#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’

The senseless rise of religious fundamentalism

  
In recent past, more people have been killed in the name of religion than for any other thing in the world. Religion has become a symbol of death, terror and agony. Subsequently, a recent Pew Research “Changing U.S. Religious Landscape” shows the decline of religious affiliation in the United States. The study finds there are more adults who consider themselves ‘unaffiliated’ with any other form of religion than those who subscribe to a certain faith. This bludgeoning disaffection and disenchantment is partly the product of what we witness in the world around us – terror in the name of religion.

“Humanitarian crises fuelled by waves of terror, intimidation, and violence have engulfed an alarming number of countries over the past year”, maintains Commissioner Dr Katrina Lantos Swett of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).

In its 2015 annual report the USCIRF catalogues the horrors of religious led terror groups and their affiliates affecting millions of lives around the world. This axis of death and destruction of sheer human lives continues to haunt innocent children, women and men of all faiths around the world.

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Yezidi Task Force reports dramatic situation in refugee camps

PRESS RELEASE

Leader of the Central Council of Yezidis in Germany, Telim Tolan formed a task force with a delegation of doctors from the association “Kurdish Doctors in Germany” and a ZDF (German public TV station) camera team, travelling through the refugee camps in South Kurdistan since 18th August 2014. On behalf of the leading commission of Yezidi organizations, Tolan collects information on the current status in Northern Iraq.

YezidiAfter having seen touching but somewhat reassuring images in the Turkish part of Kurdistan, the task force moved on to South Kurdistan where they observed a dramatic change in the situation. Contrary to what is reported by some bigger media representatives or relief agencies, the situation in Northern Iraq is a disaster. Refugees with just enough food to stay alive and some form of shelter are considered lucky.
Telim Tolan continued his journey together with Kovan Khanki, Yezidi lectuerer at the University of Dohuk. On 20thAugust they arrived in Derebun, a village 10kms to the east of Zakho, currently accomodating 45,000 refugees. 40,000 of those are living in a camp that has already exhausted all its capacities. The other 5,000 are living on the streets. Deeply concerned about these suffering human beings, the task force moved on to Xanik where they saw another 65,000 refugees camping on the streets, in schools, and abandoned buildings or construction sights. The journey on the next day to Shariya, a small place with about 25,000 refugees could only yield a repetition of these images. Meetings with the refugees were intense and the stories they heard in every place were gruesome. Surely, Tolan and Khanki would have seen similar images in many other places of South Kurdistan.

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