Schools in the Nineveh Plain, Iraq are open for the first time since so-called Islamic State (IS) militants occupied the area. Twelve-year-old aspiring teacher, Noeh is pleased to be back at school and is doing well despite the lack of teachers and resources.
Noeh, 12, said, “I like school. I like my school in particular. My best subject is Arabic language. I also like to play football with my friends at school. I want to be a teacher here so I can teach children about life.”
“Noeh is a smart student and he’s doing well in his exams at school,” said his mother, Almas. “Last time he got 13 out of 15 on one of these tests. I am very happy for that and I thank God.”
As with many other schools in the Nineveh Plain, Karamles’ secondary school lacks teachers. Some left the country or moved away, while others retired. For three subjects Noeh and his classmates have no teacher so other teachers try to cover the subject. But it’s not always possible. “Because the lack of teachers, the daily hours at school are not fixed,” said Almas. “Sometimes Noeh returns home at 11:00 am, sometimes at 12:30 pm.”
The classes are also smaller than they were before IS devastated the village. “My friend, Youssif used to sit behind me. But he fled to another country,” said Noeh.
Noeh visited his school, earlier this year, after Karamles was liberated from IS. But he dared not go in to the classroom in case the militants had laid any traps. “I can’t walk into my class or sit in my seat because there might be bombs,” he said.
The school in Karamles has since been repaired. The broken windows were replaced and the classrooms cleaned and repainted.
Noeh was just nine years old when he fled IS militants in 2014. He left his home in Karamles in the Nineveh Plains and fled to Erbil. When the village was liberated, Noeh’s family were among the first ten families to return home. They returned to find their house badly burnt and all their things gone. The family is currently living in Noeh’s aunt’s house until their house is inhabitable again. Noeh’s aunt has fled the country.
In December Noeh will travel to New York to present the Hope for the Middle East petition to the UN. The petition calls on world governments and leaders to ensure that every person in the Middle East, no matter their faith, has a home, a future and a voice. The petition currently has over 657,000 signatures from 143 countries including Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Iraq and even one signature from North Korea. People have until 8 December to sign the petition and speak out for Noeh.
Iraq is number 7 on the 2017 Open Doors World Watch List. Iraq was once home to one of the largest Christian communities in the Middle East; today, the church in Iraq is in danger of disappearing completely. The IS militants have forced thousands of Christians to flee their homes. Even in areas of Iraq that aren't controlled by IS, Sharia is the basis of the law and Muslims are forbidden from leaving Islam.
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Open Doors UK & Ireland is part of Open Doors International, a global NGO network which has supported and strengthened persecuted Christians in over 60 countries for over 60 years. Last year it raised approximately $70 million to provide practical support to persecuted Christians such as food, medicines, trauma care, legal assistance, safe houses and schools, as well as spiritual support through Christian literature, training and resources. Open Doors UK & Ireland raised over £11 million.
Every year Open Doors publishes the World Watch List – a ranking of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian. This is produced using detailed information provided by Open Doors co-workers in more than 60 countries, as well as independent experts. Data is gathered on five spheres of life - private, family, community, national and church life – plus a sixth sphere measuring the degree of violence impacting Christians. Persecution in each country is recorded by Open Doors using a point system. Open Doors' research methods and results have been independently audited by the International Institute for Religious Freedom. The 2017 World Watch List accounts for the 12 months ending 31 October 2016.