An 85-foot Christmas tree erected in Baghdad for religious solidarity
By gerard On December 19, 2016
A tall Christmas tree now stands in the center of Al-Zawra, a theme park in Baghdad. The artificial tree, with a height of 85 feet and a diameter of 33 feet, costs $24,000. The person behind the act, Muslim businessman Yassir Saad, stated that this is for Iraqis to "forget their anguish" over the war on Isis. A battle is still ongoing between Iraqi military and ISIS in Mosul, the last area in Iraq that has a concentration of ISIS insurgents.
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CNN reports that the latest incident in the conflict happened in the area of Tal Afar wherein a Popular Mobilization Unit, led by Shia, advanced against ISIS. Iraq's Joint Operations Command confirmed that 12 militants were killed during the advancement assisted by the Iraqi air force. A potential sectarian violence is, however, feared because this area of Tal Afar is mainly a Sunni city and was divided between the Sunni's and Shia's before ISIS invaded the area.
An article by Indiatimes states that Saad aimed in "joining our Christian brothers in their holiday celebrations." The threat to the Christian people, as well as other religious minorities in Iraq, began when the Iraq War erupted in 2003. According to TheBlaze, the Christian community in Iraq has declined in number over the years because of the security threats posed to them by Islamic extremists. On a number of occasions, the properties of these Christians were confiscated while they are also forced to convert to Islam or pay a special tax. Because of these incidents, together with the hope of attaining economic stability, the affected Christians left Mosul and other nearby areas.
Saba Ismael, a teacher who personally saw the Christmas tree was quoted saying, "This tree represents love and peace. I wish all Iraqi Christians could return to Iraq and live normal and peaceful lives." While making the statement, her students took pictures in front of the symbolic Christmas tree. Meanwhile, in villages near Mosul, some Christians who have returned found their churches and homes pillaged and destroyed.