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(AINA) — Over a dozen passengers drowned when a boat carrying refugees across the Aegean Sea to Greece capsized on November 17. Seven of the passengers were Assyrian refugees from Baghdede (Qaraqosh), Iraq. The Assyrians, 4 of them children, were members of two families. They have been identified as:
- Stephen Marzena Marogeh
- Silvana Sami Marogeh (wife)
- Angie Marogeh (Daughter)
- Mark Marogeh (son)
- Samah Sami Marogeh (Silvana’s sister)
- Haneen Salem Saman Shasha (Samah’s daughter)
- Marvin Shasha (Samah’s son)
Baghdede, formerly the largest Assyrian town in Iraq with 50,000 residents, was captured by ISIS last year on August 7, causing all 50,000 Assyrians to flee (AINA 2014-08-07). They have not returned and are living in Ankawa, a suburb of Arbel, and Dohuk (Assyrian Noohadra). Many have left the country and most of the others have expressed a desire to leave.
For centuries, Iraq has been home to a small but thriving community of Christians. Speaking the same Arabic language as their Muslim neighbours, they can be found in nearly every Iraqi city, and have traditionally prospered as doctors, teachers and academics.
But ten years on the fall of Saddam Hussein, their numbers have dwindled from more than a million to as little as 200,000. Churches have been bombed by Islamic extremists, while the prosperity that the Christian community was seen to enjoy has seen them frequently targeted by kidnappers.
Altogether, 62 churches have been attacked in the decade, and around 1,000 Christians have been killed, according to senior Iraqi churchmen. They have warned that a time may come when there are no longer any Christians in Iraq at all.
In this special report from Baghdad, Telegraph correspondent Colin Freeman and cameraman Julian Simmonds report on new efforts to stem the Christian exodus.