Iraqi cities preparing for large Christmas celebrations

1 / 4
Members of the Nineveh Protection Units stand guard outside the Church Mar Eddie the Apostle during Christmas mass in the predominantly Christian Iraqi town of Qaraqosh. (AFP)
2 / 4
Iraqi Christians attend mass on Christmas eve at the Grand Immaculate Church in the predominantly Christian Iraqi town of Qaraqosh. (AFP)
3 / 4
Iraqi Christians attend a mass on Christmas Eve at the Grand Immaculate Church in al-Hamdaniya, near Mosul, Iraq December 24, 2018. (Reuters)
4 / 4
A member of the Nineveh Protection Units stands guard outside the Church Mar Eddie the Apostle during Christmas mass in the predominantly Christian Iraqi town of Qaraqosh. (AFP)
Updated 24 December 2018

Iraqi cities preparing for large Christmas celebrations

  • With security threats at their lowest level in five years, Iraqi cities are preparing for largescale Christmas celebrations
  • Local authorities nationwide have set up large decorated Christmas trees in main squares

BAGHDAD: With security threats at their lowest level in five years, Iraqi cities are preparing for largescale Christmas celebrations, Christian clerics and officials told Arab News on Sunday.
Local authorities nationwide have set up large decorated Christmas trees in main squares. Shops in Kardaa, a neighborhood in southern Baghdad that includes many churches, are filled with Christmas decorations and accessories.
Celebrations this year follow the declaration of the defeat of Daesh in Iraq. The terrorist group had killed and displaced Christians in the north of the country following its sweeping territorial gains in June 2014.
Some cites such as Ramadi, capital of the Sunni-majority Anbar province in western Iraq, is celebrating Christmas for the first time since 2003, locals told Arab News.
“The security situation this year is the most stable in a long time, thank God,” Ara Badalian, pastor of the Evangelical Baptist Church in Baghdad, told Arab News.
“We’re more relaxed and free to practice our ritual ceremonies this time compared to previous years, and we’ve extended our celebration hours to 10 p.m. instead of 8 p.m.,” he said.
“The number of festivals we’ve planned is the most in many years, and participation is much wider and not limited to Christians, as our friends from other sects are keen to participate in our celebrations.”
Baghdad and other cities have witnessed a significant drop in the number of terrorist attacks in the past three years.
The number of casualties across the country in November was the lowest in six years, according to statistics from the UN Mission in Iraq.
Troops have been deployed near churches, malls and main squares to guard against potential terrorist attacks.
After Christmas, Iraqis see in the new year with street celebrations accompanied by music and fireworks.
Many clubs, cafes and malls hold free parties with famous singers throughout the last week of December.
“It’s an occasion to see all my family members to celebrate New Year’s Eve and enjoy time with them,” Rawaa Abdulridha, a young lawyer, told Arab News.
“We’re hungry for joy. We’re exhausted because war and death have dominated our streets for many years, so the time has come for some joy.”


Jordan still to set to reopening airports amid pandemic

Updated 12 min 19 sec ago

Jordan still to set to reopening airports amid pandemic

  • The government is preparing a list of low-risk countries in time for reopening the airports next month
  • The list will be based on criteria approved by the Ministry of Health

DUBAI: The Jordanian government has not set a specific reopening date for its international airports, the Minister of State for Media Affairs Amjad Adaileh said, adding the country was still studying the move.

Adaileh said the government is preparing a list of low-risk countries in time for reopening the airports next month, state news agency Petra has reported.

The list will be based on criteria approved by the Ministry of Health, and will include countries with the similar situation as Jordan. Adaileh said the country is still at a “moderate risk level.”

“We were on the eve of moving to the green phase that requires no local cases are recorded for 10 consecutive days according to the severity matrix earlier announced to deal with the pandemic,” the minister said, after a local infection was announced on Tuesday.

Adaileh urged the public to adhere to preventive measures, including physical distancing rules and the use of masks.