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Kurdish government penalises Christians with extra tax

Middle East and North Africa

Kurdish government penalises Christians with extra tax

Protest against discriminatory decree in Ankawa. Photo credit: Facebook

Christians businesses are are being discriminated against by the Kurdish Regional government by being charged an extra tax.

A decree last month by the government means that shops and businesses in Ankawa, a predominantly Christian neighbourhood of Erbil in Iraq, must pay extra fees when they renew business licences.

Ankawa Today, a local news site, stated that jizya (a tax imposed on non-Muslims) was being “exclusively imposed by the Kurdish government on the people of Ankawa and not the other Kurdish towns.”

The tax is also being levied on Semel, another Christian-majority town, and is, “clearly discriminatory against Christians,” according to the news site.

One Christian resident told the Assyrian Policy Institute, “The application process is now much longer and unnecessary … I spoke to my attorney this morning and he said he’s already heard that the officials at the Erbil Centre District expect bribes in exchange for processing.”

Christian residents and business owners claim they are also charged ten percent tax when they sell their properties, compared with only six percent in other towns, and say they face other discrimination including harassment by the KDP political police.

According to a recent report Christians in Shaqlawa, 32 miles from Ankawa,  live with the daily threat of Muslim violence. Shaqlawa was a Christian-majority town until the 1960s but today there are only 200 Christian families and around 10,000 Muslim ones.