#NeverAgain: Justice for Iraqi Christians is long overdue

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Photo Credit: Ewelina Ochab

By Ewelina Ochab

In November I visited Iraq where I met Iraqi Christian internally displaced persons living in Erbil. I met with a number of families from Mosul, Quaragosh, Karamless, and Bartallah that have fled Daesh. I also met with several NGOs helping Christians in the Middle East, including SOS Chretiens, a number of NGOs collecting the evidence of the Daesh atrocities, including Shlomo and Hammurabi Human Rights Organisations, and a number of religious leaders.  Lastly, I visited some of the liberated areas: Quaragosh, Karamless, and Bartallah.

After Daesh took over Ninevah Plains in August 2014, the Iraqi Christians have fled to Erbil and other parts of Kurdistan. Hundreds of Iraqi Christians have left the region for Jordan, Lebanon, and other countries. However, there are still many internally displaced Iraqi Christians living in Kurdistan. There are four camps for Iraqi Christians in Erbil. Families live there in small metal containers. They are provided with some humanitarian assistance. They are reasonably safe. However, many families continue to leave every day.

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        Photo Credit: Ewelina Ochab

Those who stayed the last two years and three months still hope that they would be able to go back to their homes. However, I have seen their homes in Ninevah Plains and it seems that they will not be able to return anytime soon. The three towns I managed to visit: Quaragosh, Bartallah, and Karamless are destroyed. Daesh looted one house after another without leaving any stone unturned. The houses, churches, schools, and shops are looted, burnt down, and some contractually damaged. In every church that I have visited: crosses are broken, the statutes of Jesus and Holly Mary are destroyed, Holly Bibles and books burnt (see: speakupagainstgenocide.wordpress.com/blog/) . These pictures from the recently liberated areas send one and very clear message – Daesh specifically intended to destroy Christianity in the area and everything that Christianity is associated with. This is genocide.

It’s been over four weeks since some of the towns in Ninevah Plains have been liberated, however, there is still a lot of work before people will be able to go back and start rebuilding their lives. The Ninevah Plains Units are checking houses for explosives and Daesh tunnels, and making the safe houses. Some of the houses destroyed by Daesh would need to be checked whether their construction is safe and sound for people to live in. The Daesh tunnels would have to be sealed off. The list of necessary works goes on.

However, Ninevah Plains needs more than only reconstruction of the towns.  The persecuted minorities in Ninevah Plains need a guarantee that the atrocities committed by Daesh will never happen again. They need a guarantee that they will be safe in their homes and will not have to flee in the middle of the night yet again. They also need justice. Recognising the atrocities committed against Christians, Yazidis, and other minorities in Syria and Iraq as genocide is the first step towards the adequate administration of justice, reconciliation, and healing. The Daesh fighters must be prosecuted for their crimes amounting to genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. The victims deserve justice and this justice is long overdue.

Ewelina Ochab serves as a legal counsel in Vienna, Austria for ADF International. Her interests include persecution of Christians worldwide, ISIS/Daesh genocide in Syria and Iraq, Boko Haram in West Africa and minorities in South Asia. She has presented reports in the United Nations Forum on Minority rights. Ewelina obtained a LL.B degree with honours at Kent university, UK and currently is She is a PhD candidate in International Law and Medical Ethics.  She also published a book on ISIS/Daesh genocide ‘Never Again: Legal Responses to a Broken Promise in the Middle East’

Scotland stands in Solidarity with Refugees

Impressions from “Glasgow sees Syria” on 12th September 2015

 

Glasgow stands up for Saudi blogger – Raif Badawi

Press Release for Immediate Use

The Glasgow based human rights organisation Global Minorities Alliance (GMA) has called on the Scottish Government for immediate intervention for the release of the imprisoned Saudi blogger, Raif Badawi.  
 
Mr Badawi has become an icon for the human right to freedom of expression after being imprisoned for posting his views on Islam on the website “Free Saudi Liberals”. The 31-year-old blogger was sentenced by Saudi authorities in May 2014 to 1,000 lashes, 10 years in prison and a major fine. Last week Mr Badawi was awarded with first Deutsche Welle Freedom of Speech award, among host of other awards conferred upon him from the world over.
 
A vigil in support of Mr Badawi’s release was held by local human rights activists which was also attended by  Anne McLaughlin MP, members Global Minorities Alliance, Amnesty International, the Scottish Secular Society as well as members of the wider public in Glasgow’s busy Buchanan Street at noon time on July 4 2015.
Vigil attendees call for release of Raif Badawi

Vigil attendees call for release of Raif Badawi

 
Anne McLaughlin, MP for Glasgow North East and SNP Spokesperson in Westminster for Civil Liberties supported  the vigil and termed Mr Badawi’s lashing as ‘torture’ since thousand lashes are to be carried out in 20 sets of 50 lashes to let wounds heal in between. She further expressed her concern over the lack of pressure towards the Saudi treatment of Mr Badawi and his supporters.
 
Global Minorities Alliance urged both International and local human rights organisations, activists and civil society to force a more robust response and to increase Saudi Government not only to halt the lashing but to release Mr Raif Badawi.
 
Encouraging the attendees of the vigil to uphold any effort to free Mr Badawi, Global Minorities Alliance vice-chairperson Shahid Khan said: 
 
“We believe that every human being has a fundamental right to express their opinion which is also enshrined in the United Nations Article 18. Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion’ and stressed that Saudia Arabai being a key member of United Nations must honour its UN treaties.”
 
“We as GMA defend the right of all persecuted and oppressed communities around the world and stand in solidarity with Raif Badawi and his family and all those voices around the world who have been advocating the freedom of Raif which has been denied to him because of his liberal views on Islam and call for his immediate release’
 
“Our thoughts are with Mr Badawi’s family that is facing this challenge with a hope in hearts and we continue to support Mr Badawi’s courageous wife, Ensaf Haider and her children at this difficult times of their lives”, said Mr Khan. 
 
Elham Manea, associate Professor of Political Science at Zurich University and an ardent supporter of Raif Badawi, said in a message to Global Minorities Alliance ahead of the vigil: 
 
“Raif Badawi is a symbol – a symbol for the right to freedoms of opinion and expression. The vigil sends a message to the world that these freedoms are not and should not be circumcised in the name of culture and religion. They are universal. Men and women are paying a high price all over the world in their own countries to guarantee these rights. The vigil sends out the message that these fights concern us all.”

 

 
The highlights of the vigil can been found on Global Minorities Alliance Facebook Page here https://goo.gl/Pon01d
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