Expelled from Sweden - fleeing again

Despite systematic violence against non-Muslims in Iraq, Christian Iraqis are being routinely expelled back to Iraq by the Swedish Government. Swedish Radio has followed 25 Christian Assyrian refugees who have been expelled to Baghdad. All but one have fled Iraq again. Thirty year-old Jabil is now in hiding in Mosul, once his hometown.

– I live with a friend and cannot leave the house, it's very dangerous here. I am threatened, in fear of being killed. Honestly, I cannot go out, if I do I'll be killed, says Jabil.

Jabil fled from his home town Mosul in March 2007 after he was threatened by militant Islamists. We have followed him since he was arrested by the Swedish police in the north Swedish city of Sundsvall on February 6th of this year and was subsequently forcibly expelled to Baghdad. 

– We arrived at the airport and the Swedish policemen handed my papers to Iraqi immigration and then left in a hurry. I told the Iraqi officer that I was being returned against my will, that I was terrified since I was Christian and came from Mosul. He said, condescendingly, that he couldn't care less, says Jabil.

Swedish Radio has followed 25 Christian Assyrians, also called Syriacs and Chaldeans. All of them except Jabil have fled to neighbouring countries, Samir to Jordan, Majed to Syria and Ameera and her family to Turkey.

We met Ameera and Kameran Younán and their four children in Istanbul. The first time they escaped was to Sweden in 2005. They resided in Jönköping for four years before they were thrown out. Now they are waiting to register themselves as refugees with the UN.

– We are tired and totally exhausted. Since that day when we were sent away from Sweden we've lived in misery. I see no change for the better. I loved Sweden and the Swedes but I will never forget how inhumanely we were treated by those who threw us out.  It was like a nightmare. Were they really Swedes?

The security situation in Iraq has vacillated since the USA-led invasion of 2003. This year, on the average, ten civilians are violently killed every day, which makes it one of the world's deadliest conflicts in one of the world's most brutal countries.

It has been well documented that Christian and other religious minorities are vulnerable to systematic persecution. The population of Christians in Iraq has been halved since 2003.  After a local threat in Mosul in October of last year that all Christians would be killed, around 1 500 families immediately fled the city. A Christian 'crystal night'. 

On the 12th of June this year six churches were attacked in Baghdad and one in Mosul during a single day. Four persons were killed and, at least, fifteen were injured. According to the Assyrian International News Agency, 59 churches were violently attacked or bombed since the outbreak of the war.

Despite the well documented systematic violence against non-Muslims in Iraq, the news stories of sectarian persecution that appear almost every day in the Swedish press, the Swedish authorities appear to wear blinders as to what is happening in the Middle East and continue expelling Christian Iraqis back to the country of their murderers. Swedish Radio has followed 25 Christian Assyrians who have been expelled to Baghdad. All of whom have fled from Iraq once again. 

Swedish Radio has spoken with Amnesty, Minority Rights Group, International Rescue Committee and other human rights organizations. They all maintain that non-Muslims should not be returned to Iraq these days.

– MRG feel that it is not safe for non-Muslim minorities to be expelled to Iraq since they are exposed to directed violence on the basis of their religion. This includes Yezidis, Shabaks, Mandaeans and Christians, says Preti Taneja at the Minority Rights Group in London.

Nina Shea, a commissioner on the United States High Commission on International Religious Freedom in Washington says.

– That to be a Christian is enough to be persecuted in Iraq.

She and other experts go as far as to call this "religious cleansing." 

– What we will see by the end, when the dust has fallen, is that the number of Christians and Mandaeans, the non-Muslims who have remained in Iraq will become numerically negligible. In all practicality there will be no one left, says Nina Shea.

On Jabil's rejection document from the Swedish Migration Board it says that he hasn't proved that there is a real and foreseeable risk that he shall be personally exposed to serious acts of violence upon his return. But in Mosul his situation is getting continuously more desperate. He doesn't even dare to travel to Baghdad to get a new passport.

– I have no family, no one who can help me. I trust in God and in you and that you will be given the power to change things, says Jabil.

Nuri Kino
nurikino@gmail.com 

Susan Ritzén
susan.ritzen@sr.se