Iraq: human rights group reports ethnic cleansing of Assyrians

The human rights situation in Iraq continues to grow dark as forces of the Islamic State, armed with advanced American weaponry seized from the hapless Iraqi army, continues to persecute Christians and other minorities in the Iraq. A joint delegation of the Iraqi Ministry of Human Rights and the Hammurabi Human Rights Organization issued a report on its recent findings of the abuses suffered by refugees fleeing from of Mosul, the Nineveh Plain and Sinjar, and who are now encamped at Arbel.
It was at Mosul that Christians’ homes and businesses were marked for dispossession by the Islamic State in advance of death threats.  Many of those are now in the hands of the Islamic State and favored parties.
 
Since entering Iraq and capturing Mosul on June 10, the Islamic State has driven all Assyrians from the city. There are no Assyrians/Christians remaining in Mosul. IS also destroyed or occupied all 45 Christian institutions in Mosul. An Orthodox Christian cathedral is being used as a mosque. Panic ensued, forcing over 200,000 Assyrian Christians to flee from dozens of Assyrian villages and towns, as well as from Baghdede (Qaraqosh), Bartella and Karamles. IS captured the predominantly Yazidi towns of Sinjar and Zumar, causing 150,000 Yazidis to flee and 40,000 to be trapped on Sinjar mountain. Thousands died from exposure.
 
At Arbel, the joint delegation received a briefing on the growing needs of the refugees, who have called for immediate liberation of their villages and homes from the Islamic State (a.k.a. ISIS). Refugees also demanded wages and social benefits for employees and financial compensation for material and other losses. A passport office in Arbel has been overwhelmed with applications for passports, identity cards and other documents. The delegation declared, “Families continue to suffer from lack of official documents after ISIS stripped them of everything. HHRO has appealed to the government to facilitate the issuance of new documents.”
 
Among the members of the delegation were  Mujeeb Abdullah, head of monitoring at the Iraqi Ministry of Human Rights, as well as Hammurabi VP Louis Marcus.
 
 The delegation made a number  of findings:
 
Most homes of university professors who fled Mosul were looted by forces of the Islamic State. Those homes are now under the control of IS.
 
* New Iraqi and non-Iraqi families are appearing in many of Mosul's neighborhoods and taking possession of homes vacated by Christians Iraqis, as well as Yazidis, Shabaks, and Turkomen.
 
* Every morning, witnesses say that bodies are being removed from the city in open vehicles. The delegation believes that this indicates a campaign of murder of various groups of people. According to the delegation, “ There is a high probability of the existence of mass graves for the bodies of citizens who are executed.”  Numerous suicides by refugees have been recorded, especially among those stranded in remote areas and lacked food, water and shelter. HHRO confirmed the suicide of a Yazidi in Dohuk on August 29.
 
* Cynically called "Daash Market,"  an open bazaar has opened where furniture, household items, mobile phones, and antiques are for sale in Mosul. The report said, “All of the merchandise is stolen from homes abandoned by fleeing residents.” Refugees are losing hope that they will be able to return to their homes before winter. The report said, “Nearly all of the refugees do not have winter clothing to protect them from the cold and snow.”
 
* A number of women and girls who had been sold into slavery by the Islamic State were able to escape, while some have managed to reach the city of Dohuk. Militants of the Islamic State have raped and  abducted hundreds of women and girls and sold them in Mosul and in the Syrian city of Raqqa.
 
For example, the AINA news agency has reported that Christina Khader Ebada, a 3 year-old Assyrian Christian girl, was abducted from her family as they were leaving Baghdede, a town in northern Iraq. When Islamic State militants escorted her family, as well as many other residents, to the Khazar checkpoint, the girl was spirited away by a heavily bearded man as she sobbed and wailed. That was the last her mother saw of her. The family was told them to leave and never return. The Ebada family was one of a handful of Assyrian families that had not left Baghdede when the Kurdish forces withdrew on August 7, leaving the city unprotected.
 
Crucifixions by the Islamic State
 
In Bashiqa, an Assyrian village northeast of Mosul in the Nineveh Plain, when a Muslim resident entered the home of his Assyrian neighbors, he discovered the bodies of a father and son. George David and his son Saad were Christians and deaf-mutes. They reportedly died of starvation and dehydration since they may not have known to leave when the Muslim marauders seized the own. The Muslim neighbor buried their bodies in a church. In the same town, a 70-year-old man was found dead, sitting upright in his chair. He also reportedly died of starvation and dehydration.
 
These reports compounded the bloody reputation that IS (a.k.a. ISIS or ISIL) earned while fighting againt the military of Syria’s dictatorship, as well as the forces of other insurrectionists. In fierces clashes in June of this year, IS reportedly executed at least eight men near Aleppo. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, IS crucified eight men in the main square of the village known as Deir Hafer because they belonged to rebel groups that had fought against  IS, as well as the military loyal to dictaror Bashr al-Assad. The bodies remained on display for three days, according to the UK-based group. A ninth man was crucified for eight hours in Al-Bab, a town in Aleppo province near the border shared with Turkey. Somehow, he survived the ordeal.
 
Despite some successes on the part of U.S.-led air strikes and renewed fighting by Kurds and other groups opposed to IS, it continues to make use of its heavy weapons and remains an “unprecedented threat,” according to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.


Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. He is also a freelance translator.

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