“The New Threat to Iraq’s Christians,” by Benedict Kiely, Real Clear Politics, December 18, 2018:
In March of 2017, with the battle for control of Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, raging just miles away, I was driven into the town of Karamles, recently liberated from ISIS control. Together with a journalist friend, the parish priest of the town and an American adviser to the Catholic Archdiocese of Erbil, we walked among the ruined buildings surveying the results of ISIS occupation, which included a burnt church.
Virtually none of the former inhabitants had yet returned. There was nothing in the way of functioning infrastructure — no water or electricity — and many of the buildings were still booby-trapped with IEDs. The parish priest’s own house, intact because it had been used as an ISIS base, also had a bomb left inside it, which was discovered and disarmed when he returned.
Before ISIS, Karamles had some 10,000 residents, most of them Christians. Father Thabet Habib, the enthusiastic pastor, was determined that they should return and that the town would rebuild and thrive. As we left, the U.S. adviser told me to turn and look at the large metal structure that formed an official entrance to the town. Three flags flew from it. One was the flag of the Iraqi army, the second was that of the local Christian militia, the NPU. But it was the third banner that he wanted me to notice: the flag of Ali, the fourth Caliph of Islam, revered by Shia Muslims, and the official emblem of one of the Shia “Popular Mobilization Units.”