It was a terrifying time for all Christians and other non-Muslims in the ISIS-conquered areas of Iraq and Syria.
On June 2, 2014 we sent over 15,000 emails to politicians, to the UN, to other international organizations and to media all over the world. We wrote, among many other things, that we had contacts on the ground, both in Iraq and in Syria. That we could support foreign departments and foreign affairs editions with all the necessary on-site assistance to gather the facts of the unfolding reign of terror.
We had more than enough testimonies and expertise to have confidence in asking them to go and witness the violence against Christians and other non-Muslims. We knew that in the near future, it would develop into a full-scale genocide. We pleaded for help.
A few weeks before, ISIS, the terrorist organization had invaded Iraq’s second city of Mosul. The media was quiet about it. The focus was on Ukraine and Palestine that summer.
I had just returned home from a trip to Syria. Home to my mother, homemade food and some rest. I jumped into the shower when the phone started to ring hysterically. When I came out, mom asked if she should answer. I said no, I wasn’t in the mood for any conversation. The mobile continued to ring, but I muted the sound.
“But that’s someone from Syria or Iraq,” said Mom. Finally, I answered and heard explosions and gun shots. It was a young man who had been deported from Sweden. I had followed him since the time when a colleague and I did an investigation for the Swedish national radio in the summer of 2009. The investigation was about what happens to Assyrians / Syriacs / Chaldeans and other Christians who were forcibly deported from Sweden to Iraq.
Since the fall of Saddam Hussein, more than six years ago, a systematic ethnoreligious cleansing of non-Muslims had taken place in Iraq. But the Swedish Migration Agency didn’t consider it reason enough for them to stay in Sweden. Hundreds of churches had been destroyed, sometimes while services were taking place. Priests, monks, nuns and bishops had been kidnapped and slaughtered. On top of that, Christians were beheaded in front of the terrorists’ cameras because they refused to convert to Islam. The Iraqi government said they couldn’t protect Christians from the jihadists.
In autumn 2010, the American writer David Kushner and I released the novel “The Line in The Sand”. We had conducted over 200 interviews with Iraqis from different religions, professions and social positions. We chose fiction to tell the story of the ongoing horror, mainly to protect our sources, and to help their stories to reach more people.
In the book we warned of genocide. Four years later a full-scale genocide takes place.
Back to my night with my mother back in June 2014. I asked the young man in Mosul not to hang up and to describe everything he witnessed so that I could write it down and publish it. I also borrowed my mother’s phone and tried to reach others in Mosul. I wrote on social media and in a blog. There was no time to contact editors at such short notice. Several friends and others whom I had got to know during the struggle for my people’s survival fell on text messages, Facebook messages and emails. They asked how they could help.
A few hours later, we put out a call on Facebook. We asked for five people in each country who were good at social media to dedicate three hours of their lives to try to stop a genocide.
We organized ourselves in 19 countries, contributing to demonstrations held all over the world. We made people write to their governments and media.
But the response from the world leaders was almost zero.
We are all grandchildren of survivors of genocide, that of the Ottoman Empire in 1915 and later the massacre like that in Simeli in Iraq in 1933. We are also children of parents who fled the persecution. We have the fear in us, the panic that our own people can be slaughtered because of their faith and ethnicity.
We started as a social media campaign. To succeed in such a campaign, one would need a hashtag, a twitter account and a Facebook page. We chose the name A Demand For Action (ADFA) for our organization.
Meanwhile, ISIS painted the letter N for Nasrani (Christian) on house walls and shops in Mosul. They marked where Christians lived and worked. The murderous sect gave their victims four choices― convert to Islam, pay a religion tax (extortion money), flee or die. This was for the Christians. Yazidis were not even given that. They were given the choice either to convert or die.
In just a few days, Mosul, the motherland of Assyrians / Chaledean / Syriac people, The Nineveh Plains and Yazidi stronghold of Sinjar were emptied of hundreds of thousands of people who fled in panic, many of them barefoot. While the outside world was silent and indifferent to their plight, thousands were kidnapped and thousands again were killed in front of ISIS cameras.
This was the genocide that the perpetrators gleefully bragged about.
Our struggle continued, with our computers and our mobile phones as our only weapons. When world leaders could no longer pretend they were unaware of ISIS sadistic propaganda, conveyed by their own media, we eventually managed to gain some support.
But the betrayal was and is enormous. Just a few Google searches are enough to reveal the silence and betrayal towards the victims of yet another genocide. ADFA has co-produced four documentary films. One of them; Our Last Stand went on a world wide tour. The interview below with producer Helma Adde and myself is from ETWN and aired December 11th, 2015.
The history books of the future will not condone this.
*This article was first printed in the Swedish magazine Världen idag. Susan Korah and Ninos Özmen Patto contributed to the English version.