More than 120 properties that were unlawfully expropriated from Christians and Sabeans in Iraq will soon return to their rightful owners. The decision came thanks to the newly installed Committee for the Restitution of Christian and Sabaean Property and is supported by the Sadrist faction.
Asia News reports that the phenomenon of illegal theft of Christian homes and properties goes back to 2003. During the US-led campaign to oust Saddam Hussein from power Christians fled the country en masse, leading the Christian population to diminish by about one-third. Once their properties were left abandoned, groups called “land mafias” moved in to take over.
The land was stolen by “legal” means. That is, these “mafias” would falsify documents and claim possession of the properties in courts. In most cases, these tactics have resulted in Christian properties being expropriated and handed over to the thieves. It is unclear to what extent courtroom corruption factors in, or if this is a result of the rightful Christian owners not being present to argue.
On February 21, the committee reached the decision to return the properties in restitution. The properties in question included homes, businesses, factories, and open land. The report notes that they were restored before returning to their owners.
According to Fides, the decision was driven by proponents of the Sadrist movement, whose leaders took over after the Iraqi parliamentary elections in 2021. With their members holding 73 of 329 seats, pro-Iranian Shiite parties have lost some of their sway. The Sadrists claim a role as protector “of every weak person.” They have vowed to support minority communities in legal and social endeavors to rectify such injustices.
This move is expected to help Iraqi minorities, such as the Christians and Sabeans, attain a level of protection in a nation with a history of human rights abuses. It is also meant as an olive branch that may lead some of the Christians who fled since 2003 to return.