(AINA) -- It is very difficult to not be a target of propaganda from the various players involved in the Iraq crisis. They all have their own agendas. So what is the truth? Are Christians being forced to convert to Islam in Mosul? We don't know that for sure yet. What we do know is that ISIS has been persecuting Assyrians and other non-Sunnis in Syria for a year now. Kidnappings, robberies, rapes and beheadings are not unusual. We also know that they use to do the same thing in Iraq when they were a part of al-Qaeda.
In order to get an idea of the situation for Christians in Mosul I reached out to Pascale Warda, former Minister of Immigration and Refugees in Iraq. She is one of the best known activists and philanthropists in the Middle East. While Warda was Minister, she was invited to take part in a discussion on global women's issues at the G8 Summit in Sea Island, Georgia, by the First Lady of the United States, Laura Bush.
Warda's family comes from Dawaiya, a Christian village in Iraqi Kurdistan that was close to those gassed by Saddam Hussein in the 1980s. During the long years of Saddam's rule, Warda was exiled in France, where she helped settle Iraqi refugees and asylum seekers. She served as the representative of the Assyrian Democratic Movement Foundation, the primary Assyrian political party in Iraq.
Since her return to Iraq she has survived five assassination attempts. Four of her bodyguards have been killed.
The US Department of State gave the 2012 Human Rights Defenders Award to Warda's foundation. They wrote that Hammurabi Human Rights Organization (HHRO) "has fearlessly advocated for human rights and was critical in concrete achievements in the protection of female detainees, as well as taking on critical work on curriculum reform to promote religious freedom."
Warda is currently in US where she is raising awareness of the urgent need to provide housing for the Christians of Mosul in order to enable them to remain in the Christian villages of Nineveh and in Dohuk and Erbil in Kurdistan. After our telephone conversation I e-mailed her questions and she responede very informative.
"All the Christians, Assyrians and others, of Mosul fled in panic before and while ISIS entered their city to save themselves from these brutal people who practice killing using religious principles as well as forcing Christians to pay the 'Jizya' tax. According to our sources in the Nineveh Plains, no Assyrian families are left in Mosul?--?only a few individuals stayed in the city, perhaps to guard their homes."
She also told me that HHRO interviewed as many of the families as possible to make sure that these atrocities would be documented.
When asked what she thinks about future prospects for Assyrians and other Christians in Iraq Warda answered:
"The future of the Christians of Iraq as well as Syria and the whole Middle East is in great danger. They face extinction in their original countries because they are easily targeted by fanatics using Islamic rules of Sharia interpreted and imposed through the brutal policies of ISIS. Western countries are at a loss when faced with the massive number of immigration requests to join families together from the old country. "
She is very scared that Christians will soon become history in Middle East.
"As long as an international conscience is not forthcoming and goodwill initiatives are not planned to hear the voices of victims and provide them with protection and compensation for the persecution they have been subject to for dozens of years, they will continue to flee from their countries. This is a destructive fact not only regarding the Christian presence in Iraq and Syria but for Iraqi and Syrian societies as a whole."
I asked her to speak further on this point and she answered that Iraq is facing brain drain.
"Iraqi Christians are not nomads whose way of life is to pack their tent on their camel and move to another place without leaving an impact. When the Christians of Iraq leave they will close schools, hospitals, and colleges. Their flight will put an end to the diversity that represents the beauty and richness Iraqi Society has enjoyed for thousands of years. The Christians are educated, loyal and devoted to their country and people."
To make a non-Iraqi and a non-politician understand why we face this extremist crisis in Iraq, she turns to history.
"Iraq has had no solution to any of its issues, simple or complex, and it has gotten worse for years. This situation almost always leads to an explosive end. The effects of so many wars and invasions of Mesopotamia, the imbalance in which the Iraqi State was created after the Ottoman Empire, the Kurdish question originating in 1961 which remains without a proper solution?--?these problems were compounded by the consequences of the American invasion. All these destructive events are ongoing in their impact, and are deepened by the absence of a rule of law and by foolish management. The overarching Iraqi problem is a lack of a capable leadership which leads to the de facto legalization of corruption and the illegal appropriation of Iraqi goods."
Warda is trying to meet as many American politicians, representatives for international NGOs and journalists as possible during her trip to the country.
"I am here to inform people with power on the situation in Iraq and Syria. I'm also trying to give an overall picture of the state of Christianity in the Middle East. Our organization directly observes the situation on the ground. We report on any encroachment or abuse of Human Rights in Nineveh and regions controlled by the KRG as well as Baghdad and the rest of Iraq. HHRO is urgently requesting humanitarian relief for masses of refugees and displaced people. So I am also working with Assyrian Organizations here to organize fundraising programs to help all the displaced people of Iraq in need, especially Christians. Following the onslaught by ISIS and the subsequent collapse of authority in Mosul, Christians and other non-Muslim Iraqis were put in a very dangerous situation. Many were displaced, and fear and instability were unleashed everywhere in Iraq."
Some facts about HHRO:
HHRO publishes reports on the Human Rights situations facing minorities. In 2013, HHRO was awarded the prize as the best NGO by the United State's State Department for its huge achievements in the most difficult situations for the year 2012 in Baghdad and all of Iraq regardless of extreme danger and lack of security.
In addition to all their other activities, HHRO supports general education, high education, development of education systems, and provides students and young people with needs necessary for their progress such as school curriculum changes, the creation of new Universities?--?such as in Hamdaniya in 2010?--?and necessary materials like laboratories and sports equipment. Children and woman are two of the focuses of our work, as well as minorities and the amendment of abusive divorce laws.
Their latest still unpublished report on Mosul:
HHRO sources have observed 463 Christian families arriving in the Nineveh Plains, village for village. Here, a family constitutes a minimum of 5 people.
- Tel Kef : 110 families
- Alqosh: 50 families
- Telosqof: 125 families
- Batnaya: 37 families
- Qaraqosh itself: 60 families
- Karimles: 65 families
Total: 463 Families
According to a Kurdish NGO in KRG, as of June 16, 2014 175,000 arrived in Arbel, and 240,000 arrived in Dohuk. These numbers were until.