A call to action on the brutal religious & ethnic cleansing in the Middle East / By Nuri Kino

TODAY’S MESOP QUOTATION : The persecution of Christians is no attention for Muslims –

but least of all to Christians in the West

It’s June 26, almost midnight and I have just spoken to the family of one of the six Christian girls (Armenian and Assyrian) who were kidnapped in Aleppo. After several attempts I managed to get in touch with one of the girls’ mother. Her daughter had disappeared 24 hours earlier, and when we spoke she had only been able to reach her daughter’s mobile phone, and a male voice at the other end.

“Your daughter is alive and well. Congratulations, tomorrow she will be initiated to the True Faith and honoured by wedding one of our sons. Praise Allah.”

I need a break from Syria and Iraq. From war, misery, oppression, blood, cruelty and death. But there is no way that can happen — I get minute-to-minute updates on what goes on outside the sleepy bubble of Sweden, and that’s where both my brain and my heart is, around the clock. I read my email. Yet another mail from a Swedish organization that wants me to come and talk about diversity. They also want me to talk about newly arrived refugees, in the spirit of positivity. I receive a new text message on my phone, from a Turkish friend. It reads “check your Facebook messages, I have sent you a video. It’s images of the mass exodus in the Assyrian city of Qarakosh. 40-50,000 people fleeing in panic. Traffic is chaotic. Thousands of cars, fully loaded with luggage, each car carrying at least seven passengers. Others who are not lucky enough to get a seat are running between the cars, carrying children in their arms as seniors are standing, shaking at the road side. I frantically call to my contact and get a hold of Yousef.

    “They’re coming, they’re coming. I heard a woman yelling ‘they’re here’ as she ran from her home. I heard similar screams for others. The town’s twelve church bells rang as a warning. I crammed the car with nine people and drove off. We heard bombs and gunfire in the distance. We are now in Erbil, but not everyone managed to get out.”

I’m shaking with anger, shedding tears of powerlessness. This is my people, my story and my legacy. It’s happening now. My maternal grandparents survived the Armenian, Assyrian and Pontic-Greek genocide, Seyfo, in the Ottoman Empire about a hundred years ago. My grandmother, the sole survivor of a large extended family, was found in a well full of dead bodies. Just a few months ago I spoke with a woman whose entire family was found in a well in a village in Syria. My grandmother was abducted and forced to live as a Muslim for many years, until one day she was recognized by someone who risked life and limb to return her to what little was left of her family. The woman in Syria I spoke to, whose family was found in a well, is now kidnapped, forcibly converted and who knows what else. No one even knows if she’s alive.

My grandparents’ story does not differ much from the stories I now hear from Syria and Iraq, and what is going on there can quickly spread to include Jordan and Lebanon. Christians and other minorities are being oppressed, persecuted, harassed and killed. Why? Because they were born into religious minorities. Rape, kidnapping and murder is part of their everyday life now. People keep pointing out to me that atrocities do not just happen to Christians; that people of all faiths are fleeing fundamentalism. It’s true, but it doesn’t make the atrocities against those with the “wrong” faith any less appalling.

A lot of things are happening at once, including religious and ethnic cleansing in Iraq. So how long will the world bury its head in the sand and pretend that this is not happening, perhaps out of fear of being labeled Islamophobic?

As news coverage focuses on the Shia and Sunni conflict, behind the scenes a cleansing of religious minorities in full swing. It started more than a hundred years ago, when over two million Christians and Yazidians were slaughtered, and continues to this day. Since the fall of Saddam Hussein more than 70 churches have been under attack in Iraq alone and more than half of Christian Iraqis have fled the country. Mandaeans, another ethnoreligious group, are almost non-existent.

Now we are seeing the same things happening in Syria where city after city is being emptied of its Assyrian and other non-Muslim inhabitants. I have launched an international campaign through which we will get the victim’s voices heard. July 2nd marks the start of a cause that spans across thirteen countries.

We demand that the surrounding world provide sanctuary for Assyrians and other non-Muslim minorities in Iraq and Syria. Our cause states that no politician, civil servants of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs or editorial staff of a news agency can ever say that they did not know, and therefore did not act.

There is a systematic ethno-religious cleansing happening in parts of the Islamic world. We have information and we have facts. We are in continuous contact with the victims of this persecution. We are even in contact with the perpetrators, leaders of groups such as ISIS and other groups, who truly believe that enforced Sharia law is the future of this world — including European countries.

Nuri Kino – Freelance journalist, Author and Middle East expert