ADFA Delivers massive aid response to urgent appeal from Iraqi minority refugees

  • Written by:

“My wife and I take turns to cover up and heat our children at night; we work as blankets. The whole world should be ashamed. First, we are forced to flee for our lives with just the clothes on our back, then we are forced to walk for over 60 kilometers, and now our tent that we live in has turned into a mud pool. But the worst is the cold at nights. Please, send us blankets; our children will die.”

The day after those of us at A Demand for Action received that message from Iraq, we decided to call our first press conference in Stockholm, where we announced that we were collecting blankets, sleeping bags, and carpets. Little did we know, we would soon transform the Assyrian Culture Club in Södertälje into the Santa Claus-like workshops you see in Walt Disney cartoon series.

A Demand for Action came to fruition when I took to social media to address people across the globe; in this way, I was able to urge them to aid me in elevating the voices of the unheard. When the terrorist group ISIS (also called IS or ISIL) invaded Mosul on June 10th, I realized that it would lead to the genocide of Christian Assyrians/Syrians/Chaldeans and Yazidis. I also knew that Muslims who did not want to agree to the terrorists’ precepts would be killed in the process.

Within just a few hours, I received hundreds of emails and messages to my Gmail and Facebook accounts; this showed me that I had underestimated people’s willingness to help.

A few weeks later, we sent an email to 15,000 politicians, NGOs, and media editorial offices in twelve countries. We wrote to remind them that an ethno-religious cleansing is occurring in Syria and Iraq, that we had the evidence?—?e.g. videos, pictures, numbers?—?and that they could turn to us for more information. Additionally, we stated that those who received (and read) the email would henceforth be unable to claim that they were unaware of the slaughter of the indigenous peoples in Iraq and Syria. This was on July 2nd.

A month later, on August 2nd, hundreds of thousands of people marched worldwide, using our demands as slogans. On September 10th, we held a press conference in the U.S. Congress and met with President Obama’s closest advisers. In October, I gave a speech in the European Parliament. This is some of what we’ve accomplished. All volunteerism. All for the benefit of others.

On November 24th, a week after the urgent call about the cold nights in Iraq, we began collecting blankets, sleeping bags, and carpets. In marketing the event, we wrote that we wanted good and, preferably, new things. The following day, most of the stores in Stockholm were emptied of those items. The second day of the collection, stores contacted us, upset that we had not warned them so as to allow them to replenish their stocks. Regardless of how much they ordered, the supply did not match the demand.

The Assyrian Culture Club in Södertälje, which was the collection center, started to fill up with people. We were taken by surprise; there were thousands of sleeping bags and tens of thousands of blankets. There was chaos and mayhem, and many tore their hair out. We, ADFA, knew that this mayhem would subside?—?that people would want to help, that young people would want to work, and find a practical means by which to aid our cause.

The help of these hundreds of people, both young and old, is of paramount importance. Quickly, we organized four stations?—?some sorted the items, others packed them up, and one station took care of the administration, neatly and tidily, akin to Santa Claus’s workshop.

There are many to whom I want to extend gratitude and that I will remember for a long tim, but there is a man that has not left my thoughts. A middle-aged, ethnically Swedish couple came with five brand new sleeping bags. Upon meeting the man, I experienced the sensation of déjà vu. We served coffee, gingerbread cookies, baklava, and Swedish Christmas saffron buns. The couple sat down, and suddenly the man became tearful. I sat next to them and asked him why. “It’s so awesome, so wonderfully with solidarity.” At that moment, it became clear that engaging in charity work for those in need is second nature to me. I realized that the man and I belong to the era of solidarity; we grew up in a time when helping and sharing were the most natural things. Today, we seldom hear the word “solidarity” when describing the needs of a people or society, and, moreover, the notion is put into practice less and less. The circumstances are the same regarding Christmas?—?soon, the term “Christmas” will be entirely replaced with “holiday,” and, thereafter, the enchanting Christmas spirit will eventually disappear.

When the couple got up to leave, I remembered that the man reminded me of Karl Emil in “Karl Emil Jonson’s Christmas Eve”, a Swedish cartoon about stealing from the rich to give to the poor during Christmas?—?even his hair and glasses were similar. That was the déjà vu.

Our collection might have encouraged governments to act.

“The UK is providing essential, lifesaving winter supplies. Others must now urgently follow suit, before the worst of the winter weather takes hold. It is expected to pay for blankets, heating stoves and other cold-weather supplies for 14,000 vulnerable families, cash and vouchers to help 16,000 families buy winter gear, and to deliver improved shelter for another 4,500 families.”

Today I received a phone call from the man who called a few weeks ago, and he extended his thanks for the sleeping bags?—?who knows, maybe his family in Iraq will sleep in “Karl Emil’s” sleeping bags far from the Helly Hansen store in Stockholm where they were purchased.

Merry Christmas!