ICC Note: Iraqi Assyrians have suffered a tragic fate at the hands of ISIS and their lightning advance across northern Iraq. This ancient Christian community has been uprooted, pillaged and raped by the militant jihadists. Tawfeek Sakot shares his story of loosing everything and becoming an internally displaced person in his own country. He also reminds the reader that this is not the first time his community has suffered genocide. In face 100 years ago, almost exactly, one in every two assyrians was slaughtered for their faith during the Armenian Genocide.
06/27/2016 Iraq (AINA): For the Iraqi Assyrians, the Islamic State (ISIS) attack against their homes, towns and villages was no less than an act of Genocide. But to understand the fate of the Iraqi Assyrians one must see through the culture of violence that took hold of the Middle East now for over one hundred years.
“Write down my demands,” told me Tawfeek Sakot, a man over seventy years old that I met in Ashti-2 refugee camp near Erbil, “The UN should recognize the persecution of the Christians as Genocide. Second, return to our lands and holy places, under international protection. Third, compensation for our losses. And fourth, a territorial entity for Christians, Yazidis and Shabak for self rule.”
Tawfeek Sakot was once a rich farmer in the town of Qaraqosh, in the fertile Ninveh Valley north Iraq, to the southeast of Mosul. Today he is a refugee in the Ashti-2 camp on the suburbs of Erbil. He is a refugee within his own country. After a career as primary school teacher mostly in Arab villages in Hilla province, he went back to his ancestral town and started farming. After three decades of hard work he had a prosperous farm with over 100 cows, grain production, and even a hotel. He shows me pictures of his farm, and official documents certifying that he possessed the 100 cows.
Then, one day, everything changed. It was on 23 June 2014, when he was working on his farm when Daesh fighters erupted. It was after the unexpected fall of Mosul, and Peshmerga fighters stationed in their region suddenly withdrew. “First, they treated us well,” Sakot said, “They brought us food and water.” But later, on July 17, they came back with a fatwa authorizing the confiscation of Christian property. “They forced my son to lay down on the ground, and they put a gun to my head. They pillaged all my farm,” he told me. Were they strangers, I asked? “I did not know their emir, who was an Iraqi. But all the others I knew, including the one who pointed a gun on me, his name was Muheidi Saleh Mazloom, he had been several times to my house, eaten bread with us,” he answered.
The ISIS attack in 2014 made 150-200 thousand Assyrians flee their homes in Ninveh province. Yet, this is not the start of their persecution. “What happened 100 years ago still effects us”, told me Ashur Sargon Eskrya, president of Assyrian Aid Society in Iraq. Just like the better-known case of the Armenian genocide, Assyrians have also become victims of deportations and massacres under Sultan Abdul Hamid II and later during the First World War, Assyrians were also victims of genocide, known as “Sayfo”, where one out of two Assyrians were killed.