Tags / Assyrian
This footage shows fighters from the Assyrian Christian Dwekh Nawsha militia at their forward operating base in Baqufa, Iraq, as well as on the frontline where they operate together with Peshmerga units. Since August, Dwekh Nawsha has guarded the village of Baqufa – especially its church – from looters. They also control the road connecting Mosul, the largest city in the Islamic State, and Dohuk, a large Kurdish city currently giving refuge to more than 100.000 displaced persons, many of them Christians.
This specific section of the frontline is very quiet, with no major fighting for the past six months since neither side has any heavy weapons deployed here. Many refugees criticize the militia’s lack of commitment to recapturing their village in the Niniveh area.
This footage shows an ordinary day with Dwekh Nawsha: watching the enemy on the frontline, waiting at the base camp, patrolling the village of Baqufa, staying awake all night to guard the small checkpoint, preparing breakfast for the day shift, cleaning the base and returning home for their week off.
The footage includes interviews with Rama Baito, the social media manager of Dwekh Nawsha; Sargon Logan, a 25-year old bread vendor from the city of Dohuk who joined Dwekh Nawsha three months ago; General Tareq Suliman, the local Peshmerga commander on the frontline near Dohuk; and his second-in-command, Colonel Kerim, who accompanied the journalist to the frontline.
In August 2014, the Islamic State captured a number of Iraqi Christian towns in the area surrounding Mosul, among them Karakosh, the largest Iraqi city with a Christian majority.
While most fled, some Christians organized themselves into militias to defend their villages. One of them is Dwekh Nawsha (‘The Sacrificers’). Since August 2014, they have trained more than 60 fighters from the Ninaveh region of Iraq and control a small part of the frontline north of Mosul near a village called Baqufa. Dwekh Nawsha is not just a militia of Christians, but one fighting for the interests of the ancient Assyrian communities in Iraq. The Assyrians cherish a culture much older than Christianity, but were also one of the first peoples to convert in the 1st century AD. Over the last few months, the Islamic State has destroyed a number of important excavating sites and historical cities of the Assyrians, a people who used to rule over large parts of the Middle East 3.000 years ago.
The interviews were conducted in English and Kurdish.
In February 2015, Judd Carroll from Tyler, Texas decided to start a fundraising campaign to help Christian refugee children in northern Iraq and then deliver the material aid himself. Not only did the fundraising effort fail but, despite harsh criticism from family and friends, he spent his own money to fly to Iraq to bring both baby food and military equipment to local Christian militias. In this 30min interview, he explains his motivation and why he wants to join these Christian militias fighting the Islamic State.
The interview was filmed at the headquarters of the Christian Assyrian militia Dwekh Nawsha (‘The Sacrificers’).
Archbishop Yousif Thomas Mirkis of Kirkul is one of the most important clergymen in the Chaldean Church and one of the most influential representatives of the Christian community in all of Iraq. The diocese of Kirkuk has always been a centerpiece of Iraqi Christendom, its former Archbishop Louis Raphael Sako having become the Patriarch of the Chaldean Church in 2013. This interview with Bishop Mirkis was conducted on 19 March 2015 in Sulaimaniya, Iraq.
The main topics discussed are the current refugee crisis and the future role of Christians in Iraq.
This footage is an extended interview with Archimandrit Emanuel Youkhana, priest of the Assyrian Church of the East and head of the most important Christian relief organization in Iraq, CAPNI. Here he talks extensively about why, even after the Islamic State has collapsed, he thinks Iraqi Christendom is about to die out, and why he does not expect things to get much better.
The interview was conducted in English.
Jens Petzold is a Swiss monk who heads a monastery in Erbil, Iraq for Iraqi-christian refugees who fled ISIS attacks on their towns last year. A former resident of the famous Deir Mar Musa monastery in Syria, Petzold first came Iraq from Syria in 2011 in order to rebuild the abandoned monastery of Deir Maryam al-Adha. After the Islamic State started to attack Christian villages in Iraq this past summer, he became the sole caretaker of dozens of displaced families.
Petzold is a charismatic and unorthodox church congregation leader. This footage tries to show how a single person can make a big difference to many refugees as well as show how refugees from the Christian community try to get on with their daily lives, somehow trying to avoid leaving their homeland for good.
In August 2014, the Islamic State captured a number of Iraqi Christian towns in the area surrounding Mosul, among them Karakosh, the largest Iraqi city with a Christian majority. Most of its 50,000 residents fled within a couple of hours on the 6th of August and left most of their belongings behind. Right now more than 100,000 of the already shrinking population of Iraqi Christian community have become internally displaced or fled to other countries. While most of the IDPs have found refuge in Ankawa, the Christian quarter of Erbil and two large refugee camps near the city of Dohuk, a small monastery in Sulaimaniya opened its doors for more than 200 refugees who have now been living in this very crowded place for more than half a year. The monastery with its church and one building houses 80 people, nearby apartments another 100+ people. Almost 70 of them are children.
