The following open letter from an Assyrian Christian to Austrian politicians was made available to Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff and has been translated by Rembrandt Clancy. Elisabeth includes this note:
This open letter was forwarded to me by a young Assyrian Christian lady whom I know personally. She wishes to remain anonymous, for obvious reasons. The letter was sent to Austrian politicians, members of parliament and other so-called very important persons.
The translated letter:
As a proud Austrian woman primarily, and then as an Assyrian of Iraqi origin, I appeal to you to direct particular attention to the horrific ethnic and religious cleansing and the dreadful genocide which is being perpetrated, especially at this very moment, against Christians in Iraq and Syria. This systematic mass murder is being committed by radical Islamic holy warriors whose leader a few weeks ago proclaimed a new Caliphate, presently called IS, or the Islamic State.
It is very sad to have to look on as Austria in particular, a country which enjoys constitutional status with the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), which is one of the most important sources in law for her fundamental rights, scarcely reacts to the horrifying events. The ignorance in the face of the gravest human rights violations unfolding before our eyes, and at the gates of Europe, is beyond me.
It is mass murder in and of itself, that one of the most ancient peoples in the world, together with their thousands of years of culture, one representing a global cultural inheritance, is being annihilated. The Christian minority in Iraq is altogether one of the most ancient Christian communities, having been in existence since the first century; and today, they are on the point of being abandoned on a road from massacres and executions to everlasting oblivion.
Only a few weeks have passed since the violent advance of ISIS paralysed Iraq, sent hundreds of thousands of people to their deaths and drove another hundred thousand out of their homes.
A month ago, the Islamic State captured large swaths of Iraq with breathtaking speed and overran its second largest city, Mosul. Ninweh [Nineveh] is the Assyrian name for the city of Mosul; it is more than 2,000 years old. This city was home to a Christian community in Iraq that from time to time constituted the country’s second-largest community.
However, the advances of this Jihadist group did not stop with the taking of Mosul, but advanced further. A few days ago they conquered the city of Qaraqosh [Bakhdida], in which around 50,000 Christians resided; the refugees, who were simultaneously fleeing from Mosul, increased this number threefold. It was in Qaraqosh that the Christians from Mosul and surrounding villages such as Tall Kayf [Tel Keppe], Bartella and Karamlesh had found safety. The adherents of the Islamic State issued an ultimatum to the Christians: they painted the Arabic letter N (ن) on the houses of Christians in order to identify them as unbelievers, hence consign them to execution; similar to the Nazis who marked Jewish property with the Star of David.
The Arabic letter N (ن) stands for Nazarene, a disparaging term for Christians; in fact, they are characterised as such in the Koran. In addition to the letter N, they wrote the statement: “This house or this property belongs to the Islamic State”.
The holy warriors gave the “unbelievers” the following alternatives:
1. Convert to Islam; 2. Pay the jizyah, or “religion tax”, which is however set so high that de facto no one can afford it; 3. Move out and leave everything behind; 4. Die by the sword.
That is exactly what the Koran prescribes for dealing with Christians and Jews. They told the Christians to leave the city, even using loudspeakers attached to the minarets of the hundreds of mosques in the city.
The time limit within which Christians had to decide was fixed at twenty-four hours. Anyone who failed to make a decision by that time was executed in the most brutal fashion. In this way, the pious Jihadists required only twenty-four hours to render the city, in which Christians had been dwelling for 2,000 years, Christian-free.
An entire people is being murdered and violated today to the cry of Allahu Akbar; an entire religion is simply being extinguished. Anyone who does not belong to the religion of these Jihadists is simply beheaded. Christian, Yazidi, Shabaks, Shiites and even Sunni, anyone who does not identify with their type of ideational framework, is massacred and executed in the most brutal manner.
I would ask you, in the name of humanity, to rescue these people and these minorities. At this moment, 100,000 Yazidi are barricading themselves on Mount Sinjar, without food and water; thus far 25,000 children have died in agony from hunger and thirst. In the meantime, 150,000 Christians have fled to Arbil. The churches, and the houses of other Christians in Arbil, are already so overcrowded that there is no more room for new arrivals.
The people are living under inhumane conditions and are spending the night on the streets; children and infants scream from hunger and fatigue. They feel hated and unwanted; they are foreigners in their own land. By the degrading and inhuman actions of these Jihadists, their human dignity is being trampled under foot in the truest sense of this phrase.
Today in the twenty-first century, women and “unbelievers” are being sold as sex slaves on the market of the radical Islamic Jihadists. In addition their men are being beheaded before their eyes, and their children violated. It is genocide without parallel, which is not happening here to be sure, but it is happening right now.
Even Arbil is no longer secure; on Friday 08 August 2014, I spoke with my cousin there by telephone. He told me that on that very evening, having already packed their suitcases, they were going to make their way along the escape route in the direction of Diana (Diana is a village in northern Iraq, in Kurdistan. One of the largest ethnic groups in that city is Christian.) But since they are in very great danger, they will undertake a further escape from there into Iran. At the moment, flight into Iran holds the only remaining possibility for leaving Iraq. He also said that there is no longer a life for Christians in Iraq. They are therefore constrained to undertake an unknown route to an unknown destination in order to escape beheading.
However, the question arises: And what then?
My family alone, which at this moment is in the greatest danger, consists of 40 adult persons plus 20 children and adolescents ranging in age from 3 to 18. There are tens of thousands of Christian families currently underway on similar escape routes. They make their way “to nowhere”. We must help them and not simply look the other way! We must not simply look at the situation as if it were an earthquake against which we can do nothing, so as to lament later, at Sunday Mass, that we should have done something at the time.
This is not the first Christian persecution which we Christians have experienced in this region, but this genocide is certainly the last one for Iraqi Christendom, and also for the Christians of Syria, if we continue to do nothing to oppose it.
I have already experienced one of these persecutions of Christians first hand and I still harbour in my memory, after 24 years, the living presence of these terrifying recollections and experiences. I was very fortunate to have come out of it with my life and then to have found the way here to Austria. But just because we are now in Austria, and far away from the problem, does not mean that we may simply regard this genocide as mere fate.
Please use the influence which accrues to your prominent position! Allow us to organise relief supplies and let us be generous in accepting amongst us refugees from Iraq and Syria, a persecuted people to whom the foremost preference must be given.
But also please make representations at the international level in favour of our country supporting a suitable political and military fight against the Islamic Jihadists. Civilisation is in danger. Do not wait until the Jihad arrives on our own doorstep.
Thank you for having made the effort of reading my remarks.