Qaraqosh, the largest Christian town in northern Iraq's Nineveh province, was assaulted by the military forces of the so-called Islamic State on August 6. The entire population of the town, amounting to between 50,000 to 60,000 souls, have now fled to neighboring Kurdistan and settled around the city of Erbil. In June of this year, the people of Qaraqosh had fled in terror when the city of Mosul was overwhelmed by the army of the Islamic State, but approximately 80 percent of them had since returned. The most recent flight of Christians came when the Sunni Muslim jihadis of the Islamic State fired mortars into Qaraqosh and killed two children and a 30-year-old woman. The flight of Assyrians was precipitated also by the retreat of Kurdish forces from the Nineveh Plain. With no one left to defend them, the Assyrians followed the retreating Kurdish forces. The situation of the Assyrian refugees is critical. There are thousands who fled on foot and are stranded on the roads without food or water. Many are elderly, handicapped or otherwise disabled people.
On August 6, the Christians of other towns and villages, such as Bartilla and Bahzany of the Ninevah region, fled in terror and sought safety at the monastery of Mar Mattai, as well as the towns of Erbil and Duhok. Ba'ashiqa and the Ba'ashiqa Monastery are now being evacuated. The Yazidi and Christian families who had lived in Ein Sifni are also fleeing. The influx of refugees into Ankawa and Noohadra (Dohuk) has overwhelmed the towns. There is a shortage of everything -- shelter, food, water, according to reports by the AINA news service. Displaced Assyrians are sleeping on sidewalks and in open fields.
Early reports are indicating that the Islamic State is in the midst of a genocidal campaign against the people of Sinjar. Most of the people of Sinjar are followers of the Yazidi faith, but some are Christians. It was on August 3 that the Yazidi city of Sinjar and the towns of Tal Afar and Zummar were captured by the Islamic State. Those who did not submit to Islam, as imposed by the Islamic State, have been executed, subjected to sex slavery or are being used as human shields by the jihadi marauders. Approximately 200,000 people fled Sinjar to Kurdistan. However, approximately 40,000 are now trapped on Mount Sinjar. They had fled on foot to the summit without provisions and are now dying. The Washington Post quoted a UNICEF spokesman, who reported, "There are children dying on the mountain, on the roads. There is no water, there is no vegetation, they are completely cut off and surrounded by Islamic State. It's a disaster, a total disaster." Reportedly, Kurdistan's High Commission of Human Rights airlifted ten shipments of aid, each with 20 tons of provisions, to the people trapped on Mount Sinjar.
Christiana Patto, of the Assyrian Aid Society of Iraq, provided the following report:
Yesterday 45 children died of thirst. Some families throw their children from the top of Sinjar mountain in order not to see them die from hunger or thirst, or not to be taken by the terrorists. 1500 men were killed in front of their wives and families, 50 old men died also from thirst and illness. More than 70 girl and women including Christians were taken, raped and being captured and sold. More than 100 families are captured in Tel afar airport. There is about 50 Christian families in Sinjar. The terrorists were able to control the Syriac church there and cover the Cross with their black banner. Till now we do not know anything about those Christian families.
The Assyrian International News Agency reported that the Islamic State militants have taken 150 Yazidi families captive in Iraq and taken them to Syria. While their fate has not been verified, they are reportedly being held at Camp Hol. Approximately, 500 more Yazidi families were taken to Tel Afar in Iraq, where they are being used as human shields at the Qalaat Tel Afar (the city's old castle) and in schools. A reporter for AINA news agency described the situation on Shingal mountain as the "Holocaust and Anfal." According to the AINA report, civilians are cut off from the Kurdistan region while the Kurdish Peshmerga forces are trying to territory lost to the IS militants.
Having already witnessed the fate of family members murdered by the Islamic State, the Yazidis trapped on Mount Shingal dare not risk descending the mountain since their Yazidi faith and Kurdish identity has made them the prime target for the Sunni Muslims of the Islamic State. According to the Yazidi refugees, the Islamic militants have massacred 300 villagers in the vicinity of Mount Shingal since August 4. Hundreds more are missing. IS has posted photographs of its victims on the Internet while boasting that its militants "want to control the entire province of Nineveh." According to AINA, IS has captured 500 Yazidi women and girls and transported them to Mosul. On August 6, a Kurdish politician said that they are being detained inside a hall in Mosul. The speaker of Kurdistan's parliament, Yousif Muhammad, said on August 6 that the war with the Islamic State is a war against terrorism. "Fighting terrorism is a global war and the international community must help the Kurdistan Region," Muhammad told reporters after visiting the leader of the Yazidi people at the town of Shekhan.
The American ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, issued on August 6 the highest level statement so far by the Obama administration about the attack against non-Sunnis in Iraq by the Islamic State over the last two months. The Obama administration is still hoping for a new government to administer conflictive Iraq as a solution to the fratricidal war. Appealing to "all parties to the conflict," Power stated:
We urge all parties to the conflict to allow safe access to the United Nations and its partners so they can deliver lifesaving humanitarian assistance, including to those Iraqi families reportedly encircled by ISIL on Mount Sinjar. The United States is committed to helping the people of Iraq as they confront the security and humanitarian challenges in their fight against ISIL. (Ed. note: the acronym formerly used by the Islamic State) Iraq's leaders must move swiftly to form a new, fully inclusive government that takes into account the rights, aspirations and legitimate concerns of all of Iraq's communities. All Iraqis must come together to ensure that Iraq gets back on the path to a peaceful future and to prevent ISIL from obliterating Iraq's vibrant diversity.
