By James Reinl
Chaldean Christian refugees in Erbil, Kurdistan Region. Photo: AFP
NEW YORK – A US-based group of the Chaldean Christians has called on the United States to open its doors to members of the religious minority who fled from the advancing Islamic State (IS) army in Iraq.
The Minority Humanitarian Foundation, a US-based charity, has contact with 70,000 Chaldeans who fled from Mosul and its surrounding areas when IS – an extremist Sunni Muslim militia – stormed the region in July and imposed draconian religious laws.
“The US and likeminded countries should open their doors,” said Mark Arabo, the group’s spokesman for Chaldean Christians. “Some 70,000 innocent lives have contacted us in the last two weeks, begging to be rescued and go anywhere they could because they cannot return to their homes.
“This is not about giving them an extra sandwich, blanket or pillow. It’s about telling the world we’re giving homes to the victims of genocide. We’re going to treat this like we treated Bosnia, with resettlement as a top priority.”
Thousands of people fled Mosul and its surrounding areas when IS, which is also known as ISIS and ISIL, reached the city and demanded that Christians either convert, submit to their radical laws and pay a religious tax or face death by the sword.
Members of other faiths in the once diverse city, including Yazidis, Shi’ites and Shabaks, also fled from the hard-line militants, who have blown up mosques, churches and shrines and seized the belongings of fleeing minorities.
Most fleeing Chaldean Christians sought refuge in Kurdish areas, where they get basic supplies and shelter but fear the approaching winter. Some 70,000 Chaldean families in the US are willing to sponsor and assist those who can come to the US, Arabo said.
“We have to settle them and the US is their best choice,” Bishop Sarhad Yawsip Jammo, the senior Chaldean Catholic Bishop of America, told Rudaw. “We already have 250-300,000 Chaldeans in the US. They cannot go home. Bedouins and other Muslims, who were their neighbours, collaborated with ISIS. ISIS booby trapped their houses. If they go home, boom.”
A spokesman for US State Department said the US has taken in 110,000 Iraqi refugees in recent years, including 45,000 from minority religious groups. The US also works with the US refugee agency, UNHCR.
“We meet regularly with representatives from a variety of Iraqi religious groups, and we are aware of a number of different proposals for how best to respond to the security needs of members of Iraq’s religious and ethnic minority groups,” the spokesman said.