THE LEVANT -By Catherine Shakdam – While the media have remained focused on Gaza, keen to spin Israel’s PR machine in order to sell Tel Aviv’s new war of attrition against the ever suffering Palestinian people, another tragedy, just as harrowing and disheartening as the one unfolding in Gaza, has taken place in Iraq. While bombs and mortar shells have fallen on Gaza, maiming and killing women, men and children indiscriminately; ISIL foot soldiers – Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant – have massacred their way through northern Iraq, with such callous determination and thirst for gory theatricals that one cannot help but recoil in sheer disgust.
If we thought the world and men moved on from the horrors of the Middle Ages, if we thought that as a people we learned to embrace a more civilised and dignified way of life, ISIL quite simply blew this assumption out of the water, laying bare a sadistic nature which can only inspire shame and moral revulsion.
The self-proclaimed Islamic State, the very movement which has declared itself as the only true army of God, the defender of Islam, the indestructible force which will reclaim control over all nations to see rise the Islamic flag, has sickened even the most radicals of Muslims so brutal and vile have been their crimes against innocent and unarmed civilians.
Now that IS – as it has now been labelled – has successfully established the roots of its Islamic Caliphate, its leadership has decided to religiously cleanse all territories under its control in order to see rise a perfect Islamic State; one which will act the cornerstone of a soon-to-be Islamic Empire.
But here is the trick – there is nothing remotely Islamic about IS. Its leaders might cloak themselves in the Quran and recite the Scriptures at a moment’s notice, their actions speak another language altogether. Since its inception the so-called Islamic State has violated and defiled every precept, every ayat of the Quran, disfiguring a faith which is inherently and passionately born from love, tolerance and respect. A religion which advocates submission to the One God; Islam is of love and devotion, Islam is of smiles and compassion. Islam is of tolerance and forgiveness.
IS is not a product of Islam, it is an aberration, a malign parasite which has taken on the appearance of Islam to better lay waste its paradigm. A destroyer of world, a nefarious force, the Islamic State has but brought misery and hardship onto the Middle East. Wherever its soldiers have touched ground, sorrow and death have followed. Wherever the shadow of its black flag has stretched out, the people have stood in mourning.
Not content with oppressing Shia Muslims, IS has declared war on all religious denominations. Under IS’ skies, no man, woman or child can pretend to be immune to its legions’ religious wrath. Just as Nero watched Rome burn, IS has set Iraq ablaze in view of prompting the rise of a new nation, one which will adhere to its dogma.
The Yezidis Exodus
When IS unleashed its armies upon Iraq’s Yezidi population, a population which is important to note has lived peacefully in northern Iraq for centuries, Iraqis stood stunned before the sheer ferocity and abject violence which IS militants demonstrated. While Iraqis are no strangers to the horrors of wars, having endured their fair share of bloodshed over the decades, nothing could have prepared the country for the vengeful plague that is IS.
Over the past two weeks hundreds of thousands of Yezidis were forced to flee before IS, prompting an exodus of biblical proportion.
Numbering about 700,000 worldwide the Yezidi are a sect that combines elements of Islam and Zoroastrianism, an ancient Persian religion dating back to at least 600 B.C. A peaceful people, the Yezidis often function as a close-net community, preferring to keep themselves to themselves. A threat to no one, Iraq’s Yezidis have been unwarrantedly targeted and persecuted by IS leadership on account of their beliefs.
Speaking to the International Business Times earlier last week, Zahran Jardo, a survivor of IS’s religious cleansing who’s taken refuge in an abandoned building in the city of Dohuk, said those who’ve remained in Sinjar are surrounded by danger. “Those who stayed are now suffering from thirst,” she said. “They have no water. They also took girls and raped them. They said that Yazidis have to convert to Islam. This cannot happen. Where are the officials? No one has looked after us and no one asks about the fate of the Yazidis.”
The Yazidi believe in God as creator of the world, which he placed under the care of seven “holy beings” or angels, the “chief” (archangel) of whom is Melek Taus, the “Peacock Angel.” In Zoroastrian-like tradition, the Peacock Angel embodied humanity’s potential for both good (light) and bad (dark) acts, and due to pride temporarily fell from God’s favor, before his remorseful tears extinguished the fires of his hellish prison and he reconciled with God. Other monotheistic religions re-cast the Peacock Angel as the unredeemed evil deity Satan, which incited centuries of persecution of the Yazidi as “devil worshippers” by followers of these religions.
Forced to flee to neighbouring mountains for shelters, tens of thousands of civilians have been left to march under the scorching sun with no food, water or access to medicine. Trapped and hunted down like animals, Iraq’s Yezidis have been thrown in the middle of volcano of hate which they cannot comprehend.
Will Parks, the UNICEF Chief Field Officer in Iraq’s Kurdish region noted that about half of the 50,000 people believed to be stranded in the mountains near Sinjar are also children.
“We know for sure that 40 children have already died,” he said. “That’s the numbers we can confirm, but it’s probably much more than that. The situation for them is they’re on the mountains, they’re on the sides of the mountains, they’ve got no vegetation, no cover. They’re sleeping out in the open, they’ve got no food, no water, no medical supplies.”
According to Iraq Yezidi leader Prince Tasheen Said an estimated 500 Yezidis have been slaughtered and tortured by IS fanatics in the most despicable manner. He explained that many people were buried alive, among whom women and children.
Iraq’s Human Rights Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani told reporters that IS militants “have buried hundreds of Yazidis in mass graves,” and “forced 300 Yezidi women into slavery.
No one is safe under the black flag
If the Yezidis continue to face extreme and intolerable hardship by the hands of IS radicals, Christians have too learned to fear the black flag. Under IS no one can claim to safety, not Muslims, not Christians, not anyone!
Over the past few days horrific details of IS’ killing sprees have emerged. According to witnesses in Mosul, IS has taken into the habit of decapitating Christians to force mass conversion into Islam.
“They are systematically beheading children, and mothers and fathers. The world hasn’t seen an evil like this for a generation. There’s actually a park in Mosul that they’ve actually beheaded children and put their heads on a stick,” US National spokesman for Iraqi Christians and American businessman, Mark Arabo, told CNN in a video.
Arabo explicitly labelled IS’ actions as “crimes against humanity.” He stressed, “Militants have been conducting the most horrendous, the most heart-breaking things that people can think of.”
As it currently stands Mosul has been emptied of its Christian population. 95% of all Mosul’s Christians have fled the region while the other 5% were coerced into converting to Islam or face extinction.
IS actually penned down its warning to all Christians, giving the community three choices – conversion, the payment of a tax or death –
Arabo wrote that whenever Christians chose to pay a fine instead of conversion; IS soldiers ended up raiding their home and raping their wives and daughters.
He also shared that militants were putting red stamp on the house of Christian families fleeing the region. The red stamp denotes that the militants will kill the family if they come back.
“… this is a Christian holocaust within our midst and the world community cannot turn a blind eye … This is a genocide in every sense of the word. They want everyone to convert and they want Sharia law to be the law of the land,” Arabo told the press in a heart-felt appeal.
As IS has clearly declared war against all humanity, it might be time for all religious communities to pull together and oppose this evil as one cohesive unit, as evil knows no border and no faith.