IRAQ: No place for Christian families, Part I


20 September 2011
IRAQ: No place for Christian families, Part I

by David Hovde

In 2007, Ayad Klanm lived with his family in a neighborhood of Baghdad where most of his neighbors were Shia.  Many were members of the Mahdi Army, a Shia militia formed by Muqtada al-Sadr.  Because Ayad was Christian, some of his neighbors believed he worked with the Americans, although he never had.  One day as American troops drove down his street in their vehicles, Ayad greeted them.  Some of his neighbors asked him why he did that and said it proved that he worked with the Americans.  Ayad thought it strange that they would let their children talk to the American troops, but they would not allow him to.  They told him that if they ever saw him talk to the Americans again they would cut off his head. 

An explosive outside Ayad's family's front gate detonated late one night at 11:00 p.m. as Ayad's four-year-old daughter, Maryam, and her aunt left the house.  The explosion injured Maryam's right leg from the knee down, tearing off the skin.  The family drove her immediately to the government hospital and waited until the next day to see the doctor.  When he saw her injury, he said that he could not do surgery for her because if he did the Mahdi Army would kill him.  The doctor advised them to take her to the clinic or a private hospital.  Ayad told him that they did not have money to pay for surgery at a private hospital.  The doctor said that they should take her there anyway.

 The doctor at the private hospital performed surgery immediately, and agreed to reduce the cost greatly, but they still did not have enough money to pay, even though his sister in Sweden sent him money to help him out.  Maryam had to go to the doctor twice a week after that and every time they changed her cast there was an additional cost. 

 Ayad talked to the Mahdi army member who put the explosive outside his house.  The man said he said he wanted it to explode when the Americans passed by on the street.  When Ayad asked him if he knew what happened to his daughter, the man became angry and said that if Ayad wanted to talk anymore about the incident he would kill him and his family. 

 Ayad and his family moved from Baghdad to Suleimaniya in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq in 2007.  They feel safer but Ayad does not have a job, has health problems, and the family has only have enough money for food.  Maryam needs another surgery that is complex and cannot be done in Iraq.  Ayad and his family desperately want to find asylum in another country.