|Photo by Ankawa.com|
|Photo by Aina.org|
Hundreds of people attended a funeral
ceremony Wednesday for an Iraqi family that drowned in the Aegean Sea
last month while attempting to reach the shores of Europe.
members of a same Christian family died after boarding a small boat in
Turkey bound for Greece but only six bodies were recovered.
were repatriated to Ainkawa, a majority Christian area on the edge of
the Kurdish regional capital of Arbil, to which the family was displaced
by a jihadist offensive last year.
The victims of the accident were
Stephen Mazena, his wife, their two sons -- one of whom is lost at sea
-- his sister-in-law and her two sons.
brother, his family, his wife's sister and her family decided to try to
reach Europe from Turkey because the living conditions here are bad,"
his 28-year-old brother Mark said at the ceremony.
November 17, they were in a boat that was carrying a total of 35
people, that's when the incident happened on the Aegean," he told AFP.
Mourners attended a religious service led by Mosul Archbishop Boutros Moshe in a newly built church in the camp of Ashti.
family was from Qaraqosh, which was Iraq's largest Christian town
before it was overrun by the Islamic State group in August 2014.
of thousands of Christians were forced to flee their homes in Qaraqosh,
the surrounding Nineveh plains and other areas last year when IS made
its lightning advance.
Most of them now live in homes or in camps in the neighbouring autonomous region of Kurdistan.
exodus has threatened the existence of one of Iraq's oldest minorities,
many of whose members want to leave the country for good despite calls
by top clerics for them to remain on their ancestral land.
Elias Shesha, a relative of the family, said Iraq's Christian community did not feel safe.
reasons are known to everyone, it was the displacement and killing in
Qaraqosh. So they went to a place that was supposed to be safe, they
went to Turkey and stayed a few months in order to get to Europe," said
Shesha, the 66-year-old cousin of Salim Shesha, Mazena's brother-in-law
who survived the tragedy but lost his wife and two children.
"But their fate came that day, they got on the boat and what was fated happened," he said.
Iraqis in general and us Christians in particular, wants to emigrate.
Without international protection, nobody will stay here," he said.