|Flag of the Assyrian Patriotic Party|
God helps those who kick ass
BAKUFA, Iraq (AP) — The flag of an Iraqi Christian minority party is hoisted high over the village of Bakufa in northern Iraq, less than a month after Islamic State militants were pushed out and the extremists' black banner was taken down.
The predominantly Christian Assyrian hamlet of 95 houses that once had about 500 people, located some 390 kilometers (243 miles) north of Baghdad, was overrun by the Islamic State group during its shocking blitz this summer, along with 22 other villages nearby.
In a counter-offensive, the Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga fighters swept in from the north, battling the Islamic State group house-to-house. The fighting forced the villagers to flee to Kurdish towns and cities elsewhere in northern Iraq.
Once Bakufa was retaken, the Kurdish fighters helped set up the village militia, made up of about 70 volunteers and known as Dwekh Nawsha, or "self-sacrifice" in Assyrian.
The men of Dwekh Nawsha now patrol Bakufa round-the-clock, in the hope that the village stays free long enough so their families can return.
A member of the Dwekh Nawasha stood guard on a building rooftop, next to the flag of the Assyrian Patriotic Party, during a recent visit by The Associated Press.
"We found ourselves helpless," said Caesar Jacob, a deputy of to the Christian militia's commander. The 44-year-old electrician said the militiamen worked "side-by-side" with the peshmerga fighters but then gradually took over responsibility for their village.
"We must depend on ourselves to defend our land for now and the future," Jacob told the AP.
The militia commander, Albert Kisso, 47, said Christian territories in what is Iraq's Nineveh province needed their own protection and the forming of the militia was the logical outcome.
The Assyrians, an indigenous Christian group in Iraq descendant from the ancient Mesopotamians, are a Semitic people who speak an eastern Aramaic dialect. Along with the Chaldeans, they make up the largest Christian group in Iraq.
Bakufa is also the site of the 200-year old St. Gorgiz Monastery, which Kisso describes as a tribute to the "elegance of the Mesopotamian civilization" of their ancestors.Read More . . . .