Historical Context

Iraq or officially the Republic of Iraq is an Arabic state in the Middle East bordered by Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria, Turkey and Iran. The south-eastern border of Iraq is washed by the waters of the Persian Gulf. Two major rivers, the Tigris and the Euphrates, run through the country. Iraq only has a coastline measuring 58 km, but this is where it derived its name (Iraq in Arabic means “seashore”). The capital city is Baghdad. The population is around 37 million people. The state language is Arabic and Kurdish.   

Iraq is home to diverse ethnic and cultural groups including Arabs, Kurds, Chaldeans, Assyrians, Turkmens, Yazidis, Armenians, etc. Around 99% of the country's 38 million citizens are Muslims, with tiny minorities of Christians (Nestorian Church), Yarsans, Yazidis and Mandeans also present.

The region of Iraq, known as Mesopotamia until 1920, is often referred to as one of the cradles of civilization. In the 3rd millennium BC, Sumerian and Akkadian kingdoms were established. At the beginning of the 2nd millennium BC, the Babylonian Empire emerged, which was in power, with some interruptions, until 538 BC. In the 2nd millennium, in the northern part of the territory of Iraq, the Assyrian Empire was formed (destroyed in 612 BC). The territory of today’s Iraq has been ruled by Achaemenid, Parthian and Sassanid Empires, by Alexander the Great and the Seleucid Empire, etc.

In 636, Arabs conquered Mesopotamia and introduced Islam there. In 762, Baghdad became and remained the center of the Arabic Khalifate until the invasion of Mongols. In 1258, Baghdad was destroyed and Khalif killed. In 1534, the Mesopotamia was conquered by Ottoman Turks and became a part of the Ottoman Empire. In 1914, British troops invaded the south of Iraq, and by 1918, they already controlled almost the entire country. In 1921, the Kingdom of Iraq was proclaimed.

The Mandate of the League of Nations for Iraq was given to Great Britain. It was in force by 1932, when Iraq was proclaimed an independent state, but Great Britain still retained its power. The monarchy was overthrown only in 1958, when the people of Iraq rejected pro-Britain powers and proclaimed establishment of an independent Iraqi Republic. Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party took over.

In 1980, the eight-year Iraqi-Iranian war started, which caused heavy human losses to the people of Iraq. And in 1990, Iraq attacked its neighboring little state of Kuwait and captured it. However, this aggression was condemned by the UN, and both the US and EU troops, which came by its initiative, forced Iraq to remove its army from Kuwait. Later the US and some UN countries announced the Saddam Hussein regime a threat to the safety of the world. In 2003, the US brought troops to Iraq and overthrew the Saddam Hussein regime (on December 30, 2006, Saddam Hussein was sentenced to capital punishment by the Supreme Court of Iraq). In order to establish order, some US and UN peacekeeping troops remain in Iraq to this day. The country has elected a new leader, and they take steps in solving their political and economic problems.

Christian Context

In the territory of Iraq, Christianity has a history of 2.000 years. It has been here since the times of the Apostles. According to the tradition, Apostle Thomas preached in this region. Christians lived in different parts of Iraq, but the largest community was in the Nineveh Plains.

Until 2003, there were about 2.3 million Christians in Iraq. Of them, 180.000 lived in Mosul, and around 200.000 in the Nineveh plains. These numbers began to decrease because of terroristic attacks Christians experienced in Mosul, and by the time ISIS came, there were only about 25.000 Christians in Mosul.

After ISIS occupied Mosul and the Nineveh Plains, Christians were forced to flee to safer regions of Iraqi Kurdistan, and most of them emigrated to the US, Australia, Lebanon and European countries from there. Right now, the number of Christians in Iraq does not exceed 350.000.

In 2014, according to studies of Open Doors, a Christian International Charitable foundation, Iraq was the 4th among the countries, where the rights of Christians are most often suppressed.