Four Christian Women Killed in Iraq, Others Injured

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

As violence against Christians and Americans spreads

By: Stefan J. Bos
Special Correspondent, ASSIST News Service

BAGHDAD, IRAQ (ANS) -- Four Christian women were killed and five others injured when militants in a passing car raked their minibus with gunfire 80 kilometers (50 miles) west of Baghdad, an informed human rights watchdog confirmed Monday, January 26.

Barnabas Fund, which has close contacts with Christians in Iraq, said the attack happened last Wednesday, January 21, when nine Christian Iraqi women were on their way to work in the laundry at the Habaniyah American military base.

"Suddenly four masked men in a white Opel machine-gunned our minibus and four women died" Barnabas Fund quoted survivor Maggi Aziz, 49, as saying.

None of the passengers escaped without injuries, explained Barnabas Fund, adding that Aziz herself was speaking from her hospital bed with wounds to the leg, shoulder and head.

Among those killed was Ashkik Varojan, who boarded the bus on Wednesday morning having decided to hand in her resignation, rather than live in fear of reprisals for cooperating with the United States-led coalition, Barnabas Fund said.


"Necessity had driven her to work to support her paralyzed husband and four children. On hearing the news of her death, Anjel, her 20 year old daughter fainted with grief.

Vera Ibrahim, who survived, told Barnabas Fund that she "won't continue" her work. "I am afraid. They wanted to kill us all," she reportedly said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility, although church leaders, individual Christians and human rights workers have told ASSIST News Service (ANS) in Iraq they are concerned about rising violence against Christians.

Survivor Suzanne Azat and Mussa Adam Abu Shaba, whose sister Nadia was killed, said they believe the assailants were insurgents fighting against coalition forces to whom Iraq's Christian minority has often been linked by Muslim militants.


The United States administration has blamed several attacks on loyalists to former President Saddam Hussein, including militant Islamic fighters from neighboring countries.

Human rights workers have told ANS there is growing pressure on Christians to adhere to the rules of Iraq's Muslim Shi'ite majority, with reports that Christian women have been forced to wear veils in cities such as Basra.

Earlier this month a mass demonstration in Baghdad led by Shi'ite leader Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani against American political plans for the region showed some demonstrators carrying pictures of Jesus, monitored Barnabas Fund.


The organization said it was an effort to make it appear Christians were supporting the Shi'ite group, "although virtually all Christian leaders" are against Al-Sistani's policies. The Shi'ite Muslim leader is demanding direct elections before the transfer of power from the American -led coalition, and his followers have staged huge marches in support of the demand.

But Washington says there is not enough time to organize free and fair elections before the end of June, although both the Bush administration and the U.S.- appointed Iraqi Governing Council in Baghdad have asked the United Nations to study the ballot question.

Despite the pressure and daily violence Iraqi Christians risk their lives, racing through the streets between gun fire, to visit often overcrowded churches, ANS established in Iraq.

American soldiers, which include many Christians, and other coalition supporters also continue to be under attack, ANS monitored Monday January 26.


The Voice of America (VOA) and other media reported that a roadside bomb killed an Iraqi man as he stepped off a bus in the town of Ramadi, west of Baghdad, just hours after gunmen killed four Iraqi policemen at a checkpoint in the same area.

Three other people were wounded in Monday's attack, which came after a series of bombings in recent days which brought the death toll to over 500 among American soldiers since hostilities began.

The same cumulative toll of 500 deaths was reached in Vietnam in 1965, the year when the U.S. deployment there rose to 184,300 troops from 23,300, according to several reports.

Most soldiers died in Iraq as a result of hostile action but more than 150 were killed in non-hostile causes, including suicide according to Defense Department sources.

Barnabas Fund can be reached via e-mail, website or postal address: The Old Rectory, River Street, PEWSEY, Wiltshire, SN9 5DB, UK.