Thousands of Assyrian Christians fled their homes in northern Iraq when ISIS militants took control in August 2014.
Reuters reports: Several hundred Iraqi Christians flocked on Saturday to a northern town recently retaken from the Islamic State group, celebrating Christmas for the first time since 2013, their joy tainted with sadness over the desecration of their church.
“This is a dark cloud over Iraq. But we will stay here in our land no matter what happens. God is with us.”
— Bishop Shemani, Christmas Eve sermon in Bartella.
Once home to thousands of Assyrian Christians, Bartella emptied in August 2014 when it fell to ISIS’ blitz across large parts of Iraq and neighboring Syria. Iraqi forces took it back in the first few days of the U.S.-backed offensive that started in October.
Women holding candles ululated as they went into the town’s Mar Shimoni church, expressing their joy at returning to the place where many of them said they had been baptized.
“This is the best day of my life. Sometimes I thought it would never come,” said Shurook Tawfiq, a 32-year-old housewife displaced to the nearby Kurdish city of Erbil.
The church was badly damaged during ISIS’ time in control of the town, with crosses taken down, statues of saints defaced and the chancel burnt.
A new cross has been affixed on top of the chapel, while a decorated plastic Christmas tree now stands near the massive gate. Soldiers stood guard nearby and others were posted on rooftops.
A peal of festive bells rang out over the town, which is still largely empty, with many houses reduced to rubble by the fighting that raged two months ago.
“It is a mix of sadness and happiness,” Bishop Mussa Shemani told Reuters before celebrating the Christmas Eve Mass.
“We are sad to see what has been done to our holiest places by our own countrymen, but at the same time we are happy to celebrate the first Mass after two years.”
The region of Nineveh is one of the most ancient settlements of Christianity, going back nearly 2,000 years.
At Mar Shimoni, the congregation sang and prayed in Syriac, a language close to the one spoken by Jesus.
“It’s the church where I was baptized, where I was educated, where I was taught the faith,” said Bahnam Shamanny, the editor of Bartelli al-Syriann, a monthly local newspaper. Read the rest of this entry »
New Abedin Emails Reveal Hillary Clinton State Department Gave Special Access to Top Clinton Foundation DonorsPosted: August 22, 2016
Crown Prince of Bahrain Forced to Go Through Foundation to See Clinton, after Pledging $32 Million to Clinton Global Initiative.
Hollywood Executive Casey Wasserman, Slimfast Mogul Daniel Abraham, Controversial Appointee Rajiv Fernando also among Clinton Foundation Donors Granted Special Favors from Clinton State Department.
(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch today released 725 pages of new State Department documents, including previously unreleased email exchanges in which former Hillary Clinton’s top aide Huma Abedin provided influential Clinton Foundation donors special, expedited access to the secretary of state. In many instances, the preferential treatment provided to donors was at the specific request of Clinton Foundation executive Douglas Band.
The new documents included 20 Hillary Clinton email exchanges not previously turned over to the State Department, bringing the known total to date to 191 of new Clinton emails (not part of the 55,000 pages of emails that Clinton turned over to the State Department). These records further appear to contradict statements by Clinton that, “as far as she knew,” all of her government emails were turned over to the State Department.
The Abedin emails reveal that the longtime Clinton aide apparently served as a conduit between Clinton Foundation donors and Hillary Clinton while Clinton served as secretary of state. In more than a dozen email exchanges, Abedin provided expedited, direct access to Clinton for donors who had contributed from $25,000 to $10 million to the Clinton Foundation. In many instances, Clinton Foundation top executive Doug Band, who worked with the Foundation throughout Hillary Clinton’s tenure at State, coordinated closely with Abedin. In Abedin’s June deposition to Judicial Watch, she conceded that part of her job at the State Department was taking care of “Clinton family matters.”
Included among the Abedin-Band emails is an exchange revealing that when Crown Prince Salman of Bahrain requested a meeting with Secretary of State Clinton, he was forced to go through the Clinton Foundation for an appointment. Read the rest of this entry »
Obama administration’s stance on Iran and Syria could see US lose influence in the Middle East, Bahrain’s rulers warn
In an exclusive interview with The Telegraph, Sheikh Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa, the Crown Prince of Bahrain, warned that Barack Obama’s administration would lose influence in the region if it persisted with what a “transient and reactive” foreign policy.
There has been a sharp rise in tensions between Washington and several major Arab states in the wake of last month’s controversial interim agreement with Iran over its nuclear programme.
Citing President Obama’s handling of the recent crisis over Syria’s chemical weapons, which allowed Russian President Vladimir Putin to seize the initiative, Sheikh Salman said some states were now seriously reviewing their relations with the US.
“The Russians have proved they are reliable friends,” said Sheikh Salman, referring to Mr Putin’s diplomatic intervention to prevent Western military action against Bashar al-Assad.