Iraq: The Return of Property Stolen From Christians Is Accelerating

March 09, 2022

Part of the real estate belonging to Iraqi Christians looted during the occupation of the Islamic State (IS) has finally returned to the hands of their legitimate owners, as promised by the Shiite leader Moqtada Al-Sadr.

A ray of sunshine began to shine in the gloomy sky over the Christians of Iraq, on this February 21, 2022: it was on this date in fact that the official act of restitution of the real property, of which they had been despoiled during the occupation of the Islamic State organization (IS), was solemnly signed, in the presence of the Iraqi authorities, including one of the close collaborators of Moqtada Al-Sadr.

Still wearing the black turban of the descendants of the “Prophet,” the Shiite dignitary enjoys great popularity in Iraq, due as much to his lineage as to the political role he has played since the American invasion in 2003.

After the death of his father-in-law, Mohamed Baqir Al-Sadr, a reformer of Shiite Islam executed in 1980 by Saddam Hussein, and his father, the Grand Ayatollah Mohamed Sadiq Al-Sadr, killed with two of his sons in Najaf in 1999, Moqtada took up the torch of the Sadrist faction, combining puritan Islam and social action, not without success.

It was at the beginning of 2021 – and probably to secure the vote of Christians a few months before the legislative elections he was to win on October 10 – that the leader of the Sadrist party created a committee responsible for collecting and verifying complaints about expropriations of Christian property.

An initiative, as the Shiite leader himself explained, which officially aimed to restore justice, by putting an end to the violations of the violation of the property rights of his “Christian brothers.”

It must be said that the growing exodus of the latter, after the collapse of Saddam Hussein's regime in 2003 - thanks to an American intervention which mainly resulted in the jihadist invasion of the IS in the region - had left the field free to “legalized” expropriation and theft of property, as denounced by the highest Catholic officials in the country.

“In his pastoral letter sent to the faithful on the occasion of Christmas 2015, Cardinal Louis Raphael Sako, Chaldean Patriarch of Chaldea, …spoke of “families subject to targeted attacks and expropriation by thugs and extremist groups,” appealing to the authorities for greater security and protection.

In April 2017, the former Christian MP Yonadam Kanna, leader of the Assyrian Democratic Movement, also addressed this thorny issue, pointing the finger at “criminals who make false documents and forged certificates in order to claim the property, homes, or businesses of Christians who have emigrated from the country in recent years because of war and violence.”

So, as of this point, more than 120 properties have been returned to their owners, the Committee for the restitution of Christian properties hopes that this policy will continue, also expressing the hope of a “rapid return” of all Eastern Christians who have left their homeland.