By Christian Science Monitor
by Christa Case Bryant
Fatin Yousef endured the US-led invasion of Iraq
in 2003, the outbreak of fierce Sunni-Shiite fighting in 2006, and an
uptick in militant attacks after US troops withdrew in December 2011.
As a Christian, she faced even more persecution than the average
Iraqi. But while roughly half of Iraq’s estimated 1 million Christians
fled the country, she stayed put for a decade – until this summer.
weeks ago, Ms. Yousef finally left her country for good, taking refuge
in Amman with her teenage daughter and elderly mother. Among her
extended family of about 60 relatives, only one remains in Iraq.
story could not be independently verified by the Monitor but it is
consistent with the accounts of other Iraqi Christian refugees,
illustrating the persistent threat faced by one of the world’s oldest
Christian communities, distinct but not disconnected from the widespread
suffering of Iraqis of all backgrounds.
says her uncle was kidnapped and then killed after three days, targeted
because he was a Christian. The perpetrators called her family to
collect his body, then began threatening her.
“Within 24 hours,
you will leave your job, leave your house. If you don’t leave in 24
hours we’re going to blow up your house,” Yousef recalls them telling
her over the phone. So she quit her job as a stewardess with Iraqi Air,
her employer for 13 years, left her house, and moved in with an aunt.
finally resolved to leave Iraq, but the day of her departure her sister
called from Syria, where more than 300,000 Iraqi Christians have taken
refuge. She told Yousef that her husband had traveled back to Iraq and
was kidnapped on arrival; her sister begged her to stay and seek his
She stayed, but they never heard from him.
daughter, Lorita, found herself the only Christian in her class of 40
at school. She was required to sit through Islamic religious instruction
that denigrated Christianity.
They couldn't find comfort in
church because they were too scared to attend after the Al Qaeda-linked
Islamic State of Iraq killed at least 58 worshippers at Our Lady of
Salvation church in Baghdad in 2010.
“We don’t go to church in Baghdad, of course not,” says Yousef. “Then they will kill us in the church.”
despite not being able to attend church, she has maintained a strong
faith and credits God with helping her get Lorita out of Iraq safely.
most important thing is that God helped me with was to save my
daughter,” says Yousef, who hopes they will be able to join her sister
in Australia. “She’s the most important thing in my life.”