Members of a Baghdad-sanctioned umbrella organization of Iranian-backed Shiite militias in Iraq are blocking Christian victims of the Islamic State (ISIS) from returning home and otherwise persecuting them, the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) reported Thursday, echoing U.S. government warnings.
Consistent with the assessments of the Department of State (DOS) and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), Carl Anderson, the CEO of the pro-Christian Knights of Columbus, told CBN News that the PMF is persecuting Christians, picking up where ISIS left off.
Iranian-backed militias are occupying many of the formerly Christian towns and making it virtually impossible for Christians to come back in. What ISIS failed to accomplish, that is to have a religious cleansing of Christians in the area, Iran, through their surrogates, may accomplish still.
Anderson made those comments after a recent visit to northern Iraq, home to Nineveh province, considered the historical homeland of Christians in the region.
Breitbart News learned from the non-governmental Hammurabi Human Rights Organization (HHRO) in Iraq that 22,000 to 25,000 followers of Christ had returned to the largest Christian town of Qaraqosh as of late 2018 when ISIS was on its last legs.
In March, U.S.-backed local forces cleared the last sliver of territory held by ISIS in northern Syria.
By then, the power and influence of the estimated 150,000-strong Iran-allied Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), which helped push ISIS out, had reached historic proportions.
After taking control of many of the Sunni territories in Iraq they helped liberate from ISIS and winning nearly a third of the seats in parliament, the PMF began enjoying “unprecedented military and political power in Iraq” the Washington Post (WaPo) reported.
Although the PMF helped U.S.-backed local forces declare victory over ISIS and annihilate the group’s territorial caliphate, it appears the jihadi rivals may share a disdain towards Christians.
In its latest annual report on International Religious Freedom, which covers 2017, DOS determined that Iranian-backed Shiite militias in Iraq stand accused of harassing and sexually assaulting Iraqi Christians who survived the recent genocide campaign by ISIS.
The State Department noted:
Christians reported harassment and abuse at numerous checkpoints operated by Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) units, impeding their movement in and around several Christian towns on the [Nineveh] Plain [in northern Iraq]. Christians and Yazidis in PMF-controlled towns reported harassment of Christian women by PMF members.
Christian religious leaders continued to publicly accuse the Iranian-backed Shabak Shia PMF militia 30th Brigade … of harassment and sexual assaults on Christian women … A Syriac Orthodox priest and the mayor of Hamdanyah attested to these repeated incidents. Arab Sunni leaders in Hamdanyah made similar allegations
Max Primorac, the USAID’s special representative for reconstruction in minority areas of Iraq, also indicated that Iran-aligned militias pose a threat to Christians in Iraq.
Former Congressman Frank Wolf, the co-founder of the 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative, a religious freedom organization, told lawmakers in October 2017 that Christians were worried at the time about the PMF presence in their areas.
U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration has devoted hundreds of millions of dollars to help Christian minorities who escaped genocide at the hands of ISIS return home and to encourage those who stayed behind to remain there.
Under Trump, tens of thousands of Christians have returned to Iraq, many of whom will be able to enjoy Easter this year.
Iraq is home to one of the oldest, continuously inhabited Christian regions in the world. It is believed to be the cradle of Christianity.
Baghdad has legalized the PMF as a component of the Iraqi security forces, which means the Iran-allied fighters could benefit from U.S. aid. However, Baghdad has acknowledged that not all PMF factions are under its control and in recent days some of the Shiite militiamen have reportedly clashed with Iraqi security forces in Mosul.