It is error alone which needs the support of government. Truth can stand by itself. -- Thomas Jefferson

Thursday, October 22, 2015

A Future for Minorities in the Middle East?

The Arabic letter "n" (inside red circle), signifying "Nasrani" (Christian), on an Assyrian home in Mosul.


The following excerpts are from AINA.org:

(AINA) -- Consider this imaginary situation. Hundreds of British citizens are kidnapped while travelling in the Middle East by a Muslim jihadi militia. The kidnappers hold the victims in an unknown and lawless location in a failed state and demand a ransom of one million dollars per person for their release. When no ransom is forthcoming, the kidnappers take three males, dress them in orange jumpsuits, make them kneel and, after they say their names, they are shot in the back of the head while being filmed. The kidnappers then threaten to similarly execute the remaining captives if the ransom is not paid.
Consider another imaginary scenario. Some 5000 American women and girls are kidnapped by the same Muslim jihadi militia. They are turned into sex slaves, servicing the jihadi soldiers who consider the whole process to be an act of worship of their God. The women are sold for a few dollars in open markets and are subjected to an ongoing nightmare of exploitation, humiliation and terror.

If both of the above imaginary situations came to pass, it is highly likely that the British and American governments would bring the full force of their military power to bear on the perpetrators of such mediaeval barbarism. And they would be right to act in the interests of their citizens in this way, providing the protection that governments should provide to their own.

The subtext in the above scenarios is that in fact the situations described are going on as we speak. The hundreds of citizens who have been put up for ransom, with some being killed on camera, are not British but rather Assyrians, kidnapped in February from dozens of predominantly Christian towns and villages in the Khabur river valley in northern Syria. The exorbitant ransom demanded is far beyond the financial capacity of the local Assyrian community.

The thousands of women and girls, some pre-pubescent, serving as sex slaves are not Americans but mostly non-Muslim Yazidis, kidnapped in Sinjar in northern Iraq late last year. Some Christian women are also being held in the same manner. The perpetrators are, of course, the soldiers and leaders of the Islamic State, who have established rules of trade that include allowing an individual jihadi to purchase up to three female concubines. The captured woman are reportedly considered by their captors to have become Muslim if they are raped by ten ISIS fighters.

The significant difference between the above imaginary situations and the reality is that neither Assyrians nor Yazidis are citizens of powerful nations. Those currently held in captivity cannot hope for their armed compatriots to come to their rescue. In such a context, their nightmare must be even darker and full of greater despair, enveloped within a sense of absolute hopelessness. It is little wonder that a number of the Yazidi women are committing suicide, according to reports provided by some lucky women who have escaped their captors.

And as these appalling situations continue day after day, leaders of the powerful nations do express concern and meet to confer about ways of gradually "degrading" the capacity of the Islamic State. A group of nine nations led by the USA have been conducting bombing raids from the air on Islamic State targets since August 2014, with mixed results. But while the discussions and the bombing raids take place, days become months and months become years, and the Assyrian and Yazidi hostages remain in their situations of terror, with little hope of rescue.

Two thoughts come to mind. Firstly, the great nations of the world that are mulling over ways of dealing with the Islamic State in a step-by-step fashion would do well to act as if the kidnapped hostages are indeed British and American. Images of British citizens being executed on mass and American women being sold at sex-slave markets may well succeed in breaking the paralysis that has beset Western action over the problem of the Islamic State.

Second, the tragic situation raises the issue of the future viability of religious minorities in the Middle East. The best solution would probably be for Assyrians and Yazidis to migrate to the West. Many will do this, but many will remain in their ancestral homelands.


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A Future for Minorities in the Middle East?


Assyrians Largely Ignored By U.S. and Other Western Officials



The following excerpts are from AINA.org:

Someone should tell ISIS: The orange jumpsuits no longer draw the world's attention as they did a year ago when American journalist James Foley became one of the terror group's first victims to be executed on camera wearing one.
In early October, three men crouched in sand wearing the orange one-piece outfits--all Assyrian Christians from northeastern Syria. They were shown being shot in the head and killed in a video released by ISIS. Those living in the United States most likely didn't see the one-minute video clip. A few Arabic-language media outlets carried reports of the latest filmed execution and some showed the video, but in the United States no news outlets televised it, and only a few reported it at all.

