July 15, 2008
Doonesbury 'reports' on Iraqi Christians
Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Gary Trudeau lampoons coverage of Assyrian refugees.
Gary B. Trudeau's Doonesbury, which newspapers publish either with the comics or the editorial cartoons, just wrapped up a series about Iraqi Christian refugees. Roland (in this series a Fox News correspondent) is trying to cover the story of an Assyrian family in a way that is flattering for the Surge. Doonesbury treats the imaginary Iraqis with a great deal of dignity. Fox News doesn't fare so well.
Fox News actually did run an Associated Press story about "Christians Fleeing Violence in Iraq" in early May, which brings up the matter of ransoms most Christians pay for "protection."
The background--not in the comic strips, although alluded to--is that Iraq's Christians, the largest non-Muslim religious group in Iraq , are represented disproportionately in the refugee population (although it should be mentioned that the Assyrian diaspora dates back to World War I). It's such a huge drain that some churches in Iraq have no members left. Christians can be identified by their names and ID cards, and they are often targeted for violence. The Assyrian International News Agency (AINA) is calling it genocide. So, many Assyrians leave as soon as they can. Others, like the family in Doonesbury, wait until something unbearable happens.
CT suggested in an editorial that U.S. and Iraqi governments should:
Stop discrimination in aid grants by naming a special aid coordinator in Iraq to insure that Christians and other minorities receive a fair share of international assistance.
Implement the creation of a homeland for Christians in Iraq's Nineveh Plains to be governed jointly by Christians and other minority groups. (This is provided for under article 125 of Iraq's new constitution.)
Provide more comprehensive care for the estimated 3 million Iraqi refugees and internally displaced people. The United States should follow through with its commitment to resettle more refugees from Iraq. In 2006, only 202 were resettled, while a total of 20,000 had been authorized.
Remove religious affiliation from identification cards. There could hardly be an easier way to protect the lives of Christian civilians, such as Ayad Tariq, than issuing new ID cards minus religious labels.
AINA divides Assyrians up into five groups: Chaldeans (of the Chaldean Catholic Church) at 45 percent, Syriac Orthodox at 26 percent, Church of the East at 19 percent, Syriac Catholic at 4 percent, and other groups at 6 percent. In 2005, 2 percent of Iraq's population was Christian, according to the World Christian Database.
CT published an article on Iraqi Christian refugees in 2006.