Christians are reporting the burning of wheat fields in Christian areas
of Iraq. Iraqi Christian broadcasting company Ishtar reported on 4 June 2020 that fields belonging to the Chaldean church and private Christians surrounding Karamles (a Christian village east of Mosul) had been deliberately set on fire, allegedly by Shabak Shiite groups. In at least two provinces crop fires were also reported by Kurdistan24 on 14 May 2020, where Iraqi officials suspect
supporters of the Islamic State group (IS) to be responsible.
Henriette Kats, persecution analyst at World Watch Research, gives some background information: "Prior to the liberation of the region in 2017, the Nineveh plains had been occupied by IS fighters and emptied of any Christian presence. Since then, the area has become a point of conflict between the Kurdistan Regional Government and the central Iraqi Government. In addition, local Christians claim that so-called Shabak Shiite groups
- many armed - have been orchestrating changes in the demographics of the area to the disadvantage of Christians for years (Asia News, 14 February 2019). The Christians affected by these factors are in an additionally vulnerable position: After being terrorized by IS, they are now trying to restore their lives amid a weak economic situation. Many of them have lost their jobs as a result of the measures imposed to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. As a consequence, many families are deciding to leave and live abroad, although the local church communities have urged them to stay."
Henriette Kats continues: "No one has claimed responsibility for the arson attack in Karamles, but investigations indicate that the suspected perpetrators came from al-Manara village which belongs to a Shabak group. Shiite militias linked to Iran have become the greatest source of persecution for Iraqi Christians since IS. It is very possible that they are responsible for these fires. However, it is also important to note that such arson attacks are not a new phenomenon: Crops were also ravaged by fire in earlier years, both in Karamles and elsewhere in disputed areas of Iraq. Indeed, even in 2019, IS officially claimed responsibility for several such fires in the Makhmour district as means of "˜encouraging" farmers in the area to pay taxes to their organization
(Kurdistan24, 12 May 2020). It would seem that remnants of IS still employ this tactic in 2020 to make their continued presence known."