Iraq's Christians mark Christmas with subdued celebrations in solidarity with Gaza
Christians in Iraq took part in subdued Christmas celebrations this year in solidarity with tens of thousands of Palestinians killed in Israel's brutal war on Gaza and with scores of Iraqis who died in a tragic fire earlier this year.
The heads of Iraq's churches announced last month that Christmas and New Year celebrations would be limited this year, both in solidarity with Palestine and for the victims of a fire at a wedding in the Iraqi Christian town of Hamdaniya in September that killed at least 120 people.
Iraq's president Abdul Latif Rashid attended a Christmas Eve mass in the city of Sulaymaniyah in Iraqi Kurdistan on Sunday night, where he condemned Israel's onslaught on Gaza that has killed more than 20,600 people since it began on 7 October.
A presidency statement quoted Rashid as saying at the mass at the Saint Joseph Church that he hoped Christmas "would be the beginning of the end of the suffering of the Palestinian brothers, an end to the aggression and barbaric bombing of the Gaza Strip, and that peace will prevail in the world".
Iraq's Council of Ministers had granted a two-day holiday, the 25th and 26th of December, for Christian citizens only.
Christians once made up a sizeable minority in Iraq, but years of persecution by militias and the Islamic State (IS) group with little state protection saw their number dwindle.
With no census conducted in Iraq for decades, estimates for the number of Christians in the country vary greatly, standing from 150,000 to half a million.
Christians in the country continue to be victim to persecution, with the head of the country's Chaldean Catholic Church saying earlier this year that Iraqi Christians were continuing to suffer discrimination and forced displacement, especially in the Nineveh Plains.