Yet the footage is the first from ISIS, or Islamic State, of Syrian Christians being executed. It also carried threats of further killings against hundreds of Assyrian Christians who have been held hostage for months, according to the Assyrian Monitor for Human Rights.

With the camera rolling and a brisk wind flapping their sleeves, the three men kneeling in the sand said they were "Nasrani," a Muslim pejorative for Christians. They recited their names and hometowns: Ashur Abraha of Tel Tamar, Basam Essa Michael of Tel Shamiram, and Dr. Abdulmasih Enwiya of Jazira. Two gave their dates of birth. Three men wearing desert camouflage and black masks next stepped behind them, each raising a handgun to shoot each of the three Christians in the head. The victims' bodies slumped forward, and seconds later three more men appeared kneeling behind the dead men, the executioners pointing guns at their heads also.

As with the first segment, each hostage recited his name and hometown, but one of them--in what looks like a scripted gesture--pointed to the bodies on the ground and said, "Our fate is the same as these if you do not take proper procedure for our release." With that, the video ended.

The three killed and the three apparently left alive all are confirmed part of a group of 250 Assyrians abducted in February after Islamic State attacked about 35 villages along the Khabur River in Hasakah Province. ISIS killed at least 15 young Assyrian Christians in the attacks as they tried to protect the towns, and militants rounded up hundreds and took them hostage in the overnight raids--leaving 1,400 Assyrian families unable to return to their homes (see "One family's night flight from ISIS," March 5, 2015). ISIS released several dozen captives, mostly elderly, leaving about 180 still held.

At that time, church leaders reported American aircraft flew over the area but took no action.


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Assyrians Largely Ignored By U.S. and Other Western Officials


U.S. to Iraq: If Russia Helps You Fight ISIS, We Can't

The following excerpts are from AINA.org:

The U.S. has told Iraq's leaders they must choose between ongoing American support in the battle against militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and asking the Russians to intervene instead.

Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Tuesday that the Iraqis had promised they would not request any Russian airstrikes or support for the fight against ISIS.

Shortly after leaving Baghdad, Dunford told reporters traveling with him that he had laid out a choice when he met with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and Defense Minister Khaled al-Obeidi earlier Tuesday.

"I said it would make it very difficult for us to be able to provide the kind of support you need if the Russians were here conducting operations as well," Dunford said. "We can't conduct operations if the Russians were operating in Iraq right now."

He said there was "angst" in the U.S. when reports surfaced that al-Abadi had said he would welcome Russian airstrikes in Iraq. The U.S., Dunford said, "can't have a relationship right now with Russia in the context of Iraq."

The ultimatum to Iraq comes as the U.S. grapples with Russia's dramatically increased role in the war in Syria, just to the west of Iraq.

In Syria, President Vladimir Putin has essentially rescued his close ally, President Bashar Assad, from opposition forces that had been inching closer to his seat of power prior to the beginning of Russian airstrikes at the end of September.

Russia's intervention was not telegraphed beforehand to the U.S., and while Moscow first insisted its primary target was ISIS in Syria, it became apparent immediately that the Russian planes were targeting other opposition groups more in a clear effort to shore up Assad's beleaguered forces.

The choice given to Abadi in Iraq by Dunford on Tuesday is a clear indication that the U.S. is not willing to compete with Russia for airspace over two neighboring countries deeply intertwined in the same convoluted war.

The U.S. and Russia put into practice new rules on Tuesday designed to minimize the risk of air collisions between military aircraft over Syria.

Reuters reports that the U.S. ultimatum to Iraq puts Abadi in a difficult position, as his own country's ruling political alliance and some powerful Shiite groups have been pushing him to request Russian air support.

The news agency said a proposal to request Russian strikes had been put to Abadi last week, but that he was yet to respond.


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U.S. to Iraq: If Russia Helps You Fight ISIS, We Can't