The author visited Sulaimaniya in March 2015. The entire footage was shot during that time. It includes interviews with Jens Petzold, several of the refugees, shows daily life in the monastery as well as a mass. I accompanied Jens Petzold during trips to the local market, to a Christian graveyard and to another local church community where they are raising funds to build new housing facilities.
The following rough cut is in chronological order as it was shot.
The interviews were conducted in English and Arabic.
February 26, 2015
Christian-Assyrian refugees seek refuge in the Kurdish controlled city of Qamishli after fleeing ISIS advances on their villages of Tal Tamer, Tal Harmoza, Tal al-Jazeera, Tal Kouran and Abu Tina in the Hasakeh province. ISIS militants recently kidnapped 220 Assyrians in Hasakeh province setting a dangerous precedent for christians in the area and spurring entire villages to abandon their homes and flee ISIS advances.
SHOTLIST AND SOUNDBITES
Wide/ external of the Syriac Cultural Association in Syria
Wide of men holding diaper packs destined for displaced families
Wide of diaper packs and other supplies
Wide of supplies in pickup trucks
SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Man) Michael Kourieh, Member of the Syriac Cross
00:23 – 01:30
The Syriac Cross for Relief and Development. Our work currently revolves on to help our Assyrian brothers who fled the Khabour and Tal Tamer areas. They are living in several Assyrian churches. Our aim is to help the Assyrian so that they would feel at home. As you see from these supplies, we work all day long so they would not feel like strangers.
More importantly, from the information that we gathered, we learned that the displaced came from the Khabour area in the hundreds.
We feel sad about that, but we are trying our best to help them and offer them aid.
Various associations in Qamishli are involved in this work, such as the United Nations and Mother Syria Association. Everyone is making an effort [UNINTELLIGIBLE]. We are all coordinating our work and we hope that everyone is pleased with our work. God willing, we shall remain a unified people. “
Wide of Syriac Cross members unloading aid supplies
Wide/ external Syriac Cultural Association in Syria
Wide of aid supplies
SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Woman) Elizabeth Jouqa, A displaced from Tal Tamer area
01:50 – 03:30
We fled the moment we first heard that ISIS kidnapped women, young men and children. We ran away before ISIS arrived to avoid being captured.
Interviewer: Did many people flee?
Many! There is about 600 [displaced] families here in Qamishli. May God safeguard you.
My relatives were abducted. We do not where they are. Amy God protect them from [ISIS]. May God break their arms.
Interviewer: When did the attack take place?
It was in the morning. We heard about in the morning. We called our relatives In Tal Shmeiran who told us that [ISIS] invaded their village. They said that [ISIS] had taken the men two days earlier to an unknown location and that they were like sheep to the church and did not know what was going to happen to them.
Our men, fighters from the Sotoro organisation and the Kurds, may God protect them, defended the people, but what could they do? The others [ISIS] are many. There were probably 600 of them.
Interviewer: who do you demand help from? The international community? The autonomous administration here? Regional countries?
What can I say?
Interviewer: Do you want aid form the United Nations? Who do you want aid from?
We are grateful for anyone who wants to help us. I do not know who should help us.
Wide of Syriac Cross members unloading aid supplies
Wide of street
Traveling of street
SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Woman) Julia Butros, A displaced from Tal Tawil village
03:49 – 05:27
It was in at five in the evening. They [the rescuers] took children and their father. It was at five o’clock. People fled using a mobile diesel tank. They removed the tank from the vehicle and put people in its place and took to Hasaka, and from Hasaka they were brought here to Qamishli. People arrived here at midnight. The trip started at five and took all night long.
We do not anyone who was kidnapped. It is said that people were kidnapped in other villages. We cannot say anything other than that we have seen did not see.
Interviewer: Did ISIS blow churches?
They did in another village but not in Tal Tawil. They blew up churches in another village. . In other villages there people whose whereabouts are not known.
Interviewer: How many people fled to Hasaka and Qamishli?
I do not know. May be around 300 or 400 people. Around 100 people fled from our village, Tal Tawil.
Interviewer: who do you demand help from? The international community? The United Nations?
May God reward them, whether they offered aid or not. May God reward you and anyone who helps these troubled people.
Interviewer: Is ISIS present in your village?
[ISIS] is present in other villages. This man’s wife does know anything about her family. Interviewer: Did the Kurdish fighters and the Syriac Council liberate these villages?
They are trying to help, I am not saying that they are not, but what can they do?
Wide of Syriac Cross members unloading aid supplies
Various of Christian icons hung on a wall
Close-up of sign hung on an aid vehicle reads: “An initiative of love and solidarity towards from Tal Tamer and Khabour.”
Close-up of sign on aid vehicle “Syriac Cross Organization for Relief & Development”
Medium of sign on aid vehicle “Syriac Cross Organization for Relief & Development”