A week ago, hundreds of Alqosh residents took to the streets (see our footage here) to protest the unlawful removal of the town’s mayor, Faiez Abed Jahwareh. Jahwareh was deposed just days earlier on July 16, 2017 by the head of the Nineveh Provincial Council, Bashar Al-Kiki. Al-Kiki, a member of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), exceeded his authority by removing Jahwareh and replacing him with a member of his party, Abdel Amin Omar.
The people of Alqosh were shocked and outraged by this sudden decision, and immediately rejected the appointment of Omar, demanding the reinstatement of the mayor they elected years prior. The story spread quickly across social media, reaching members of the global Assyrian community.
This isn’t the first time Jahwareh has been targeted. Back in 2014, as the threat of ISIS grew, the KDP attempted to depose and replace him. After they were met with fierce resistance from the town’s inhabitants, the decision was reversed.
But their sense of victory was short-lived. When ISIS entered the Nineveh Plain a couple months later, Kurdish peshmerga who were protecting the town fled, abandoning the population to genocidal violence. Alqosh’s residents were left with no choice but to flee, and the town was emptied of its people.
ISIS never entered Alqosh. It was the only town in the Nineveh Plain left untouched. But, with the threat of genocide looming just beyond the mountains, more than a year would pass before anyone dared to return.
Kurdish peshmerga have maintained a presence in Alqosh since the liberation of the Nineveh Plain began. They’ve raised a large Kurdish flag over the historic town, and have placed a sizeable portrait of Masoud Barzani at its entrance.
The village has slowly started to repopulate since the liberation of the Nineveh Plain began, and although ISIS has been defeated in Iraq, they hardly feel safe.
Not everyone has returned.
During last week’s protest, the residents of Alqosh appeared to challenge the KDP’s growing presence in the town, flying only Iraqi flags as they demanded their rights be respected. Among the protestors was a 103 year-old woman, holding a sign that read: Respect our free will.
Jahwareh’s removal is seen by the people of Alqosh as a direct attack on their free will and their right to govern their own town.
A petition was signed by Alqosh residents and delivered to the Nineveh Provincial Council. We launched an online petition via Change.org.
“I’m from Alqosh and I will not sit here and do nothing against intruders who try to take our village,” says Ranya H. who was born in Alqosh.
The response from the international community is ongoing: Activists have taken to social media to raise awareness using #StandwithAlqosh, and dozens of young Assyrians protested outside the KRG office in Stockholm, Sweden as well as in Sydney, Australia. The Chaldean Patriarchate has since denounced the mayor’s removal in an official statement.
With the future of the Nineveh Plain hanging in the balance, residents of the Nineveh Plain fear this is just the beginning. There is growing concern that the KDP’s next target will be beloved Mayor of Tel Keppe Basim Bello.
Still, the Nineveh Plain’s population remains resilient. “Alqosh belongs to its people. We hope the international
community will look at what is happening to us in our own lands,” says Jameel, a resident of Bakhdida, the largest town in the Nineveh Plain. “We will not be silenced.”
A handful of Assyrians from parts of northern Iraq joined in on the protests to show solidarity. They rushed into the town the night before protests began, believing Kurdish security forces would block the roads to Alqosh, as they did last year when Assyrians gathered in Erbil to protest land theft in Nahla.
Earlier today, the council appointed Lara Yousif, to the position, replacing Omar.
Yousif is an Alqosh resident adherent to the Chaldean Catholic Church and a member of the KDP. She previously ran for a Christian seat in the KRG Parliament but failed to earn popular support and lost. She has since accepted the position handed to her by the council, which many Alqosh residents consider a betrayal.
Protesters have vowed to keep fighting, despite the complete disregard of their will by the Nineveh Provincial Council and the silence of the international community. Their chants still ring in our ears, “Alqosh, our beloved mother, we will not let anyone take you.”
Check back with Roosh24 for the latest on Alqosh.