Iraqi cities preparing for large Christmas celebrations

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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)
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Iraqi Christians attend mass on Christmas eve at the Grand Immaculate Church in the predominantly Christian Iraqi town of Qaraqosh. (AFP)
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Iraqi Christians attend a mass on Christmas Eve at the Grand Immaculate Church in al-Hamdaniya, near Mosul, Iraq December 24, 2018. (Reuters)
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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.”


Australia: British-Australian woman in Iran prison ‘is well’

Updated 04 August 2020

Australia: British-Australian woman in Iran prison ‘is well’

  • Australia sought urgent consular access and its ambassador to Iran, Lyndall Sachs, visited Moore-Gilbert in Qarchak Prison on Sunday
  • Moore-Gilbert’s family said they were reassured by the ambassador’s prison visit

CANBERRA, Australia: An Australian ambassador has visited a British-Australian academic convicted of espionage before being moved recently to a notorious Iranian prison and found that she “is well,” Australia’s government said Tuesday.
Kylie Moore-Gilbert was a Melbourne University lecturer on Middle Eastern studies when she was sent to Tehran’s Evin Prison in September 2018 and sentenced to 10 years.
Concerns for her well-being escalated with news last week that she had been moved to Qarchak Prison, east of Tehran.
Australia sought urgent consular access and its ambassador to Iran, Lyndall Sachs, visited Moore-Gilbert in Qarchak Prison on Sunday, Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, or DFAT, said in a statement.
“Dr. Moore-Gilbert is well and has access to food, medical facilities and books,” the statement said. “We will continue to seek regular consular access to Dr. Moore-Gilbert.”
Moore-Gilbert’s family said they were reassured by the ambassador’s prison visit.
“We remain committed to getting our Kylie home as soon as possible and this is our top and only priority,” a family statement said.
“We continue to believe that Kylie’s best chance at release is through diplomatic avenues and are in close contact with DFAT and the Australian government on the best ways to achieve this,” the statement added.
In 2018, Moore-Gilbert was arrested at Tehran airport while trying to leave Iran after attending an academic conference.
The Center for Human Rights in Iran, a US-based organization, said last week that Moore-Gilbert was being held with violent criminals under harsh conditions.
Reza Khandan, husband of human rights lawyer and Evin Prison inmate Nasrin Sotoudeh, posted on social media last week that Moore-Gilbert had been transferred “as a form of punishment.”
Australia describes Moore-Gilbert’s case as one of its highest priorities.
Moore-Gilbert has gone on hunger strikes during her time in custody and pleaded for the Australian government to do more to free her during almost two years in custody.
She wrote to Australia’s prime minister last year that she has been “subjected to grievous violations of my legal and human rights, including psychological torture and spending prolonged periods of time in solitary confinement.”