Christians from the town of Qaraqosh were fleeing today after it was taken by fighters from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Isis) on Wednesday night.
The town had previously been a safe haven for those fleeing Mosul and for those hoping Christianity had a future in the country. “Before we thought we could stay. But now, there is no way Christians can go back to Iraq,” says Abu Maykel, a 29-year-old clerk who fled the village last week.
He hoped he could maybe remain in his ancestral homeland, but had to reconsider when Isis started to close in on Qaraqosh, a Christian village of 50,000 people. The town had been cut off from water and electricity ever since Isis took Mosul. Food had been hard to come by and distant shelling constant, but he remained.
However, 10 days ago, the shelling intensified. “It was less than a kilometre away. Just the sounds of it scared my wife and children,” Abu Maykel explains. The family decided to leave, joining an exodus which has further weakened Iraq’s Christian population.