Astonishing scenes in Turkey as UNHCR help Syria's newest refugees across the border.
© UNHCR / I.Prickett
Astonishing scenes in Turkey as UNHCR help Syria's newest refugees across the border.
Last updated: November 1, 2014
Diplomatic language does not prevent genocide in Syria and Iraq

"How do you square 'sustainable political solutions' with extremists who boast about horrific crimes?"

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"Please bomb us," asked the woman being held captive by the Islamic State of Iraq. She was talking to her relatives on the phone. That morning, she had been raped 30 times. She cannot go to the bathroom anymore. She wants to die now, and her wish is to be bombed out of her suffering – the suffering in which she and many other women are kept as slaves to the warriors of jihad. Her testimony has been recorded by Compassion4Kurdistan, a website that documents the crimes against humanity carried out by the Islamic State.

THERE IS AN ongoing genocide in Iraq and Syria. I dare to say that with certainty. The UN has started to gently approach the same opinion by saying and writing that it “can be interpreted as genocide." Hundreds of thousands of people have been forced to flee their homes because of their faith and ethnicity. "Convert to Islam, pay taxes, or die" – these are their choices. Few have converted. Instead they have fled head first, with only the clothes on their backs. Pictures have spread across the world of the chaotic circumstances under which they escape their towns and villages. It feels unreal: entire regions of the Middle East emptied of their ancestral inhabitants. IS also kills other Muslims: Kurds (both Shia and Sunni), Shi’a Arabs, Turkmen, Shabaks, and their "own" – the Sunnis.

"That morning, she had been raped 30 times"

I understand those who cannot bear to read more, or are unable to listen to us who convey all this cruelty. But what I describe is happening all the time, every day. Anyone living under the Islamic State who does not agree to live under the most extreme tyranny has no future in the Middle East. And yet, they have nowhere else to go.

In September, I was in Washington trying to get the American government to act for the protection of the Assyrians, Syrians, Chaldeans, Yazidis and other minorities in Iraq and Syria.

AS A SWEDE a small hope was lit in me when Margot Wallström became Sweden's new foreign minister. She is internationally known for, among other things, her struggle for vulnerable women and girls in war zones, and worked as a special envoy of the United Nations. She monitored research into sexual violence. Her task was to implement the UN resolution 1820 on sexual violence against civilians in conflict. I thought the reality that women and children face under the Islamic State – that they are kidnapped, raped and sold as sex slaves in their thousands – should touch her ​​deeply. I hoped that she could contribute to making a plan for how to get the critical help these victims need.

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When Wallström, in her capacity as a Swedish minister, was invited to give the keynote speech at the UN Day, arranged by the United Nations Association of Sweden, I listened very carefully. She said the government has received reports showing gross systematic and widespread abuses of human rights and violations of humanitarian international law. She also noted that the UN has described these near barbaric acts. "Murder, torture and rapes are occurring on a large scale. And these heinous acts against the civilian population may amount to crimes against humanity. Those responsible must be held accountable."

I held my breath – what would she do about the situation? Notification: Sweden will now give more money in aid to Syria. My stomach turned. I just wanted to scream.

SWEDEN HAS NO CONTROL over the charity that is sent to Syria. Doesn’t she know that there is chaos there, that aid is not reaching those it is intended? I myself went to Syria earlier this year and know how relief supplies are stolen, resold, and fall into the wrong hands. And it definitely will not reach those who are being held hostages by the Islamic State. How can the foreign minister guarantee that aid reaches people in areas controlled by a terrorist organization?

It may sound generous to want to send more Swedish tax money to Syria, but it also shows laziness and lack of understanding: just send money straight into a war zone and "hope for the best."

"My stomach turned. I just wanted to scream"

Wallström's diplomatic language – "the only sustainable way forward in Syria is to bring a political process and solution" – stands in stark contrast to that used in the fourth edition of the Islamic State’s own magazine Dabiq. There they brag about Yazidi children and women "distributed" among jihadists. Others are sold in markets. How do you square "sustainable political solutions" with extremists who boast about their horrific crimes against humanity?

Islamic State deeds are not unprecedented in the history of mankind. In retrospect, we know for example that it required more than diplomatic words and promises of aid money to stop the genocide in Rwanda. By learning from history, we can make sure that all those who were killed there did not die in vain. Therefore, a safe haven in the Nineveh Plain in northern Iraq must be immediately created. 600,000 people have been forced to leave the area. They are now refugees in Erbil and Dohuk. Winter has come, the rain has fallen, and children are sleeping in the mud in ramshackle tents. They want to return to their homes.

IS MUST BE DEFEATED. The world leaders of this generation must show history that they did not abide genocide. If they manage to drive IS out of northern Iraq, it will show that there is still hope and justice in the world.


Nuri Kino is the founder of the global grassroots initiative A Demand for Action. Visit their Facebook page here. This article has been translated from the Swedish, originally published with Svenska Dagbladet.

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