Christians returning to Nineveh believe Sunni Arab villagers were
complicit in “taking their houses, killing and raping people,” he says.
Cockburn adds that, in Syrian towns occupied by IS, Christians
believe their Sunni Arab neighbours were similarly cooperating with IS
and that returning Christians might drive Sunnis out in turn. There’s a
“real, very high level of friction and hostility on the ground, which I
think is going to be extraordinarily difficult to reverse”, he says.
“A longer-term and very dangerous shift in both Iraq and Syria is that communities in general can’t live together any longer.”
“What are the guarantees that it will not happen again?” he asked,
noting that Iraqi Christians had been targeted not only since IS’s
sudden appearance in 2014 but since the US-led invasion in 2003, after
which he said the fabric of Iraq “was broken”.
In the decades before IS, more than a million Christians left Iraq, which had turned increasingly hostile towards them, the minority population felt.