BAKUFA, Iraq— The flag of an Iraqi Christian minority party is hoisted high over the village of Bakufa in northern Iraq, less than a month after militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) were pushed out and the extremists’ black banner was taken down.
The predominantly Christian Assyrian hamlet of 95 houses that once had about 500 people, located some 243 miles north of Baghdad, was overrun by the Islamic State group during its shocking blitz this summer, along with 22 other villages nearby.
In a counter-offensive, the Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga fighters swept in from the north, battling ISIS house-to-house. The fighting forced the villagers to flee to Kurdish towns and cities elsewhere in northern Iraq.
Once Bakufa was retaken, the Kurdish fighters helped set up the village militia, made up of about 70 volunteers and known as Dwekh Nawsha, or “self-sacrifice” in Assyrian.
The men of Dwekh Nawsha now patrol Bakufa round-the-clock, in the hope that the village stays free long enough so their families can return.
A member of the Dwekh Nawasha stood guard on a building rooftop, next to the flag of the Assyrian Patriotic Party, during a recent visit by The Associated Press.
“We found ourselves helpless,” said Caesar Jacob, a deputy of to the Christian militia’s commander. The 44-year-old electrician said the militiamen worked “side-by-side” with the peshmerga fighters but then gradually took over responsibility for their village.
“We must depend on ourselves to defend our land for now and the future,” Jacob told the AP.
The militia commander, Albert Kisso, 47, said Christian territories in what is Iraq’s Nineveh province needed their own protection and the forming of the militia was the logical outcome.
The Assyrians, an indigenous Christian group in Iraq descendant from the ancient Mesopotamians, are a Semitic people who speak an eastern Aramaic dialect. Along with the Chaldeans, they make up the largest Christian group in Iraq.
Bakufa is also the site of the 200-year old St. Gorgiz Monastery, which Kisso describes as a tribute to the “elegance of the Mesopotamian civilization” of their ancestors.
“It is the priority of Dwekh Nawsha to protect the sons of this region, as well as the region itself – including its monasteries, churches, artifacts,” said Kisso, a longtime member of the Assyrian Patriotic Party.
In their onslaught, ISIS also targeted indigenous religious minorities across the country’s north, including Christians and followers of the ancient Yazidi faith, forcing tens of thousands from their homes. The area’s 120,000 Christians are mostly still in exile.
The Kurdish peshmerga fighters are proud of what they did for Bakufa.
“We came here … to protect our Christian brothers and their homes,” said Abdul Rahman Kawriny, the local peshmerga brigade commander. “There is constant cooperation and assistance. We are always together.”
The Dwekh Nawsha militiamen spend the days patrolling the narrow village streets in bullet-proof vests, their insignia prominently displayed on their fatigues.
Relying on donations from Christian charities abroad and wealthier members of the Iraqi Assyrian community, the Christian fighters must supply their own weapons.
Those who do not own a weapon cannot join and many said that Dwekh Nawsha would have 250 men if only they had the needed firepower.
Independent Online Terrorist Hunter
I teach people how to hunt down and shut down the Bad guys web sites. I also teach about the various countries and cultures. Like most cases it is a small group of bsd eggs that in this case call themselves Muslims but in actual fact they are more like how KKK call themselves ",True Christisians". But in both cases / groups they preach a perverted and twisted view a religion. In the case of ISIS, all Qaeda, al Nusra, and the rest of the terrorists who claim to be true Muslims most of these groups follow the Wahhabi teachings. They are almost all Sunni and their goal is global domination. Yet they must be very bad at math and history. Since most Muslims prefer a separation of church and state and also mist are against Shari's Law. Esp the twisted and overly exaggerated form of Sharia Law that the Wahhabi and other bad guys use. I have studied terrorism, insurgencies, and the best tried and proven methods that work to fight terrorism. My Blogs have many links and articles that can show you who are the best and most knowledgeable people in the fields or counterinsurgency and counter terrorism. When I find great practitioner's I always listen to them to find out who they learned from and who they respect and admire. Thus I am always learning new stuff from the best and most successful in their fields of knoeledge. I strive to be an open and ethical source of information, I have met many awesome, kind, caring, and loving wonderful people many who I am close friends with now from Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Turkey, Iran, and many from S.E. Asia which also has a high percent of their populations that are Muslim.We must always strive to be aware people are not any one particular religion via that's what they chose to be, instead most people are a particular religion because that's what their parents and/or county is.
I was raised Catholic but because I became Interested in magic ,(illusion - smoke n mirrors) and science which lead me to study many religions, and I would call myself an atheist. Yet sometimes when I lose my keys ZI find myself praying "Hail Marys" and a few "Our Fathers" which most always aides me in finding my keys. My belief is that if I just frantically look around for my krys, good luck it takes me for ever. But by saying these prayers it is like s sort of meditation and my mind becomes more calm, which is why it helps my find my keys.