On October 15 , I was invited by the MEP Lars Adaktusson to talk about the alarming situation of minorities in Iraq and Syria. The venue was packed to the last seat. Click here and scroll down to the English part to read the press release. I began my talk by showing a video where a man is brutally murdered on camera. The murder took place in Mosul as early as the fall of 2004. Below is my speech, word for word, that I held in the Parliament. It starts with referring to the video where "Sargon" is killed:
I spoke to Sargon's, the murdered man's, brother yesterday. His name is Riyad and he has lived in Sweden for a few years now. He has applied for asylum several times, but he's never been granted permission to stay in the country. That makes him an illegal immigrant, an undocumented human, who is hunted in Sweden and hunted in his homeland, Iraq.
Riyad is just one of many people who have seen extreme atrocities in their own families. His life and the lives of his family members illustrate the fate of Assyrians/Chaldeans/Syriacs and other indigenous people of Iraq.
Before the war in Iraq, Riyad's family had a good life in Mosul. Then came the U.S. invasion and the fall of Saddam.
You would think that meant peace and quiet for the Iraqi Christians. That the Americans brought democracy to Iraq and that everything changed. That they provided safety and security for Iraqis.
But it was the exact opposite. The infighting began immediately, and the minorities were targeted first.
For Christians and ethno-religious minorities, shops and jobs were taken away from them by extremists, and their lives were constantly threatened because of their religion and ethnicity.
To make things worse, but provide daily bread for their families, many of the Christian minorities, who were well educated and connected in society, also chose to work for the American military -- as interpreters and/or other American military support functions. They also thought that would protect them - that the Americans would protect them from being harmed.
That turned out not to be true.
Sargon, Riyad's older brother in the video, was beheaded for two reasons. First, he was born non-Muslim and second, he worked for the enemy, the United States.
A few days after the murder, Riyad, who is the youngest brother of three, wandered among hospitals in Mosul to find Sargon's corpse. And he did. He found everything except the head.
Did you think beheadings by extremists started with ISIS? Just earlier this year? For Christian Assyrians, this has been a threat for many years now, and I have seen many of these videos. You just didn't have any idea it was going on. Minorities have been targeted from the very start, by those who came before IS and by those who eventually became IS. The world just wasn't paying attention. But we saw it coming, because we were the first to experience their brutality and the rise of extremism and targeting of non-Muslims in our homeland.
Riyad and his family were eventually also threatened along with all other non-Muslims. That was back in 2004. Yes, 2004, a decade ago.
Riyad was smuggled to Sweden for 15,000 dollars, a dramatic trip that nearly took his life. The middle brother, Danyel, instead left Iraq for SYRIA with his family, wife and two children - they didn't have enough money to take all of them out of the Middle East.
When the civil war started in Syria, after spending several years there, Danyel took his family and fled back to Mosul. He was afraid of Islamic ravage in Syria.
After IS invasion on the 10th of June this year -- we're now talking about a decade later, and they are still trying to escape the extremists -- they fled again, with nothing but the clothes on their backs. They fled to Qarakosh, a nearby city, but shortly after, Qarakosh was invaded by IS - and emptied.
Sargon, the beheaded brother, had a wife and three children, they now live in Switzerland.
Sargon's, Riyad's and Danyel's parents are in U.S. UNHCR helped them leave Middle East.
As a journalist, it is unethical and a crime not to reveal the truth that you are aware of. Sargon, a name chosen for safety purposes, was beheaded on the 27th of September 2004. Yes, 2004! I must say that again.
For a decade now these brutal atrocities have taken place. I, and many others have documented, reported, and testified and, most of all, warned. We have borne witness to the cruel reality of Assyrians and other indigenous people in Iraq and now, also, in Syria and we have said that if it's not stopped, the perpetrators of this ethno-religious cleansing will grow to a worldwide movement that will affect people no matter where in the world they live - but no one listened.
We have been bombed and ambushed and persecuted for more than ten years. Over a hundred of our churches, some as old as 1,800 years, have been destroyed, some of them bombed while people were praying. Our 7,000 year-old ancient sites destroyed and looted. We've been collecting pieces of our slaughtered children with our own hands. We constantly fear kidnappings and rapes. Young girls as old as three years are being ripped out of the arms of their mothers.
At least half of the Christian population of Iraq had already fled before IS invasion of Mosul as well as Mandeans, the Yazidies, and other minorities. And now Kurds are targeted both in Syria and Iraq.
