By Theodore Shoebat
In 2014, ISIS terrorists invaded the ancient Christian town of Bartella, in Iraq. In one report from that time it says:
Three other nearby villages were also attacked overnight and Thursday, local police officials told CNN. Two of the villages — Bartella and Tall Kayf — are predominately Christian. Hundreds of Christian families fled to the north, police said.
Another report recounts:
The last Christians have fled the northern Iraqi town of Bartella. Six babies were born during the difficult journey east to Erbil, a city under Kurdish control and still known to be safe for Christians.
The church group was led to safety by Father Yacoub Saad Shamas who explained what it felt like to leave their homes.
“It was a painful decision to make, to leave behind our homes, the place we grew up in, the place we love. Some church guards and I were the last Christians to leave our village. It took us 10 hours to get to Erbil. In my church group we had six babies born along the way. It was all very difficult.”
According to Father Yacoub, 2000 Christian families from the Syriac Orthodox community fled Bartella on 6 August. Six hundred went North to the Dohuk area, but the majority came to Erbil.
Sixty thousand Christians have arrived as refugees in Erbil since Islamic State began terrorising Christians in Mosul and the Ninevah Plains, according to local NGOs.
Like so many of the refugees, families from Father Yacoub’s church are spread around Erbil with many settled in Ankawa, one of its suburbs. Some of the refugees are staying with relatives while others are living in schools, church courtyards and public gardens.
Now the Christian town of Bartella has been finally liberated, as we read in one very recent report:
Iraqi and Kurdish forces backed by a U.S.-led coalition launched a multi-pronged assault this week to retake Mosul and surrounding areas from ISIS. The operation is the largest undertaken by the Iraqi military since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.
Iraqi forces advanced as far as Bartella, a historically Christian town some nine miles from Mosul’s outskirts, by Thursday.
An Associated Press reporter traveling with the Iraqi special forces on Friday saw homes along Bartella’s main road painted with ISIS graffiti, including the first Arabic letter in a derogatory word for Christians, which is used by the militants to mark Christian property. Under ISIS rule, Christians must convert to Islam or pay a special tax.
ISIS militants had sprayed graffiti on the inside walls of the town’s church as well. Iraqi soldiers raised the national flag over the building and rang the church bell, signaling its liberation.
“Bartella was liberated yesterday, and today we are inside its church,” Lt. Gen. Talib Shaghati said. “I bring the good news to our Christian brothers that the church is liberated.”