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Calling It a 'Reverse Jihad,' Iraqi and Foreign Christians Join Fight Against Islamic State

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Volunteers in Iraq
Some Christians are joining the fight against the Islamic State in Northern Iraq. (Reuters)

Some Christian groups in northern Iraq say they have had enough of being struck down like helpless victims and are tired of being chased from a place where they consider themselves to be the original inhabitants;  they have decided to take up arms to defend the home their people have known for over 2,000 years. 

National Geographic reports that, According to officials with the Assyrian Patriotic Party,  which is one of several Assyrian political organizations in Iraq that is made up of mostly Christians,  40 armed members have been sent to join the Kurdish Peshmerga, the official security force of the Kurdistan Regional Government, and the strongest fighting force in Northern Iraq that is taking on the Islamic State. 

The Christian group has shed its historically passive nature because the ruthless Islamic State has so severely brutalized all who stand in its way.  

Earlier this month, the president of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, Massud Barzani, announced that his government was ready to open its doors to Christian volunteers among the Kurdish armed forces by providing them with the means to create self-defense forces in their villages and defend themselves from jihadi militias of the Islamic State, Fides Agency reported

Peshmerga Fighters
Peshmerga Fighters are on the front line of the conflict. (AP)

Henry Sarkis, 44, the newly appointed branch chief for the Assyrian Patriotic Party in the area, calls the group of 40 from his party the "first wave", and they have adopted the name Dukha, which means "sacrifice'.

"We keep talking about Jesus and peace, and now we've reached the point where it's not enough," he said in an interview at his party's headquarters in Dahuk. "The age of waiting for the Peshmerga to take back territory while we sit is over. We took the decision that, with our limited abilities, we will try to participate."

The shift in ideals for Christians, who have been viewed as helpless victims in the past, may make the Iraqi Christians more of a target, some believe, but Sarkis, however, isn't worried as he believes standing up to fight is better than laying down and dying.

"We're being killed in our homes, so why not defend ourselves? Then even if we die, we die with dignity," he said. "We didn't want to reach this point - we just want to live in our areas."

Christians make up less than 1 percent of Iraq's population, and have been an easy target for other terror groups in the past, like Al-Qeada of Iraq, and the regime of Saddam Hussein. 

In another part of Dahuk, behind the protective  walls of the Assyrian Democratic Movement's headquarters, the local branch leader, Farid Yacoub, 42, says his party too is moving to arm volunteers.

It has registering about 2,000 names so far who are willing to fight.  But unlike Assyrian Patriotic Party leaders, Yacoub is recruiting men to protect Christian areas after they've been won back from the IS and its allies.

"We have lots who are volunteering, who want to fight, but we don't have the means to arm them," he said.

The party doesn't want Christian villages such as Al Hamdaniyah (Qaraqosh) to be controlled or protected by the Peshmerga after they've been reclaimed. "Our people don't trust them any more," Yacoub said.

Many Christians blame the Peshmerga for not protecting Mosul when IS fighter overran the city.  Also, there have been long held territorial disputes, and many of the Christians in the area want to govern themselves, but the Nineveh Plains where they live is claimed by both the Iraqi government and Kurdistan authorities.  

"Our men said they were worried because they didn't want to defend areas other than theirs. We want to defend areas where our people are, specifically the Nineveh Plains," Yacoub said. "We're nationalists, but the circumstances that Iraq is living through now necessitate that we have a safe place, a place for us."

Apparently Iraqi Christians are not the only ones entering the fray, According to UCANews.com, A reporter from the Swiss newspaper "Sonntags Zeitung" visited a number of training centers of the Syriac Military Council, a group of armed self-defense units consisting of Syrian Christians, Chaldeans and Assyrians. They included several Swiss residents active in Iraq, one of whom said, "Someone has to take action to prevent the disappearance of Christians."

The "grassroots resistance"  that some are calling a "reverse Jihad" is reportedly encouraged by some authorities, especially those that don't believe the Iraqi govenment and western powers are doing enough to help.  

Follow Don Pittman on Twitter @DonaldPittman.