Iraqi Kurdish PM grants Erbil Christian neighbourhood administrative control

Iraqi Kurdish PM grants Erbil Christian neighbourhood administrative control
The Christian majority neighbourhood of Ainkawa in Erbil has been granted administrative control by the prime minister of Iraq's Kurdish region, with hopes that it will become a sanctuary for Christians.
3 min read
05 October, 2021
The decision will allow residents of Ainkawa to elect their own mayor [Getty]

The Prime Minister of the Kurdish region of Iraq, Masrour Barzani, has announced that the Ainkawa district of Erbil has been placed under the administrative control of its Christian residents. 

It is hoped that the move will create a home for Iraq and Syria’s Christian minorities, who have been forced to flee their homes due to fears of persecution

"From now, Ainkawa will be the biggest district of Christians in the Middle East. Most of its residents have fled persecution in Nineveh, Baghdad & Syria. They have been welcomed among us. And now we offer them the chance to lay deeper roots in a sanctuary of their own," Barzani wrote in a post on Twitter. 

The Kurdish PM made the announcement during a visit to the Erbil suburb. 

"We have come here as the government to tell you we will task the minister of interior, Erbil Governor, and the Erbil Provincial Council to declare Ainkawa a district so we can serve this area more," he said. 

The decision to designate Ainkawa as a district in its own right, as opposed to its previous designation as a subdistrict, will mean its residents will have the opportunity to vote for their own civic leaders, officials, and take control of security. 

Ainkawa will now be entitled to have its own mayor, who will have direct authority. 

It is hoped that the increased autonomy for Ainkawa will see it become a shelter for Christians from other parts of Iraq seeking safety. 

During his visit, Barzani described Ainkawa as a home for "religious and social coexistence and a place for peace. It has become a center for many of our Christian brothers and sisters who have not been able to stay in other places and regions of Iraq for whatever reason".

Residents of Ainkawa welcomed the news. 

"As for the people of Ainkawa, and for me coming from Akre, we are very happy about this news," one shop owner commented in a video posted by the Kurdish PM. 

Akre is a small city in Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq. The decision was also received positively on Twitter. 

"A clear & powerful message telling [the] peace loving world that Christians, other ethnic & religious groups in KR have full rights as other citizens and the right to manage their day to day lives and affairs with respect & full freedom," wrote one Twitter user. 

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Christians and other religious minorities have faced years of persecution in Iraq, most notably when the Islamic State group took control of vast swathes of the country, killing and displacing thousands.

The formalisation of the decision to grant administrative control to Ainkawa, which is already host to a large Christian population, a host of churches, and a Catholic university, will happen after the Iraqi parliamentary elections on 10 October.