Iraqi Christians Take Up Arms in Fight Against ISIS

Islamist forces have driven some 150,000 Christians, mostly Assyrians, from their homes, and Kurds are now helping them to regain their homeland.

AP

Iraqi Christians are banding together to take on the Islamist militant group ISIS to reclaim their homeland, the Wall Street Journal reported this week.

“The objective is to liberate their land in Nineveh Plain and to take charge of security in these areas afterward,” said Yaco Jacob, a Christian parliamentarian in the Kurdistan Parliament, according to Al Arabiya News. Other minorities, such as the Yazidis and the Shi'ite Shabaks, live in the Nineveh plains and have suffered at the hands of ISIS, also known as the Islamic State.

According to the Wall Street Journal, hundreds of Christians, who felt government forces abandoned their families in fighting last summer, are training at a former U.S. military base in northeast Iraq.

“I want to defend our own lands, with our own force,” said Nasser Abdullah, 26 years old, who is helping lead younger recruits in training, according to the Journal.

Some 450 of the estimated 2,000 recruits are receiving training in Iraq's Kurdistan region, Jacob said, Al Arabiya reported.

ISIS conquered several Christian villages in the Nineveh plains. Kurdish forces in the region also fled when attacked. About 30,000 Christians fled the region, while some 150,000 Christians across Iraq have been displaced by the fighting initiated by ISIS, the Journal reported.

“Those who betrayed us won’t be allowed to live among us,” said Firas Metr, 27, an electrician and inexperienced recruit. “We need to protect ourselves, now and in the future.”

According to the Journal, organizers hope to receive aid from the U.S., as they are likely unable to afford training all the recruits.

Jacob, the Christian parliamentarian, is a member of the Assyrian Democratic Movement, which operated paramilitary groups in the 1980s and fought alongside the Kurds in the insurgency against Saddam Hussein, according to Al Arabiya News. The group began rebuilding its armed forces in August, after Christians were driven from the Nineveh plains.

The volunteer forces consist of Assyrians – Orthodox Christians who are native to the Nineveh plains – and Chaldeans, who are Catholics.