(March 2017) – While we mourned the six-million Jews who were murdered by Adolf Hitler during World War II and the 1.5 million Christians who were massacred under directives from the Ottoman Empire between 1915 and 1917, I can only wonder if, in the future, we’ll be commemorating the genocide of the Christians and Yazidis in Iraq – a genocide that’s happening today while most of us have sat by, purposely blinded to the atrocities.
This week, the remembrance days marked the brutal genocidal regimes that plagued the 20th Century, regimes whose intent was to target and destroy entire religious and ethnic groups. On these days, we should not only remember the atrocities of Adolf Hitler and the Young Turks, but we must also consider the words of present day world leaders who hide their same genocidal intent under the auspices of destroying the state of Israel: Palestinian leaders who don’t recognize the right of Israel to exist; Iranian leaders who call for Israel to be wiped off the map.
Today, along with the Jews, the targets in the Middle East are the Christians and Yazidis. Yet, few political leaders accept that a genocide is occurring. A few weeks ago in Mosul, Iraq, an 11-year-old girl was freed from the slave-holds of ISIS by Iraqi forces. She was eight years old when she was first kidnapped by the brutal Islamist terror group. She was taken in 2014 along with several of her family members. Counter-terrorism experts in the region note it’s possible that over 3,000 young girls still remain enslaved by ISIS. Their lives consist of violent sex, gang rape and forced motherhood to breed the next generation of jihadis. The young girl is from the same village as Nadia Murad, a young Yazidi woman who was kidnapped and held as a sex slave by ISIS and who is now a U.N. ambassador who is filing suit against ISIS at The Hague for war crimes.
The young girl’s mother and sisters—who were also sold into slavery—are now in Germany where many Yazidi slaves were sent following a campaign by a number of organizations and the German government to buy the Yazidi girls back from ISIS. This is just one of thousands of stories of the ongoing attempt by ISIS to wipe out the Christians and Yazidis in the Middle East and beyond. In Iraq, ISIS marked Christian houses with the letter “N” for Nazerene (i.e., followers of Jesus of Nazareth), just as the Nazis marked the Jews with a yellow star of David in Germany in the 1930s and 1940s. The indescribable torture these current victims endured is only equal to the battle those that survived now face to recover from the trauma ISIS to which subjected them. While we rightly grieve the genocides of the past, today’s pending genocide is something we can stop. We must not ignore the genocide of the present just as those who ignored the suffering of the Jews or Armenians while it was ongoing. Let our children and grandchildren not have to mark “Christian/Yazidi Genocide Remembrance Day” in 50 years, once it is too late to stop it.