Recognize That ISIS Are Committing Genocide

Sweden and Europe's politicians have to embrace the facts and immediately recognize that the Islamic State are committing genocide against Christian minorities in Iraq and Syria, writes European Parliamentarian Lars Adaktusson (KD). 

It has been almost a year and a half since 125,000 people were forced to flee Iraq's second biggest city Mosul and the surrounding Nineveh Plains. Those that fled had their homes marked with a visible "N", with reference to Jesus hometown of Nazareth and the fleeing Christians' religious belief.

Just like their fellow Christians in Syria, the inhabitants of Mosul fled from the Islamic State's brutal and deadly rampage. When faced with the demand from the terrorists murder patrol to choose between a high penalty tax, converting to Islam or a beheading, an uprooting and dramatic escape was the only way out. 

With this Mosul's churches were emptied, there was no more church services and for the first time in 1700 years the church bells silenced. The people fleeing left their homes, their possessions and their Christian traditions, but also an invaluable cultural heritage. 

Three thousand year old Assyrian statues, the prophet Jonah's grave in Mosul and a library with historical scripts and books ended up in the hands of militant and unscrupulous islamists. Today everything is demolished, broken and ruined for ever. After ten years of systematic persecution the number of Christians in Iraq has decreased from 1.5 million people to about a third. 

The rest have been forced to flee abroad or been killed due to continuously increasing harassment and abuse. In Syria the situation is similar, at least a third of the country's 600 000 Christians had to flee because of their faith. 

The Islamic State's basic motive is clearly established and refer to an ethnic and religious cleansing of everything that doesn't fit in to their own narrow definition of Sunni Salafism. The murders, rapes, kidnappings, eradication of cultural and religious history and the demand for submission is meant to obliterate or force out Christianity. 

In essence it's about those that make out the Chaldean/Assyrian/Syriac minority in Iraq and Syria. Several political decision-makers and human right experts have made it clear that this is essentially a crime against humanity - unfortunately it is worse than that. 

With regard to what is happening, it is clear that the Islamic State are guilty of the worst and most heinous crime in the history of international law. In the UN Convention on Genocide 1948 the definition of genocide is based on "acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group". 

In other words; right in front of our eyes the Christian minority in Iraq and Syria are currently the victims of a genocide. To this we can add the saddening fact that the situation is the same for the Yezidi minority in northern Iraq. 

In a UN report from March this year it was established that the Islamic State's massacres, rapes and enslavement show an intention to eradicate Yezidis as an ethnic group. According to the UN, ISIL "may" have committed genocide. This is a moral admission, but no more than that. 

The UN Security Council have so far refused to define the abuse against the Yezidis as genocide and unfortunately there is a tradition within the UN not to admit to a genocide, or do so afterwards. The mass murder in 1995 on Bosnian men and boys in Srebrenica was not classed as a genocide until 2004. 

In the case of Darfur the UN never used the word "genocide", despite the Convention on Genocide and hundreds of thousands dead. With regard to Iraq's and Syria's minorities the Swedish government has repeatedly taken an ambiguous and unclear position. 

Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom has condemned the abuse and rape on Yezidi women but seldom talked about the persecution of Christians, and she has been beating around the bush about calling the heinous crimes of the Islamic State a genocide. The latter is the same for other European governments and the Obama administration in the US. 

At the same time the genocide continues. In the name of Islamic State people are being persecuted, raped and killed due to their faith. The obvious risk is that the terrorists gruelling goal of an ethnic and religious cleansing will be a reality before the international body will gather for a recognition of what is actually happening. 

There is a risk that the ethno-religious cleansing becomes an irreversible fact and Christians in the Middle East will only be found in history books. To everyone that refuse to accept the persecution of Christians and Yezidi groups it is now time to demand action and get support from those that are in fact watching and raising their voices. 

For example the Vatican and Pope Francis have on several occasions used the term genocide to describe the assault on the Middle East Christians. To honour the Iraqi priest Ragheed Ganni, who was behedead after refusing to close his church when the Islamic State entered Mosul, the pope continuously wears the executed priests cross around his neck. 

Even in the US Congress there is an understanding about the width of the continuous abuse. Recently 150 members of the House of Representatives signed a proposed resolution that defines the crime against Christians in Iraq and Syria as a genocide. The members come from both the republican and democratic party and during the autumn they obtained legal support as well. 

In a statement to Congress some of the worlds prominent International Law experts from International Association of Genocide Scholars stated that the Islamic States mass murder "meet even the strictest definition of genocide". 

The only reasonable step now is that Sweden's and Europe's decision makers accept the facts and immediately recognize that the Islamic State are committing genocide. 

As a member of the European Parliament, I have myself started working on a resolution where the EU members are encouraged to define the abuse against Christians and Yezidis as genocide and subsequently act within the UN frameworks to establish additional humanitarian and military efforts. 

Hopefully Europe's Christian Democrats and other party groups in parliament are ready to support the resolution and demand action - before two thousand years of Christian faith and history is eradicated in the Middle East. 

‘I lost all hope’ graves and memories after killings at Sinjar

In the abandoned village of Khani at the foot of Mount Sinjar, a Yazidi man breaks down and cries. Said Khader Faris is standing next to the spot where his parents, an elderly couple in their eighties, were shot dead by ISIL militants when the group rampaged through the area in August last year. 

His family was among a group of Yazidis who fled from a nearby village when ISIL swept in, only to be pursued by the extremists to Khani. From there, the group tried to escape to the top of Mount Sinjar, but “there were some old people who couldn’t walk far, and the others couldn’t carry them”, Mr Faris says after regaining his composure. 

Those left behind were killed by ISIL and their remains now lie under a mound of earth a few feet away — Mr Faris’s parents among them. Mass graves dot the picturesque plains and gently rolling hills that stretch south from Mount Sinjar, an area where members of Iraq’s minority Yazidi group have lived for centuries. 

Around 1,300 Yazidis were killed by ISIL here, estimates Hussein Kasim Hassoon, who heads efforts by the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) to document the extremists’ crimes against the Yazidis. After ISIL was expelled from the area by Kurdish forces earlier this month, the graves are rapidly being discovered. 

Some are small, hastily dug by the killers to cover their crimes. Others are larger, and point to a more methodical approach. In a hollow next to the gutted Sinjar Technical Institute in the village of Solag, just north of Sinjar, human remains lie scattered among tattered scarfs and sullied pieces of clothing. 

They belong to the old women of Kocho, a village several kilometres away, who were brought to Solag by ISIL to be killed. Seventy-six bodies are thought to be buried in this hollow and the surrounding soil, the second largest Yazidi mass grave discovered to date. 

Throughout the Sinjar area, Yazidis like Mr Faris mourn the murder of loved ones. When ISIL militants stormed into this remote part of northern Iraq last year, they encountered little resistance, and swiftly took the areas surrounding Mount Sinjar.