Did U.S. disarm Christians in Iraq?

FrontPage Magazine interviews William Murray, chairman of the Religious Freedom Coalition. We’ve posted on Murray and his group’s work with Iraqi Christian refugees before, here, here and here. He summarizes the situation of these refugees thusly:

American political correctness and the Bush Administration’s fear of Islamic backlash have caused the greatest “urban refugee” crisis in history. More than half of the Christian population has been forced to flee their homes in Iraq because of Islamic violence against them. Their churches have been burned and bombed. The official position of the Administration has been that “Coalition Forces assisting the Christians would cause them to be identified with the United States and have even more problems.” As a result they receive no assistance in defending themselves at all. Immediately after the American invasion of Iraq, the Christian militias were disarmed. They were the only militias to be disarmed. American forces allowed both the Sunnis and Shiites to keep their armed militias. Christians first fled from Baghdad to the Nineveh Plains, and then to Jordan and Syria. In Jordan and Syria the American embassies told Iraqi refugees to go to the United Nations because their plight “was not an American problem.” Excuse me? 

Meanwhile the official position of the State Department under Condi Rice is that Christians are harassed by “criminal elements” in Iraq and that no persecution exists. That attitude has caused even greater persecution and led our embassies and other nations to be unhelpful.

The interviewer, Jamie Glazov, asks why Christian militias were disarmed. Murray answers:

Those of us who have questioned the State Department on the disarming of the Christian militias have received mixed answers. However, the favorite answer seems to be that allowing Christians to bear arms in Iraq would give the impression that the United States was leading a “Christian crusade,” and thus it was better for our image to allow the slaughter of Christians.

I have read many times that Christians are the only ones in Iraq who do not have their own armed militias, and that is one reason that have been attacked so much. I had gathered that they had never had militias, without that being specified. I’ve certainly never heard this claim before and I can’t find any reference to it elsewhere. If it’s true, it’s beyond shocking, but I have my doubts.

Interestingly, in looking for information on this question I found a recent article on Islam Online (of all places) called Iraq’s Christian Militias — meaning recently formed ones. (An AFP story on the new Christian militias is here.)

MOSUL — Christians in Iraq have united and formed new militias to protect themselves against what they describe as targeting by Muslim extremists in northern Iraq.

“During five years we were victims of the general violence in Iraq but mainly from violence carried by Islamic extremists who want us to follow their religious behaviors, though we are from a different culture and belief,” Priest Michel Youssef, militias supporter in Mosul, told IslamOnline.net.

Few armed Christians started patrolling their areas last year but now there are 250 of them with official approval from the US army base in Mosul.

Armed with heavy machine guns and assault rifles, they receive salaries of around US $250 and are commanded by Father Yusuf Yohannes.

“The idea to form militias was the only way to protect our families and friends from attacks because we are tired of waiting an action from the government which is preoccupied with politics and never look after us,” said Youssef.  


,,, The idea of taking protection in their own hands is very appealing to Christians.

“Our new militias are the start of a possible new life for Christians in Iraq,” believes Annuar, the primary school teacher.

There’s no reference to previous militias here. I’m not sure that William Murray is the most reliable of sources. Look at this statement:

Our government, that is the Bush Administration, does not want the financial and moral obligations that come with the actual declaration of refugee status. As a result none of the refugees, Christian or otherwise, are considered refugees officially by our government. There has been a special effort to make sure that Christians who have fled Iraq are not given any priority treatment despite the fact that they represented a far larger percentage of those who fled compared to their actual percentage of the population.

Of course we consider them refugees. We just let the UN have charge of them. It is true that we give no priority to Christians; we’ve commented on that many times. Murray does not come across as clear and knowledgeable. His group does excellent humanitarian work, and maybe that’s what he should stick to.

I’ll try to track down more information about the disarming of the Christian militias and whether they ever existed before.

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