When and How Does A Genocide Begin?
Traveling at present in Kurdistan and Northern Iraq, I’ve been meeting some of the groups who have been subjected to genocide and crimes against humanity.
I was very struck by the way Assyrians, Syriacs, and Chaldeans have been systematically targeted – over decades and even centuries. Pre dating Christianity and Islam, these ancient peoples have been decimated in systematic campaigns to eradicate and eliminate them, their culture, and their way of life. Their crime is simply to dare to be different.
One Assyrian told me “Pre 2003 our intellectuals, elites and scholars were exiled, imprisoned, tortured and some martyred. Ironically, since then, under the name of democracy, persecution has become institutionalised.” ISIS, of course, then posed an existential threat.
This contemporary Genocide began at Simele in 1933 when Iraq’s armed forces led by Bakr Sidqi massacred up to 3000 people in 63 villages in the areas around Dohuk and Mosul.
A young Jewish lawyer, Raphael Lemkin, studied Simile and the Armenian Genocide and coined the word genocide. He later saw over 40 if his family killed in the Holocaust.
In our own times, as the world looked the other way, these same communities, who told me “we feel abandoned by the international community”, have experienced more systematic killing and now say “we feel unsafe, politically disempowered, and excluded.”
The seeds of genocide are planted in a climate of indifference and impunity.
Northern Iraq and North East Syria provide the text book that proves it.