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foto di: Daniel Papagni
The Qaraqosh bell
A man, a people, are not alone if faith and determination lead them to what they believe
10-10-2017 - We have been in the Kurdistan region for some days, awaiting the fateful day of popular vote in the referendum for independence from Iraq.
In the days before and after the vote, the Iraqi and Iranian armed forces conducted joint military exercises at the borders of Kurdistan; following the result of the referendum, Iraq closes international airports in Arbil and Sulaimania; the Baghdad parliament expels ten Kurdish parliamentarians who have voted yes to the referendum and threatens to close the border crossings, forbidding the purchase and sale of Kurdish oil and wants the control of all telecommunications companies; Turkey also adheres to Baghdad's decision to boycott the request for independence.
"In the case of northern Iraq, Iran, Iraq and Turkey will be a tripartite mechanism and will decide to close the export of oil extracted in the region."
With these words, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, President of Turkey, after a meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, expressed his views regarding the Kurdish people's demand to become independent of Baghdad.
This is the current situation in the Kurdish region.
It is, in effect, a true declaration of revenge against the unanimous will of the Curds to manage their independence.
And maybe it was foreseeable ...
The referendum was in the air for about three years since the Baghdad government stopped contributing to the management of the Kurdistan region, not paying wages to the Armed Forces or Peshmerga, and not matching the Kurdish government with their respective earnings from the Kurdistan government, oil export, extracted in Kurdistan but managed by Baghdad.
So that Kurdistan is alone in supporting economic efforts to survive.
Not only; Kurdistan has given and continues to offer hospitality to refugees of all ethnicities and religions since Iraq was invaded by ISIS militias. Two million refugees are an immense number for a region of 5 million people.
Arbil is a tangible example, as well as Sulaimania, with their refugees, coming from Iraq.
And now that the cities, destroyed by the caliphate, have been freed, their inhabitants begin to abandon refugee camps, to return to what is left of their homes, to resume a kind of normal life.
One of the Christian cities struck by the caliphate fury, Qaraqosh, is slowly taking shape by returning part of his citizenship.
We decide to return and take the route from Arbil just Sunday, September 24th, the day before the vote for the referendum.
They warn us to be careful because it is a special moment, as we could see in the course of the voyage ... we might risk being locked.
Last year in Qaraqosh we were with Abuna Jalal Yako, rogazionist father.
We call it to ask if we can repeat the visit to the city with him: he looks happy to see us again.
On the phone tells us that he is already in Qaraqosh and does not want to come to Arbil to meet us, for fear of not being able to return ... the referendum is not welcome to Iraq ...
We understand that the situation is not simple. But we decide to go ahead with our schedule, setting up timetables to avoid getting stuck, because by 13:00 the check points will be closed. A further clear sign of aversion to the referendum.
We ask Yako if we can be useful, bringing something from Arbil: "Bring me your strength and your health" is his answer.
With Arab-Christian Habib, advised by Yako, we go to dawn. We cross the road we already know, disconnected, with intervals of stones and earth, with debris, debris and fields still mined, camps of refugees; we pass the control of seven Kurdish checkpoints, operated by Peshmerga and four checkpoints controlled by Iraqi military.
We see the means of Shiite militias, their flags and those of the Shabak (Safawiyya followers); and Iraqi media with weapons pointing towards Erbil ... the referendum is just disgusting! So they are preparing revenge actions.
We notice the tense climate; even the Shabak with their militias are opposed to the independence of Kurdistan and do not accept that the Kurds enter the plain of Nineveh. If there were clashes, they say, the Shabak, opposed to Christians, would attack the Kurds.
Entering Qaraqosh, we are greeted by Abuna Jalal Yako with great warmth: he appreciates our will to follow the fate of these battered cities; and Qaraqosh is his hometown, where he is known by all, Christians and Muslims and loved by all.
His dwelling contains the strict necessity, but there is no missing the Italian flag.
A room is used to welcome children with games, notebooks and pencils, books.
"In Qaraqosh, he says, a little less than half of the people came in, for most, fearful, awaits the outcome of the referendum; everything is to be rebuilt, restarting all over again! A great deal has already been done, in cleaning some of the streets from the rubble ... "Yako tells us as we walk wrapped in an odor of heavy rubbish burning," but we are still in trouble, for lack of money. "
To restore the electrical service in his neighborhood he spent $ 12,000, which some benefactors poured into his community: "Qaraqosh became proud of Providence ... once I prayed I said," My God I do not eat today ... ". Shortly after knocking to my door a man with a plate full of food that he wanted to share with me."
All pictures //www.cybernaua.it/photoreportage/reportage.php?idnews=5982
Faith and determination support him, giving him the strength that he manages to convey to his fellow citizens.
He shows us the little church, where he celebrates Mass: the tabernacle destroyed and burnt.
And walking through rubble, it indicates some homes where families are recovering almost normal life.
We are invited by one of these; we entertain ourselves with hugs and smiles and a great coffee.
"We have seven children, one in Australia, one in Germany, others here with us, with our grandchildren. After the referendum? we do not know what's going to happen, we would not know where to escape in case of serious problems; we must be optimistic, because we need to think about the future of our children and our grandchildren, "says the landlord, side by side with his wife who, in a colorful dress, confirms his will to go ahead, inshallah; the house is clean, decorative, although still under renovation. The future?
"Inshallah, we can not foresee, we can only hope it's better than now."
There are debris in the streets and still houses demolished by Daesh's fury, which can not be restored, there is no more that can be adjusted.
If, last year, walking between destruction and rubbish, we heard sniper firearms still hidden in the city, this time we could, though with much certainty, witness how ISIS operated digging underground tunnels.
Stolen houses where the rooms are still overwhelmed with earth, digged to create underground channels where they hide and through which they can then escape, without human or satellite eyes being able to see.
Yako shows us the immense entrance hole of one of the many tunnels, excavated in a home that will not be easy to get back to being habitable.
What remains of the city suggests that it will take years of hard work to resume its functionality. But those who have already come back, armed with good will and determination, work hard.
Some have already opened small shops, with new crystal doors and showcases, colored by various merchandise on sale, which contrast with rubble still on the sides of the road.
A trader greets us, offering us an orange juice; another offers us water; a citizen running on a motorcycle, expressing in Arabic his joy for victory over ISIS and his hope in the future of Qaraqosh and all, with great esteem and affection, embrace abuna Yako, their pastor, who alone, determined to pursue his mission, boldly embarked on the path of rebirth.
He leads us to revise the Mother Church of the Most Holy Virgin, being restored from the plague that we saw last year.
Even the church of s. Banam and Sara are agile: now the entrance is also controlled by a guard of the NAV (Ninive Protection Unit), armed with Ak47.
We come to witness what has already been done to allow the faithful to attend their worship place. Where last year Abuna Yako had sat in a stolen chair to cry, now there are ordered rows of chairs and benches to pray: "... the bishop celebrates the Mass every Sunday, Yako tells us, and the workers continue to work to restore even the lateral parts of the church, such as the Chapel of the Dominicans and the nun’s home, always in this structure that has ancient origins."
And with great joy in the eyes it means looking up:
"Do you see the bell that last year was cut down in the courtyard of the church? Here, in his place, he won his battle and he resumed playing and calls every day the faithful to the celebration of the Mass. "

Maria Clara Mussa

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