Iraqi Christians returning to Qaraqosh despite fears over security

Iraqi Christians are slowly making their way back to Qaraqosh even though they still harbor fears over their security after the Islamic State was driven out of their town.

(REUTERS / Marko Djurica)A woman walks past a big cross at the entrance of the town of Qaraqosh, south of Mosul, Iraq, April 13, 2017.

In October, Iraqi forces managed to drive ISIS out of Qaraqosh during a six-month battle to reclaim the city of Mosul from the Sunni militant group. The returning Christian families are now hoping that they can live harmoniously with the Shi'ite Muslims residing in the town but are also worried over the possibility of sectarian division among them, Reuters details.

The Christians are busy trying to erase the graffiti made by ISIS during its occupation, but Shi'ite Iraqi troops who battled with the militants have drawn new slogans on the walls of their churches. On one wall of a church burned by the jihadist group, "Oh Hussein" in red letters can be seen, giving tribute to a Shi'ite Muslim martyr.

"We are afraid of this, of tensions," said church worker Girgis Youssif. "We want to live in peace and demand security."

"Of course we are afraid of such signs," said photographer Matti Yashou Hatti. "We need international protection."

While most Sunni Muslims dismiss the slogans as merely works of religious zealots, Christians see them as a sign of what their life would be in the new Qaraqosh. The families who have made their way back want to stay for good, but there is still no electricity and water so they only stay for a few days to restore their looted homes.

Nevertheless, some Christians ignored their fears and attended a church service held at the St. George church on Easter Sunday. Despite the security measures and the presence of armed soldiers guarding the vicinity, most of the pews were empty, the New York Times notes.

Some of the Christians reportedly do not return to their hometowns because they have no confidence in the government's ability to protect them. There are those who cite the lack of power and water as their reasons, and there are also some who are waiting for Christians to be granted semi-autonomous areas in the region.