Los Angeles. I’m in the United States to create awareness of the religious and ethnic cleansing minorities are facing in the Middle East. Ten days ago I had no problem to call editors and convince them of publishing reports about Assyrians and other non-Muslim minorities in Iraq. This has changed. The crises in Ukraine and Gaza has taken much attention in the media.
Meanwhile, ISIS continues to use weapons they sold in Iraq to increase their power in Syria and built up their Caliphate.
Deceptively, ISIS vowed to treat non-Muslims justly, but they have reverted to persecution.
Ultimatum letters were distributed by ISIS in Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq, in an effort to make Christians flee the city. The flyers read, “Convert, Pay Taxes or Die”. The christians have been identified with the scarlet letter, “N”, painted outside of their houses. The “N” stands for Nasaret, Jesus’s homeland.
ISIS has no mercy and will kill anyone who does not comply with their orders or new laws; as supported and exemplified by their actions of killing eleven Sunni-Muslim mullahs. A teacher in Mosul who a couple of years ago applied to asylum in Sweden but was rejected and forcibly deported back to Mosul:
“ISIS are Sunni-Muslims but they have their own way of interpreting the Quran and want to control the entire Middle East region. They will demand you to give them your wives, daughters, mothers and sisters to become their sex objectes, also known as Jihad al-Nikah. Basically, it’s either their way or they’ll assassinate you.”
I have received a picture of one of the doors painted with the letter N, and a copy of the ultimatum letter. But in order to verify the atrocities, with the help of Allen Kakony, photojournalist based in Erbil in Kurdistan, I was able to interview a refugee from Mosul, “Eli Youhana”.
“Yesterday, we received a flyer from ISIS telling us to leave the city by Friday afternoon.”
Youhana and his family were unable to bring any of their personal belongings since it was now proclaimed as the possession of the ISIS.
As Youhana and his family packed and started their escape they were stopped at one of the ISIS check points on Shalalat Street. This is where they were forced to exit the car while the militants inspected their ID’s. Youhana:
“They confiscated our personal belongings, money, watches, necklaces and our cell phones before allowing us to cross to the region of Kurdistan.”
Although tired and very emotional, when asked for more details, he continued:
”The deadline for the remainder of The Christian families in Mosul is today, Saturday, July 19, 2014 at noon. After that ISIS will force those of us who might be left in Mosul to convert to Islam or pay a tax. Otherwise, they will be killed. Before this, ISIS took over our homes, all Christian homes in the city of Mosul a few days ago and they painted on the walls of those houses “Islamic government properties” and the letter “N” in Arabic which is the first letter of the word Nasrani or Christian signifying that the owner of this house is Christian. Please, God have mercy on us.”
Meanwhile, in Syria ISIS took over Deir Ezzor on the Euphrates river and killed the Jabhat al-Nusrat leader. ISIS is in competition with everyone about the opposition of President Bashar al-Assad. No matter what faith or ethnicity you have they’ll come after you. In the northern part of Syria ISIS is fighting Kurds, in other parts of the country they struggle against other Sunni-Muslims, Christians, Alawites and Drus. They want to built their Caliphate, Islamic State, and everyone who doesn’t comply is an enemy. Several cities, like the Assyrian Raqqa, are forcefully abandoned by their non-Muslim population.
In the middle of all this a small non-profit organization, Assyrian Medical Society, is flying children from Iraq and Syria to United States to provide them with the urgent medical care needed.
I went to see the chairman Albert Davidoo. But I hardly had a chance to talk to him. He’s busy finding new wounded children and then doctors that can treat them.
”I’m devastated, I just spoke to one of the kids that was given a surgery here in LA and then flew back to Nineveh. My God, what will happen to all these people?”
He has a hard time coping with everything. He is constantly in touch with the children that already received Assyrian Medical Society’s help, after the treatment they are sent back to their home countries. Most of them are from Nineveh Plains in Iraq, just outside of Mosul.
”I feel for these children, I want to know how they are after they left, I just can’t let go. And now with all these threats, who can sleep, who can work?”
While we’re talking one of his phones rings again. He picks it up. He signals me that it’s one of the kids in Iraq, one of those that had a surgery and was sent back. Her name is ”Meryem Yakup”, 15 years, she had a surgery April 2013 at Shriners hospital in Los Angeles. Now she’s back in Bartille in the Nineveh Plains, one of the most vulnerable places on earth right now. He puts her on speaker.
She sounds sad and desperate. She tells Davidoo that things are getting really hard and that they don’t dare to go to sleep because things can change very fast. ISIS can invade her village any day and they will face the same atrocities as in Mosul.
”We have fled from our houses and came back several times. Soon, we will be forced to give up our home and just let them take it; better than getting killed. My dad is nervous and about to have a breakdown, he is afraid that we, his four daughters, will be kidnapped and forcibly converted to Islam.”
When they hang up, Davidoo looks out of his office window in San Fernando Valley in Encino, Los Angeles.
”I feel so guily, I should never send them back to Nineveh, but I had to, that’s an agreement with the government. You know, it feels surreal, as if I’m watching a movie, but it’s for real. These people must be saved, a Safe Haven for Assyrians must be reality yesterday, now, not tomorrow. What is UN waiting for?”