Last week began badly and kept getting worse.
I wanted to take at least one day off from the genocide, I needed some rest from all the heinousness. But then, early last Monday morning, I got a Facebook message from Esho Nona Esho, from our A Demand For Action team in Iraq, asking me to call him urgently. A three year old girl had been kidnapped by the Islamic State. I was put in contact with someone close to the parents. The mother was crying and couldn’t go on, so someone else finished her story.
“They stopped the bus my family was travelling in and pulled Kristina out of my arms, pointing a knife to her throat and ordering us to continue without her.”
My friend went on giving a voice to the Kristina’s mother.
“I begged on my knees for them to return Kristina. He threatened to slit her throat - to kill her and the whole family if they didn’t travel on.”
A few minutes later a photograph of three-year old Kristina was published on ankawa.com. Here is an interview with the mother conducted by the British International Institute.
A few hours after my conversations about Kristina, I went out for a long walk around Årsta Bay in Stockholm to catch my breath. One of Stockholm’s most beautiful walks with a perfect mix of sunshine, clean fresh air and lively music in my ears. And people catching some sun, clueless of what went on in my head. A Turkish colleague interrupted my pleasure: he informed me that the Islamic State was intensifying their recruiting efforts in Turkey. He wanted to send me some photographs.
I hoped that Wednesday would be more of a normal European day. And it was - until the afternoon. I received a message on Facebook again:
“A city in Syria, inhabited entirely by Christians, is under siege by terrorists.”
The 20,000 inhabitants of the Syrian city of Mhardeh are trapped by Islamists. It is unclear whether the terrorists belong to IS or the al-Nusra brigade. Some 1500 Mhardeans had armed themselves prior to this onslaught, but fear they will be unable to withstand the much better equipped Islamists, who also employ the most destructive weapon of all: themselves as suicide bombers. Around 3pm local time I managed to get in touch with abu-Fahid who heads Mhardeh’s Christian Assyrian/Chaldean/Syriac militia.
”We need all the help we can possibly get! Women, children, we have armed them all and we will fight till the last drop of blood. We know they will kill us anyway. We plead to the international community, we plead to president Bashar al-Assad to come to our rescue before it is too late. They already started bombing us hours ago. We need arms.”
The line was cut.
A while later someone else answered on the same line. It was abu-Fahid’s wife Rima. Her husband is wounded. She is crying and yelling, behind her I hear bombs falling and people screaming: ”My husband has made sure the Mhardeans have dug trenches around the whole city to make it more difficult for the terrorists to invade it. But we will not be able to defend the city for many days. Besides, the terrorists have managed to cut off the electricity of Mhardeh. We will be killed but we will fight until the very end, all of us. Tell the world that we are being slaughtered for our faith, for not having been born Muslims. Where are all world leaders? The Pope? Obama? Putin? Where are they?”
The day was occupied with researching and preparing articles about Mhardeh: trying to give the inhabitants a voice and hopefully get them some help.
Thursday morning. I received an e-mail from our A Demand For Action group in Germany with a video attachment.
A young man is on his knees: the camera is close to his face. Four other men stand around him. Their faces are hard to make out. One of them is holding an iPad; the young man is talking to his father on Skype. “Dad, I love you and mom very much, please never forget that.” The father interrupts him: he wants to understand why the young man sounds so different. “Dad, I would never betray or leave you.” The father interrupts the young man again. “This is our last conversation … I love you”. The conversation is cut. One of the other men hang ups. The young man was then beheaded.
A couple of hours later social media savvy members of the Islamic State are bragging about their latest beheadings on Twitter.
In Sweden, pictures are sent to me of Islamic State flags hanging from two bridges. In Germany clashes break out between sympathizers of the group and other Muslims.
On Friday afternoon, I transit at Heathrow on my way to the United States. The UK is under threat: it’s on everybody’s lips. The same morning Islamist rebels kidnap 43 UN peacekeepers on the Israel-Syria border. And more than 200 men - supposedly Syrian army soldiers – are shot on camera.
It is Saturday, August 30th as I write this. I’m preparing a speech about the Islamic State, the threat it poses to the entire world and why it has to be stopped now.
A Demand For Action members in six countries have helped me to compile the research that I’m discussing in my lecture: mostly about the sympathy the IS has among fundamentalists in countries like the US, the UK and Australia. When a person is abducted, raped or beheaded, these sympathisers hail the perpetrators as heroes online. When more then 200 men are murdered in a desert people cry out in happiness. When a man is beheaded, the executioners are called idols. And for every act of abuse these terrorists get away with without punishment their power grows, and the leaders, followers, sympathisers, and potential new recruits of terror groups are emboldened. Murder becomes acceptable.
A genocide is unfolding against Assyrians and other minorities across Syria and Iraq’s national borders. And it is not limited to non-Muslims: the IS has also, for example, just killed 11 Imams that refused to follow the IS’s interpretation of the Quran.
And the rest of the world are silent bystanders to this horror. How will we, who belong to the same ethno-religious minorities that are being targeted for these daily atrocities, possibly be able to function normally in countries like Sweden, the United States and Australia while our people are being tormented? When will we have the opportunity to rest? Only when the Islamic State is stopped.
Nuri Kino is a Swedish-Assyrian investigative journalist, author and founder of A Demand For Action – an initiative working in 15 countries for the protection of Assyrian Christians and other minorities in the Middle East.