CINCINNATI (TDB) -- A federal appeals court in Ohio has rejected an asylum plea from an Iraqi Christian who said that members of his faith are persecuted by the Islamic majority. The court agreed with the Bush Administration that Samr Faik Hanona's fears could not be legally recognized.
"Even if Hamona could prove past persecution based on political or religious belief, the government has rebutted the presumption that Hamona has a well-founded fear of future persecution because of changed country conditiions in Iraq -- namely the overthrow of the government that had allegedly persecuted Hamona."
The ruling by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati said Iraq's Christians suffered under Saddam Hussein's dictatorship, but the new government has eliminated discrimination as official policy.
The ruling is based on immigration law, and seems tailored to be out of touch with the wider reality of conditions in Iraq. Last year, America's Catholic bishops said Christians persecution in Iraq "had reached a crisis point" and cited the crucifixion of a teenager in Albasra as among several atrocities. The Baghdad government has not been able to ensure safety in the countryside, and U.S. officials including Gen. David Petraeus, the U.S. commander in Iraq, have testified in Washington about the Al Maliki government's lack of effectiveness and shortcomings in areas of security.
The U.S Bishops and the Vatican have been protesting abuses of Christians in Iraq and said last October in a letter to Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice the attacks by islamists were deliberate. About half of Iraq's 1.2 million Christians have fled to refugee camps since the war began in 2003.
"The growing and deliberate targeting of Christians is an ominous sign of the breakdown in Iraqi society of civil order and interreligious respect and represents a grave violation of human rights and religious liberty," Bishp Thomas G. Wenski of Orlando told Rice.
And just last week, a Vatican representative assigned to Iraq's Chaldean Church said, "Nobody can deny that a real persecution of Christians in Iraq is taking place." Iraq's ambassador to the Vatican in July condemned "atrocities" which he acknowledged have taken place. Albert Edward Ismail Yelda told the SIR news agency that terrorists and extremists were responsible and "groups in collusion with and sustained by those who supported the former regime."
The full-text of the federal appeals court ruling is 10 pages long and is available here. It reads as if the three-judge panel was divorced from the current situation Christians face in Iraq, and brushes off concerns that have been raised around the world about the plight of Iraq's Christian community. Instead, the court said Hamona would have to prove that he was being targeted as an individual.
"To qualify as a refugee, Hanona must establish that he would be singled out for persecution. Countrywide anarchy is not a basis for claiming persecution."
"The evidence supported the conclusion that there was no specific threat of persecution directed towards Hanona personally. There was no evidence the new government is aware of his past association with ADM, or would persecute him if they are aware. Moreover, his predictions of 'persecution' against him are phrased in terms of harassment, being disgraced and being insulted, none of which rise to the level of persecution in the asylum context. The evidence supports the BIAs finding that the violence against Christians stems from the high level of violence in Iraq generally."