Many Iraqi minorities, Christians in particular, supported Donald Trump in his fight for the presidency, especially with his promises to put an end to ISIS and to make those suffering from genocide a priority. However, Trump’s recent executive order that banned immigration for 90 days from seven countries, including Iraq, has left many Iraqis wondering where Trump’s priorities lie.
Al-Monitor sat down with Iraqi Christians to find out their thoughts on the executive order. Rabie Patros Younis, a deacon and Christian community activist in al-Qosh, said: “To be honest, Iraq used to be full of Christians. After 2003, we Christians started to get the idea that we have no place in the region,” referring to the violence that hit religious minorities especially hard after the 2003 US-led invasion.
Younis continued on to say: “We’ve been waiting for someone to come change our reality. Since 2003, it’s only gotten worse… Trump was against extremism. Obama spoke against it, but in eight years, things only got worse. So Trump said he would change that.”
“It was just hope. If we feel the situation changing for the better, then we can say, ‘Trump is the right person for the job.’ We’re waiting. Right now we don’t have trust in anybody.”
For another al-Qosh resident, Yosef Qasyanon, Trump’s executive order blocked his departure from Iraq just as he was about to join his family in the US. Qasyanon told al-Monitor: “I went through the visa process! I was hoping to go to America. The process was under the [Special Immigrant Visas for Iraqis] program. But everything has stopped now because of that order.”
Qasyanon said that communities were becoming more ethnically segregated, noting that these days he only feels comfortable among fellow Christians from al-Qosh. Threats from jihadist groups like IS, tensions with neighbors, and land seizures in areas under Kurdish control have all contributed to the continuing sense of insecurity among his community.
Although Qasyanon appeared to approve of Trump’s aggressive attitude, his disappointment with Trump’s ban runs deep. “Trump makes things happen,” Qasyanon said, noting that Trump was keeping his promise to push through certain policies during his first days in office. “I had an application, I did an interview, and I had a visa. This isn’t just a ban on Muslims. This is a ban on everyone.”
Qasyanon was resigned when asked whether he would try to appeal his case for travel. He said there was nothing else to do except wait for a change in policy.
As for the Christian community across northern Iraq, Qasyanon remarked that their numbers were dropping precipitously on the Nineveh plain. “You know, we shrank from one and a half million in Iraq to no more than 300,000 now,” he asserted. “It was security that pushed them to go, despite the fact that they had houses, salaries, enough money to put in the bank.”
Qasyanon added, “If the security situation improved, the [Christians] would stay. But ever since Daesh [IS] came, everything has changed.”
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