Iraq Oil Report's Daily Brief compiles the most important news and analysis about Iraq from around the web.

Church bells to ring once more this Easter in Iraq

Imran Khan writes for Al Jazeera:

The Christian community in Iraq is said to be one of the oldest continuously existing communities in the world. They have had a presence in this land as far back as Mesopotamia.

In the last few years, the community has seen brutality and violence directed towards them.

Those who survived fled, and for the first time in its history, Mosul was left without Christians. This Easter, though, things have changed.

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Riyadh denies reports of crown prince visit to Iraq

AP reports:

Saudi Arabia’s ministry of foreign affairs says there is “no truth” to reports of an upcoming visit to Iraq by crown prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The statement released Saturday follows protests in Baghdad against the visit.

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Feline pampered: Basra moggies set paw in Iraq’s first cat hotel

AFP reports:

Cats in Iraq's southern city of Basra are purring with delight as the country's first feline hotel opens for guests.

In a part of the country where many struggle to make ends meet, a prime venue for cat naps may seem like a luxury.

Located above a vet's clinic, it provides a comfortable place for cats to play when the owners are away.

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Will Iraq be next to abolish controversial ‘marry your rapist’ law?

Heba Kanso writes for Reuters:

Iraqi women are ramping up pressure to abolish a law that lets rapists off the hook if they marry their victims, after Tunisia, Jordan and Lebanon scrapped similar articles last year.

Activists plan to demonstrate and use billboards to condemn the controversial law ahead of May parliamentary elections in the predominately Shi’ite Muslim, conservative society.

“We want to say to the Iraqi government - give women justice,” Rasha Khalid, a lawyer and member of Baghdad Women’s Association, a local rights group, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone from the capital.

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Iraqi Roma village school reopens 14 years after destruction

AFP reports:

Carrying her bag on the way home from class, Malak is glowing: the 10-year-old girl has just finished her first semester of school in her Iraqi Roma village.

In 2004, armed extremists attacked the village of Al Zuhour in Iraq's Diwaniya province, 200 kilometres south of Baghdad, destroying the only school for the marginalised Roma community.

"On television, I would see other children with school bags and they looked happy," Malak said. "I was a bit jealous because our school was destroyed years ago."

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One displaced family’s return to Mosul

Reuters reports:

For Mohammed Saleh Ahmed and his family, returning to Mosul after more than a year away was bittersweet.

He was happy to return to a semblance of his old life, but leaving behind the friends he’d made in the refugee camp where he’d lived for a year weighed on him.

Ever since Mohammed fled Mosul in March 2017, this community of friends and relatives - a group of like-minded survivors of the battle for Mosul - had made life bearable.

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Power-sharing deal could end dispute over Kirkuk elections

Omar Sattar writes for Al-Monitor:

For the first time since 2005, Kirkuk governorate in Iraq will hold elections Dec. 22 to select its local governing council. Parliament included the multiethnic province of the Kurds, Arabs and Turkmens in the provincial election law approved March 3.

The decision follows an agreement among the three groups' representatives in parliament and was greatly welcomed by all segments, especially the Kurds, who for years have demanded that elections be held in Kirkuk. Khalid al-Mafraji, an Arab parliament member from Kirkuk, told Al-Monitor that negotiations took more than a year.

The agreement binds the Independent High Electoral Commission to review voters' records in coordination with the ministries of Interior, Commerce, Planning and Health. If they aren't able to review the records before the elections, the commission will be obliged to undertake an audit within six months after the elected council begins its work.

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Violence Against Protesters and Journalists in Kurdistan Region Shows Blatant Disregard for Freedom of Expression in Iraq

Amnesty International reports:

Responding to eyewitness accounts of journalists and demonstrators being subjected to physical and verbal attacks by security forces in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq where there have been widespread anti-austerity protests since Sunday, Lynn Maalouf, Middle East Research Director at Amnesty International, said:

“Eyewitnesses we’ve interviewed, including a teacher and a journalist, have described scenes of chaos in Erbil and Dohuk as Kurdish security forces and armed individuals in civilian clothes used violence to disperse peaceful protests.

“Peaceful demonstrators have been beaten up and insulted. Journalists using cameras or mobile phones to document the protests have been attacked. This is totally unacceptable and a blatant attempt to clamp down on dissent.

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Where ISIL once thrived, beer, bingo and raki now prevail

Florian Neuhof writes for The National:

To some, Ayad Tarek's business could be seen as a personal form of revenge. A 27-year-old Yazidi, a religious minority persecuted by ISIL during its reign in northern Iraq, he moved to Mosul after the terror group was purged from the city, once their headquarters.

Though his small shop is inconspicuous, among trades such as as car mechanics and spare parts dealers, bottles of whisky are stacked behind Mr Tarek and beer cans are visible in tall fridges with glass doors. Selling alcohol is his plan to make enough money to establish another business in Germany, the country to which he once fled, but he is mindful that what he does would have been unthinkable under ISIL, and even frowned upon years earlier.

Mr Tarek is not alone in seeing opportunity in activity that ISIL would have killed people for.

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Rebuilding Mosul, Book by Book

Shawn Carrié and Pesha Magid write for The New York Review of Books:

Before the war, it was strange to see smoke in the sky.

Fahad Sabah looked out on the city from the roof of his home with a bad feeling in his stomach. He saw black, thick, heavy smoke rising over the river that bisects the city. He went down to the basement and pulled out a flat box about seventy-five centimeters wide. It contained his most prized possessions—a satellite dish, and a stack of books.

If anyone saw him, he’d likely have been executed in the public square.

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