San Diego Chaldean Works To Silence ISIS On Social Media

By Susan Murphy
Islamic militants in Iraq are using Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other social media tools to

share gruesome massacres, post threatening messages and recruit jihadists from the U.S. and around the world.

Aired 8/18/14 on KPBS News.

A San Diego Chaldean-American is working to thwart online recruiting efforts by Islamic militants in Iraq.

Ben Kalasho, president of the Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce, monitors social media sites for ISIS activity, August 15, 2014.

“It’s fresh raw footage that’s barbaric, grotesque and I won’t allow it to continue,” said Ben Kalasho, president of the San Diego East County Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce.

Kalasho created an online coalition of people in San Diego and around the world to monitor social media sites and report ISIS activity.

“Because it’s a huge recruiting tool,” Kalasho said. “They’re almost making it cool to engage in these sorts of atrocities. After all, if they’re saying it’s the Word of God — and for most young people it’s an easy lure for them to be brainwashed, if you’re a teenager especially.”

Kalasho said his campaign started when he noticed ISIS had an Instagram page.

“And in it they were recruiting people,” Kalasho said. “They were boasting about all the atrocities they had committed. So in turn, I turned to Facebook, I have a lot of followers… and I asked everyone to report the page.”

Kalasho said hours later the account was closed.

Their efforts after one week have shut down a half-dozen Facebook and Instagram sites that had hundreds of followers and contained videos and photographs of beheadings and mass executions, Kalasho said.

“When people can just whip out their cell phone and take a video of somebody getting beheaded, it sends chills down our spine,” Kalasho said. “But it’s also that much more real because we know it’s not censored.”

Kalasho said he recently engaged in talks with Iraqi Parliamentary officials to push for the creation of a 20th Province in Iraq, a safe haven to house Christians and other minorities in the Nineveh Plains.

San Diego has one of the largest populations of Iraqi refugees in the country — the majority of the roughly 80,000 residents are Chaldean Christians. Many resettled to the region during the decade-long Iraq War that started in 2003.

Kalasho said monitoring social media is one way the community is helping their homeland from thousands of miles away.

The Chaldean community is also planning a march on Tuesday to the steps of El Cajon City Hall to draw attention to the crisis in Iraq.

The Peace Walk to End Genocide in Iraq is scheduled to start at 5 p.m. at St. Michaels Chaldean Catholic Church.

“We must let the world know that we continue to watch as our brothers and sisters in the Middle East are persecuted, displaced, and killed simply for being who they are. It is time we take a stand right from our doorstep, in El Cajon,” said Mark Arabo, a spokesperson for the Iraqi Chaldean community in San Diego County.