Extremists Targeting Christian Women, Students in Iraq

Two young women were attacked last week in the Iraqi city of Mosul for not wearing a head cover in a local market
( [email protected] ) Oct 25, 2004 03:27 AM EDT

Two young women were attacked last week in the Iraqi city of Mosul for not wearing a head cover in a local market, a news agency reported on Friday. The attack, during which the women were sprayed with a syringe containing nitric acid, took place amidst growing violence against women and Christians in the war-torn nation.

In a recent article featured in Italy-based AsiaNews, the agency reported that a flyer signed by a group calling itself the Mujahideen Parliament had appeared at Mosul University promising “death to all Iraqi women who did not cover their heads.” The group, which represents six separate groups of Islamic extremists, also warned women against wearing make-up and Western-style clothes. “We will follow transgressors to their homes and shall not hesitate from striking you,” the group stated in the flyer.

While Islamic extremists attacks have not been limited to Christians alone, several sources have reported specific threats and attacks directed towards the Christians, who are accused of spreading “corruption and shamelessness in the streets. They will “suffer violence and persecution in their homes and their churches [if they do not stop] cooperating with the infidel invader,” one extremist group had written in another flyer.

As threats continue to hit home, noticeable fear and concern is present in the 100,000 strong Christian community of Mosul despite its deep historical roots in the area and its cultural and economic prominence.

Young Christian female students are especially singled out, AsiaNews reported. According to the news agency, a process of islamization of culture and social more similar to that imposed by the Talibans in Afghanistan is underway, and its main targets are university students. And as many Islamic scholars say that according to hadith, a woman should cover her whole body, except her face and hands, women who are seen without “appropriate” covering become open targets.

After the most recent threats, local churches responded initially by making arrangements for a bus to shuttle to and from the university. However, after threats were made against the buses in the last two weeks, students have reportedly stopped going to class.

One student who attends Mosul University told AsiaNews, “Christian students can no longer attend classes and female students are humiliated by the inhumane behavior of fundamentalists.”

According to Father Joseph, a priest in Mosul, the anti-Christian sentiments stem from the fact that although Christians are just three percent of the population, they represent around 40 percent of the professional class. And by striking at them, “the terrorists are striking at the country’s culture and economy in order to weaken it and thus more easily subjugate it,” Joseph told AsiaNews.

The priest added, however, that even though “violent acts against Christians are on the rise, they do not constitute persecution or religious war.” Armed gangs account for the majority of violence.

“Two or three people with guns can spread fear in a whole neighborhood,” Joseph said.

Some of the gangs, made up of people belonging to the so-called resistance, aim to punish the occupation forces and its “collaborators.” Others are Islamic fundamentalists who want to impose their version of Islam. And others are thugs and common criminals who were freed just before the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime.

Since the “liberation” of Iraq by the United States and Britain, sources report that 110 Iraqi Christians have been killed.