Federal parliamentary republic
President Barham Salih
Iraq remains plagued by conflict, despite the recent territorial losses of the Islamic State group, and this continues to gravely affect the country’s minority Christian population. In June 2020, Christian villages were bombed in Turkey’s largest operation in the area since 2015, forcing many Christians to flee. In May 2021, Christian villages were evacuated following Turkish bombing in the region. Christians were not protected by the local government.
Many Christians are also seriously affected by intolerance and persecution. This is perpetuated mostly by militant Islamic groups and non-Christian leaders. They also face discrimination from government authorities.
In central and southern Iraq, Christians often do not publicly display Christian symbols (such as crosses) as this can lead to harassment or discrimination at checkpoints, universities, workplaces and government buildings. Outspoken believers in the region have frequently become targets. Blasphemy laws can be used against Christians suspected of carrying out outreach among Muslims.
Christians from a Muslim background experience most pressure from their families. They often keep their faith a secret, as they risk being threatened by family members, clan leaders and their local community. Converts risk losing their inheritance rights and the right or means to marry.
Matti, whose ID card states he’s a Muslim despite growing up as a Christian, says: “One day when I die, I will die as a Christian.”
Persecution levels in Iraq have largely remained the same. However, encouragingly, in the last year there has been a substantial drop in reported incidents of violence.
Meanwhile, Iraqi politicians have passed a bill to make Christmas Day a national holiday, and a committee has been set up to enable Christians displaced by the Islamic State group insurgency to return to their homes (more than 80% have fled the country since 2003). However, many Christians are reluctant to return home, as they do not yet feel the environment is conducive for a safe and prosperous return.
Most Christians in Iraq live in the north of the country, in Kurdistan. Few Christians are left in Baghdad and Basra. The situation is particularly difficult for Christians in the south and center of the country. Christians have left most of the provinces there, with the exception of small groups of converts from a Muslim background.
Open Doors works through local partners to support the church in Iraq with biblical training, trauma care, Bible distribution, socio-economic development projects, relief aid, and help to rebuild houses and churches in northern Iraq.