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Iraqi Court Orders Christian Mother and Children to Convert to Islam Amid Controversy

June 11, 2024




In a decision sparking international outcry, an Iraqi court has mandated that Elvin Joseph, a Christian mother, and her three children, convert to Islam. The ruling hinges on Iraq’s Personal Status Law, which stipulates that children must adopt Islam if one of their parents converts to the religion.

Joseph, residing in Duhok within the Kurdistan Region, was drawn into this legal quagmire following her mother’s conversion to Islam after divorcing and remarrying a Muslim man. This revelation put Joseph in direct conflict with the law despite her strong Christian identity.

“I am Christian,” Joseph emphasized in an interview with Rudaw Media Network. “I am married to a Christian man. I have three Christian kids. My education was in our language. All my official documents are Christian. Our marriage is registered by the church.”

Nevertheless, the 1959 law’s rigid interpretation forces Joseph and her children to convert, as reiterated by the U.S.-based persecution watchdog, International Christian Concern. This law not only impacts their religious identity but also carries significant implications for marital, inheritance, and custodial rights under Sharia law, posing legal hurdles for Joseph in maintaining her marriage with her Christian husband.

Joseph’s husband, Sami Patros, recounted their distressing experience at the National Identity Card Office. “They said your mother-in-law had converted to Islam and, therefore, they said your wife should become Muslim too. This also applies to my children; their religion should be changed from Christianity to Islam,” Patros disclosed.

The case has garnered attention from Akram Mikhail, a lawyer experienced in defending Christian families. “This forces someone to convert to Islam, with force. I am not an expert in Islam, but it is in Islam that one cannot force the religion onto others,” Mikhail stated.

The issue took center stage at a recent conference at the Catholic University in Erbil, attended by key figures, including Kurdistan Region President Nechirvan Barzani. The conference, addressing the ramifications of the Personal Status Law, saw a significant turnout from the Christian community across the Middle East. Speakers like Khaldun Saelayte from Jordan and Mohammed Nuqal from Lebanon highlighted the disparities in religious laws affecting Christians in Iraq compared to neighboring countries where Christians are governed by their own personal status laws.

The conference concluded with a series of recommendations, urging Christian leaders to draft proposed reforms to the Personal Status Law to safeguard their community’s rights.

This ruling has not only stirred controversy but also intensified the call for legal reforms to protect religious minorities in Iraq, ensuring their freedom of religion and equality before the law.


Credit: The Christian Post

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