ALQOSH, Iraq — Over the past decade, Iraqi Christians have fled repeatedly to this ancient mountainside village, seeking refuge from violence, then returning home when the danger eased. Now they are doing it again as Islamic militants rampage across northern Iraq, but this time few say they ever want to go back to their homes.
During the past 11 years, at least half of the country’s Christian population has fled the country, according to some estimates, to escape frequent attacks by Sunni Muslim militants targeting them and their churches.
Now many of those who held out and remained may be giving up completely after fighters belonging to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant swept over the city of Mosul and a broad swath of the country the past week.
“I’m not going back,” said Lina, who fled Mosul with her family as the militants swept in and came to Alqosh, about 50 kilometres to the north.
“Each day we went to bed in fear,” the 57-year-old woman said, sitting in a house for displaced people. “In our own houses we knew no rest.” Like other Christians who fled here, she spoke on condition she be identified only by her first name for fear for her safety.