Iraqi Christian property rights debate heats up between Chaldean Patriarchate and Babylon Movement

BAGHDAD — The question of Christian property in Iraq has become a topic of heated debate between the Chaldean Patriarchate and the Babylon Movement following accusations made by Iraqi media outlets about the sale of property belonging to Iraqi Christians.

Ostensibly a Chaldean Catholic political movement, in truth, the Babylon Movement is a fringe faction that chiefly represents the personal interests of Rayan al-Kildani instead of the Christian population. Backed by Iran, the group has strong connections to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and the Badr Organization. Its military wing, the Babylon Brigades (also called Brigade 50), was created by Kata’ib al-Imam Ali, which is under Iranian control. Despite advertising itself as a Chaldean Catholic and Christian unit, the organization consists mainly of Shia Arab and Shabak troops.

The Chaldean Patriarchate issued a statement denying that the property in question was sold by the rightful owners and pointed to a report by Khaleej Online which highlighted the reality of Christian-owned properties being seized by militias in various Iraqi governorates.

According to the report, Chaldean Christians had complained about the illegal sale of 14 properties since 2015, which were referred to the appropriate security authorities in Baghdad.

The Patriarchate also referred to its report titled “A Christian Seizes the Homes of Baghdad Christians … Who is he?” which identified Rayan al-Kildani, the leader of the Babylon Movement, as the person leading the transfer of properties after falsifying documents for the militias.

Representative Hakim al-Zamili corroborated these claims in a press conference in February 2015, stating that, “there is some data that confirms that one of the members of the Popular Mobilization Forces, who is a member of the Christian component and claims to belong to the Popular Mobilization Forces, is carrying out property seizures.” Al-Zamili requested an investigation be launched to reduce the seizure of property belonging to Christians and other minority components.

While the issue of Christian property ownership in Iraq is complex, it is vital that all parties involved act in good faith to protect the interests of Iraqi Christians and their right to own property.