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Thousands of Christians Flee Rebuilt Homes as Fighting Erupts Between Baghdad and Kurds

By Britta Milovansev – DOHI News

Iraqi forces stormed the Christian town of Teleskof, just 19 miles outside of Mosul sending Christians to flee their homes once again on Tuesday.

Approximately 1,000 Christian families were forced to evacuate when Kurdish Peshmerga fighters stationed in Teleskof engaged in battle with Iraqi forces. Several civilians, including children were wounded in the fighting.

Door of Hope sources stationed in the Nineveh Plains have reported that Christians from both Teleskof and Baqofah as well as families from some neighboring Yazidi villages have fled to Alqosh, Dohuk and other villages further from the fighting.

“It is a terrible blow to Christians who recently returned home to rebuild their lives after ISIS swept through their towns destroying their homes and forcing them to flee to Kurdistan,” said Paul Popov, Door of Hope International President.

Teleskof was recently rebuilt with $2 million in aid from the Hungarian government. It was considered the model for rehabilitating Christian villages and minority community towns across the Nineveh Plain.

An emissary of the Iraqi government told the people in Teleskof that they had until sunrise to evacuate as the Iraqi and Shiite militia will forcibly evict the Peshmerga fighters. They were told to leave before the standoff reaches a boiling point.

On Tuesday night, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) called for an immediate ceasefire to prevent further bloodshed.

Clashes between the Iraqi government and Kurdistan began on October 16 after the referendum where the Kurdish people voted overwhelmingly for independence from Baghdad.

The KRG said it was prepared to “freeze the result of the referendum” and “start an open dialogue” with the government in Baghdad “on the basis of the constitution”.

Baghdad has rejected the freeze and is demanding the referendum to be annulled, deeming it “illegal.”

Iranian militas have also joined Iraqi forces. There are reports that some Iraqi soldiers are carrying photos of Iranian Ayatollah Khamenei into the battle in Teleskof.

Iranian-backed militias also were spotted among troops Baghdad recently sent to Kirkuk.

On Thursday thousands of Kurds had fled Kirkuk region since Iraqi armed forces retook it following the Kurdish referendum that was rejected by Baghdad.

“We don’t want to be ruled by Iran,” said Goran Iz Al-Din, a Peshmerga commander in reference to the fact that some of Iraq’s Shia militias — known as Popular Mobilization Units — are backed by Tehran.

Kirkuk was historically a Kurdish-majority town, but during the rule of Saddam Hussein, the ousted dictator moved Arab families in and Kurdish families out to change the area’s ethnography, under a policy termed “Arabization.” It’s also home to Sunni Arabs and Turkmen.