According to human rights activist, Nina Shea, the people of Erbil are now fleeing for their lives. On August 7, she received the following message from a contact in the region:
People now all leaving Erbil to go a bit more to the northeastern part of Kurdistan. There have been fight in Khabour for the last two days and apparently ISIS is winning, peshmerga is giving in, and they are closing on Erbil. People are freaking out and Security is on every other meter on the streets. Checkpoints everywhere and they are stopping everybody.
Iraqi officials are fleeing Erbil, along with the rest of the population. The forces of the Islamic State arrived overnight in a column of vehicles that entered and then took control of the city of Tel Kepe. The people of Tel Kepe had already fled. The Islamists are now headed for Batnaya and Telsqof, which have already been abandoned, along with the city of Alqosh.
The exodus of refugees from a town called Baghdade began on August 5 in the pre-dawn hours when the Kurdish forced announced their retreat. The Christian bishops of the town ordered the churches to ring their bells to warn the people to leave immediately. Once the Kurds and the people of Baghdade fled, the forces of the Islamic State seized the city and surrounding area, including the towns of Karamles and Bartella. Refugees were robbed at gunpoint by IS forces as they fled.
Approximately 200,000 Assyrians have fled the Nineveh Plain, heading north to Dohuk, Sarsink and Zakho and east to Ankawa and Arbel. Here follows a list of Assyrian villages and towns that have been abandoned:
Seven Yazidi villages and fifteen Shabak villages surrounding Baghdede have also been abandoned, as well as most small villages in the Nineveh Plain north of Mosul. Many Assyrians who fled to Arbel began to flee again when during fighting between the Islamic State and Kurdish forces approximately 25 miles west of Arbel. The refugees fled northwest to Diana and Rawondoz.
The Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East, Mar Dinkha IV sent a letter Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary General of the Unites Nations, urging action on the crisis in North Iraq. Here follows the text of the letter:
The grave situation which our Christian communities in Iraq are suffering constrains me to write to Your Excellency as the Secretary General of the United Nations Organization. I join my fellow patriarchs and hierarchs of Christian Churches of Iraq, and in the Middle East at large, in voicing our serious concern for the peril of our people and faithful. This plea cannot go unheard by the United Nations!
The plight of the ancient Christian communities in Mosul, Iraq, and its environs is a situation by now well known to Your Excellency and to all of the member-states of the United Nations. At the outset, let me thank you for the letter of July 20, 2014 issued by the Secretary General's office and the follow-up letter issued by the Presidency of the Security Council on July 21, 2014, both of which condemn in categorical and unequivocal terms the atrocities committed against the Christians of Iraq by the militant, fundamentalist and terrorist Islamist group known as 'ISIS' (now, 'IS'). The destruction and havoc which has been reeked by this lawless group upon the Christians, and now other religious minority groups in the country, has been documented and made known to the world.
The plight of our ancient Christian communities in Iraq, particularly the Assyrians and the Chaldean, Syriac and Armenian communities, has caused the forced displacement of thousands of persons. Women, children and the elderly have left their homes and continually on the move-from city to city, and from village to village-seeking safety for their lives. We are informed by our prelates in Iraq that as the present situation and conditions continue to go from bad to worse; people are living in great fear and confusion, without any hope for a brighter and better future. Christianity has been present in the ancient city of Mosul, known formerly as 'Nineveh,' the capital of the ancient Assyrian Empire, since the preaching of the very Apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ in the first half of the first Christ century. Today, not a Christian is present, and what's more, the ancient churches and relics of our faith have been destroyed before the very eyes of the major countries of the modem civilized West-indeed, before the eyes of the world! This is a great travesty not only against the Christian faith and its adherents, but against the ancient patrimony of civilization of which the city of Mosul (Nineveh) has been a living witness until very recent.
Your Excellency: the United Nations as an international body is well aware of the anti-human and criminal acts perpetrated by the this terrorist group known as 'ISIS' against the Christians of Iraq, and now other against other religious minorities such as the Yezidis, ShabaIts, Kurds as well as the Shia and non-compliant Sunni citizens of Iraq. The world, and much less the United Nations, cannot stand by with obvious complacency and apathy towards our plight and allow this destruction of these peoples in Iraq. Mere statements of condemnation by the UN, and even of the major countries of the West, are not sufficient! These statements, though taken with gratitude, are not enough to bring an end to these atrocities and to stop this genocide of a religious nature!
Therefore, Your Excellency, on behalf of the thousands of displaced Christians of Iraq--the children, women and elderly--and on behalf of those who have already paid with their lives and the blood of their necks for their faith: I implore the United Nations to take concrete and statutory action in a plenary session of the member-states of the United Nations against the perpetrators of these crimes against humanity; I implore the Security Council to take a positive vote in favor of these persecuted Christians who are suffering a new and modem genocide. The lives of this persecuted and oppressed people depend upon the moral decisions of the United Nations in favor of protecting human life and the right of each and every person to worship God and follow his/her conscience.
Time is of the essence, Your Excellency! The United Nations must act quickly to halt and remedy this dire and bloody situation for the Christians in Iraq. If no concrete action is taken very soon, then I must say that the United Nations and its member-states will have failed in fulfilling their mandate of preserving life and peace in the world. This would be a grave and inexcusable moral violation, which we all pray and hope is avoided. I am ready to afford my Church's support in meeting and/or being a part of Your Excellency's solution to this crisis. I shall keep Your Excellency in my prayers, as you fulfill your important mandate of moderating the United Nations. May Almighty God grant His enduring peace throughout the world and among all peoples.