a million. Christians had already become a target for extremist groups like al Qaeda long before the emergence of ISIS, but Anne’s family remained in Mosul.

Churches were bombed, Christians were kidnapped, killed and many followers living within the city were made homeless.

But it was the arrival of ISIS that persuaded Anne that it was time to leave. After capturing territory in northern Iraq, ISIS drove out the local Christian population and began to eviscerate any remnants of the religion from the area.

Photos showed militants vandalizing monasteries and churches, smashing statues and replacing the cross with their black flag of terror.

“They are trying to wipe out all our history,” Anne said, trying to hold back tears. “It is why they forced us out. But they don’t know that in our hearts we will remain Iraqis, and our grandchildren will always say they are from Mosul.”

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SOURCE: Jomana Karadsheh