First Published: 2010-11-08

 

Pregnant Iraq Christian awaits medivac unaware she is widow

 

Siba Nadhir still does not know her husband had been killed in Baghdad church attack.

 

Middle East Online

By Jacques Clement - BAGHDAD

She was wounded in the attack

As she lay in a Baghdad hospital bed awaiting her evacuation to France for treatment Monday, Siba Nadhir still did not know her husband had been killed in the church bloodbath in which she was wounded.

"They told me it would be better for my baby if I went to France for treatment," said the 30-year-old Christian, who took two bullets to the back in the October 31 hostage-taking and is four months pregnant with a baby her husband will never know.

"I don't want to go," she confides. "I would rather stay here near my husband who was wounded and is in intensive care."

In the corridor outside the ward in Baghdad's Saint Raphael Hospital, her aunt Feryal tearfully admits that she has not had the heart to tell her niece that her husband did not make it.

She said she planned to tell her before she is taken aboard the medical evacuation flight to Paris.

A total of 36 Iraqis who were among the wounded in the shootout between Al-Qaeda militants and Iraqi and US security forces at Baghdad's Syrian Catholic cathedral were to be flown out to the French capital on Monday.

The afternoon flight due in at Orly airport at 1925 GMT was also to carry 21 carers, the French foreign ministry said.

In an adjacent ward to Nadhir's, Mohammed Munir, was happier about the opportunity to receive specialist treatment in a French hospital.

"I want to stay in France to receive the best possible care," said the 30-year-old. He said he had only been back in Baghdad a month after five years studying mechanical engineering in Russia when a grenade shattered his right hand as he was attending Sunday mass. It had to be amputated.

In all, 44 worshippers, two priests and seven security force personnel died during the seizure of the cathedral and the ensuing shootout when it was stormed by troops. The five militants who carried out the attack also died.

Around 60 people were wounded in the bloodbath and France swiftly offered to provide specialist treatment for those with the most serious injuries.

On the eve of Monday's medical evacuation, Immigration Minister Eric Besson said it fitted into France's "tradition of asylum."

"France is the leading land for asylum in Europe and the world's second behind the United States," Besson told reporters.

"We are the European country that receives the most refugees who have been persecuted because of their political opinions, their religion or the colour of their skin," he said.

But France's response to the assault on Iraqi Christians has not been without controversy, with some community leaders warning that it will lead to a new exodus among the already dwindling minority.

An estimated 800,000 Christians lived in Iraq before the US-led invasion of 2003 but that number has since shrunk to around 500,000 in the face of repeated attacks against their community and churches.

France has not only evacuated wounded Christians for treatment. It has also given asylum to healthy ones in the face of Al-Qaeda's threat of more attacks like the one on the Syrian Catholic cathedral.

Besson said 1,300 Iraqi Christians had been granted asylum in France since autumn 2007, an acceptance rate of 85 percent for asylum-seekers from among the community.

He said France planned a second evacuation flight "in the coming weeks" to bring out a further 93 Christians.

Iraqi Christian MP Unadem Kana said France's policy flew in the face of its proud boasts to secularism.

"In the face of Al-Qaeda's threats, the solution is not to remove Christians from Iraq," he said.

But a French diplomat in Baghdad insisted the evacuation flights were "purely humanitarian."

"There is no question of us having a hand in the exodus of Christians from Iraq," he said.

 

IS bid to seize Kobane stalls amid air strikes

Six Tunisians killed in police-gunmen standoff

Iraq MPs divide over Kurds deployment to aid Kobane

Suspicious envelopes to consulates in Istanbul prompt alert

Morocco fossils: A rare and vanishing treasure

Germany offers to help Armenia forge peace with Turkey

Libya wakes up from ‘Dubai dream’ to face Somalia-like ‘failed state’

South Yemen separatists vow to intensify secession protests

Relatives of Iraq massacre victims: Blackwater guards should be killed

Ghannouchi makes it clear to Tunisia: It’s either political Islam or Daesh!

Deadly clashes erupt after army raid in northern Lebanon

200 Iraqi Kurd fighters to travel through Turkey to Kobane

Coalition strikes in Syria eliminate more than 500 jihadists in one month

Ahead of elections, new clashes remind Tunisia of need to fight terror

Saudi Arabia jails mothers for preparing sons to wage jihad

Jury finds Blackwater guards guilty of 2007 'massacre' in Iraq

Iraq Kurds approve reinforcements for Kobane

Israel classifies car crash as ‘hit and run terror attack’

Turkish woman arrested for stepping on Koran

Erdogan criticises US for airdrops on Kobane

Iraq schools provide shelter but late to open for classes

Syria air force shoots down two of three 'IS warplanes'

Egypt court rules on ‘Nasr City terror cell’

Fire from Egypt wounds two Israeli soldiers near border

By hook or by crook, settlers notch up property gains in East Jerusalem

Turkey envoy meets leader of parallel government in Libya

Israel arrests seven Palestinian fishermen off northern Gaza

Khamenei to Abadi: Iraq can beat 'Islamic State' without foreign troops

Saudi special court rules in cases of riots and terrorism

Libya army scores small victory in Benghazi

Only in Libya: Government calls for civil disobedience

Kasserine reaps bitter harvest from Tunisia revolution: Poverty and terrorism

Iraq Kurds set to vote on deployment of Peshmerga forces to Syria

Islamic State ‘share in US weapons’ embarrasses Pentagon

Alderton: Morocco unrivalled business gateway to sub-Saharan Africa

Protests over IS turn Istanbul University into war zone

Turkey eyes stricter punishment against lawbreakers at protests

For Sudan President: Promises are something and re-election is something else

Iran returns Abadi to ‘house of obedience’

From traditional military to counterinsurgency force: Syria army grows more capable

South Sudan rivals accept 'responsibility' for civil war

British drones in Iraq also used for Syria surveillance

Turkey launches new wave of wire-tapping arrests

Rise of Shiite militias challenges government authority in Iraq

Syria Kurds show impressive resistance to ‘Islamic State’ in Kobane