“How do you square ‘sustainable political solutions’ with extremists who boast about horrific crimes?”
“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.
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.”