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REX/Gail Orenstein/NurPhoto
UK News

Iraqi Christian refugee "I don't think there's a chance to go back to Mosul"

by Hannah Tooley

Sarmad Ozan told them his family could not afford to leave their city but that the 20-year-old had to flee Mosul in northern Iraq after it was seized by Islamic State (IS) in the summer of 2014.

He now lives in the UK and has been speaking at the Scottish Youth Rally in Carfin Lourdes Grotto.

"One day we woke up and noticed a letter "N" is marked above all our doors which stands for Nazareans, signifying the house within are Christians," he said.

"In addition, a marking stating 'This is now the property of ISIS'.

"We were all terrified and then as we walked around the city, we saw that it was barricaded and surrounded by ISIS military.

"At that moment I thought I was going to die, therefore I rushed back home warning my family to stay inside and explained the situation."

His family fled to Erbil, where he said "we had no change of clothes and our shoes were ripped and stuck in our feet as we walked a long distance in them.

"And all the families slept on the pavements before finding a local church of Erbil, where we finally washed, ate and slept indoors."

"As the number of families were quite high, the church could not have everyone inside, as there wasn't enough space.

"Therefore tents were made outside the church, where during the winter it would be freezing but we knew we had no other option.

"Even though we were in a safer place as some people think, Erbil being a majority Muslim city, made all the Christians, including us feel unwelcomed."

Sarmad's family were given three options:

1. Convert to Islam and stay in the house

2. To pay a high tax called al-Jeziya, a fee Christians must pay

3. Leave the city within 24 hours without taking any belongings

If orders were not followed families were threatened and told they will be brought out in public and beheaded

Sarmad finished by saying: "In Scotland, there are many Christian Arabs who have a similar story to mine."

"I thank God today, I am here and safe to be able to share my story with you."

Event organiser Lorraine McMahon from Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) said: "ACN Scotland is very excited to be holding our second youth rally.

"The rally is an opportunity for the youth of this country to stand up and be counted and say we will not sit back as Daesh eradicates Christianity and other minority groups from the Middle East."

A petition is being put forward to the government after the discussion.

It reads: "We call on the Scottish Government to stand with ACN Scotland in promoting religious freedom around the world through: 1) Prayer 2) Solidarity and 3) Inter-faith dialogue."

The former Engineering student Sarmad Ozan told Premier that he does not think it will ever be able to return to his home country ever again. 

He said: "I don't think there's a chance to go back to Mosul, even our neighbours who're Muslim are supporting ISIS [another name for Islamic State], there would not like to have us inside Mosul again.

"And they took all our properties, so our properties became the property of the Islamic State."

He told Premier they put their faith in God and thought: "We have Jesus Christ to help us, we'll be alright.

"That's how he helped us to get out of Mosul and no one killed us."

He went on to say he hopes that: "The people here will help the people in the Middle East and Iraq."

Sarmad Ozan "People don't have food now and they're starving.

"Even when I was in Erbil I slept some days on the pavement, so that's what's happening to people there."

He urged Christians to help support charities working in the region: "We need to help the charities to help them [the people] in Iraq."

Listen to Premier's Hannah Tooley speak to Sarmad Ozan here:

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