AINA Editorial
Islamic State in Iraq Part of Larger Sunni Insurgency; Assyrians, Minorities Need Safe Haven
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(AINA) -- An Arab Sunni insurgency is targeting the Nineveh Plain area after the successful attacks by the Islamic State (IS) on Sinjar and other areas to the West of the Nineveh Plain. Sunni fighters are coming from the various regions of Iraq, such as Tikrit, Samarra, Mosul, Anbar, and other Sunni areas. As IS had advanced, creating a large front to defend for the Kurdish forces, resistance to their attacks has faltered, with Kurds having suffered two defeats in as many days (AINA 2014-08-04).

The security situation has deteriorated. Not a single member of the Iraqi police or military has remained in the area. IS forces are "less than 4 minutes drive from us" saind an Assyrian resident of Bartella. Further, there is question as to whether the Kurdish forces can maintain the area at all, given the large front created and the efficiency of the Sunni rebellion.

Although IS is estimated to have a relatively small force, perhaps 10,000, they are in fact being supported by the overwhelming majority of the Arab Sunni population. Threats against Christians abound. When, for example, Baghdede (Qaraqosh) was being attacked by IS, the Arabs of Hmera and other surrounding areas armed themselves and joined in the fight. It is critical to understand that the Arab Sunni fighters have gained many years of military training and are now using it.

The humanitarian situation of the Christians is dire. Over 60% of the population has left -- 30% of these have left Iraq and the other 30% are in the Kurdish area, preparing to leave the country as well. There is little water and electricity. The people are near starvation and driven to act chaotically. The leadership of the Assyrians Christians, if not supported, will eventually fall apart.

Read Time Line of ISIS in Mosul

This tragedy is growing by the day and it is extremely disturbing that no military or political solution is being seriously sought. To add to the difficulty of the situation, we must be aware that there are also Islamic Sunni sentiments in the Kurdish areas. Though these are under control for now, there is a credible fear factor among Assyrians in the area. In December of 2011, Assyrian shops and even churches were targeted by Islamic Kurdish mobs (AINA 2011-12-03). Assyrians fear this episode repeating itself if the security is maintained. In addition, recent reports indicate hundreds of Kurdish youth joining IS and fighting it its ranks.

In an emergency call to the U.S. State Department today, Assyrians leaders from Detroit and Chicago urged the following actions to be taken:

  • The immediate creation of a Safe Zone for the Christian population (along with Yazidis and others) in the Nineveh Plain to be protected by a capable joint force made up of the United States, the United Nations and other local forces such as the Kurdish forces.
  • The immediate creation of a Humanitarian Council made up of members of the various towns and villages of the Christians and other minorities to administer, in that they are factually aware of the needs of the people, to tend to the most vital necessities such as water, electricity, shelter, and the like.
  • The immediate creation, from among the diaspora, a liaison body, made up of organizations that have direct communication with those in the Nineveh Plain, to be directly communicating with the United States government in a manner that is systematic and efficient in dealing with the crises.

A safe zone or haven would be no different from the one created for the Kurds in 1991 by the Unites States, when Saddam Hussein began bombing the Kurdish populations in north Iraq. Assyrians, Yazidis, Shabaks and other non-Sunni minorities are entitled to the same protection.

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