October 26, 2015
It’s been fifteen months since the 125,000 Christians were expelled from Mosul and the Nineveh Plains in northern Iraq by the Islamic State. Since then, they are refugees in their own country and are living in temporary refugee camps in the northern Kurdish part of the country.
Most refugees are wishing and hoping one day to return to their homes. From the outset, there were hopes of being able to return within a few months. However, today, most realize that it will take years.
With this, there is concern and despair growing as many Christians see no alternative but to seek refuge abroad. This concern is prominent among young Christians, it has become more common to emigrate instead of wait for an uncertain and dangerous future in the shadow of the growing hatred created by Islamist militants.
Another reason for this hopelessness is the because the outside world is unwilling to act, or even acknowledge the emergency humanitarian crisis. Harassment, persecution, threats, and killings have created an alarming situation in which the Christian minority, in fact, are threatened with extinction. These horrifying acts are done in front of the eyes of the western world and it must now, once and for all, be described for what it is; genocide and crimes against humanity.
The fact that Iraq is emptied of its Christian population is a tragedy of historic proportions. The Christian faith and culture has been in Iraq for thousands of years – long before the Islamist militants, whose fanatical devotees, are guilty of incomprehensible abuse and murder on a daily basis.
The deep human suffering and the extinction of the Christian heritage imposes far-reaching requirements in terms of compassion and humanity from us in the western world. With the disappearance of Christianity in Iraq, opportunities and human resources that are required for the long term rebuilding and stability both in the country and in the region, are lost, as well.
The outside world must therefore gain power and act, move from words to action and now actively help, so that the Nineveh Plains and other historical sites that are important to the Christian minority can be regained. If we want to see a stable, sustainable, and secure Iraq, then Christians and other ethno-religious groups must be given the opportunity to return to their homes and to live in security in the future.
Many with me in the European Parliament will, therefore, continue to actively pursue the issue of a protected zone for Christians and other endangered ethno-religious groups in northern Iraq. Last spring, the proposal received the support of a broad majority in Parliament and together we must now follow up the decision by setting clear requirements for EU member countries. It is the EU member governments that must continue to push for a protected zone in the international forum, such as the UN.
Finally, I note that the Swedish Government and the Foreign Minister, Margot Wallström, now, as in the past, revealed a total lack of interest in pursuing the issue of a protected zone. Fifteen months after Mosul and it doesn’t seem like a victim, nor perpetrator, is fit into the Swedish political context – the suffering of Middle Eastern Christians is not covered by the feminist foreign policy.
As the human rights organisation A Demand For Action’s Executive director in Washington DC said in an interview last week: ”The best word I can use to describe the situation of Christians is abandoned”.
It is a betrayal of one of the most vulnerable and persecuted minority groups in the world right now.