Sargon Saadi, an Assyrian filmmaker and native of Syria, who currently resides in America, has recently been in Erbil, Iraqi-Kurdistan, to interview some of the hundreds of thousands of internally displaced people. Let us together watch this ten minute version of his documentary and then discuss solutions. Because we are at the end of the road now - the Middle East has been systematically emptied of its original people for a decade, and I want you and your children and your grandchildren to be aware that this happened while you were watching. That it happened on your watch.
A trailer of the coming film The Last Plight:
I could give you hundreds of examples of the most horrifying stories a human being has ever heard. Violence that is too unbelievable for a human brain to comprehend. But I believe that Sargon Saadi's film gave you a vivid picture of the atrocities, the war crimes and crimes against humanity. What more does one need to see in order to recognize these crimes? How many more videos? Photos? Testimonies?
I am a Swedish investigative journalist, a career I'm very proud of. I have been taught the importance of evidence and reliable sources. A fact that has been very valuable in my work for A Demand For Action
I am also an Assyrian, a heritage that also is called Chaldean and Syriac, and I am very proud of that legacy. Our people have retained the language of our forefathers, a fusion of Akkadian and Aramaic, the mother tongue of Jesus Christ, for thousands of years.
We are the descendants of the ancient peoples who gave the world civilization. A culture over 7000 years old.
Civilization today, however, has failed to protect us. Our people are at risk of extinction. More of us now live in Diaspora than we do in our ancestral lands.
This is our last fighting chance. For us, the indigenous people of Iraq, and for Yazidies and other minorities, this is it. Our entire existence rests in your hands.
So let's discuss options and look at some solutions.
AIM, Alliance of Iraqi minorities is an Iraqi civil, independent, voluntarily and nonprofit alliance that seeks to protect and promote the rights of Iraqi minorities. One of their member centers recently conducted a survey of 5000 IDPs from minorities.
The reason for the survey was to see if the minorities who are refugees in their own country want to leave, or to stay in Iraq -- and if they prefer to stay, how can that happen?
The result shows that about 45 percent want to migrate since they don't believe that anyone can protect them anymore.
55 percent want to be able to return to their homes, but before they do, they want to be armed and they want to obtain the relevant military training in order to defend themselves, their families and their property.
They also want a safe haven, where international troops secure and protect their area.
So is this reasonable? We believe so. Right now, everyone is armed and everyone is fighting everyone in Iraq. We, the indigenous people, are in the middle, and we don't want to fight anyone. We seek only to protect ourselves, our families and our children. We just want the security to stay in a very small piece of our ancient lands, as is our indigenous right.
AIM met the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Iraq (SRSG), Mr. Nickolay Mladenov to propose an international conference about these demands: The crimes committed against Iraqi minorities, any future for minorities in Iraq and the whole region?
Some of these efforts are already underway to train divisions of the Iraqi army comprised of Assyrian/Chaldean/Syriac Christians and militias have been created.
Extremists, and the Islamic state / Daesh will take it as a signal that they can get away with genocide with no consequences if they are not pushed out of the Nineveh Plain. So this is not just important for minorities, but for the entire future of the Middle East, and essentially, eventually, the rest of the world. Should extremists be given free reign to decide that no minorities can stay in their own homeland? Is this what you will allow?
For there to be no more indigenous people in Iraq? No more Christians?
Mikhael Benjamin from AIM said to me yesterday:
"What is next? How many more places will they slaughter and push out the inhabitants from? We are asking the EU and other world leaders to help us arm our people. Our people are begging them to send international troops to create a safe zone for us. If not, it's not just the end for our people in our ancestor's homeland; it is also a danger to the rest of this part of the world. How many more men need to be beheaded before the world understands?"
Last night in the hotel Mr Adaktusson booked for me, I couldn't sleep, I read emails, Facebook messages and also went through the status of people I know might have news from Iraq. A video clip caught my eyes. Small children screaming "we have nowhere to stay, help us, we have nowhere to stay, help us."
I know Josef Shaba, an Assyrian technician from Sweden, one of many youngsters from Europe who have flown over to assist the refugees. He was fed up living in Sweden and not doing something concrete and went to Iraqi Kurdistan to make a documentary film. I contacted him on messenger and asked him where he filmed the children.
They are children to IDPs that cannot afford the rent and need new shelter. They don't want to stay in tents because so many children are catching illnesses.
I am now asking you, honored members of the European Parliament and the highest members of our society: Will you listen this time? Will you help us? Do you want to help these children to safely return to their homes?