Dr. Eibner, the CEO of CSI-USA, recently returned from an aid mission to the displaced Christians and Yazidis of northern Iraq. While there, he was able to visit the villages conquered by the Islamic State (ISIS) in August 2014 for the first time since their re-conquest by Kurdish and Iraqi forces this fall.
In these two videos, recorded in Erbil, Iraq, Dr. Eibner tells about his visit, and discusses the situation with William Warda, chairman of the Alliance of Iraqi Minorities, and the Honorable Pascale Warda, President of the Hammurabi Human Rights Organization and Iraq’s former Minister of Migration.
“These villages I got to know and to love very well are now completely burned out,” Eibner said. “There’s extensive destruction. The Islamic State tried to destroy these villages with fires as they withdrew. I was visiting ghost towns.”
Pascale Warda spoke of returning to her home after the recapture of the Nineveh Plain: “It’s horrible when you go to your home and you see it was so looted, so vandalized, so badly treated. My house was not burned, but we saw that they tried to do it. I saw the houses of my friends, and it’s horrible to see that their homes don’t exist anymore, for no reason. What did Christians do to ISIS? Why did they concentrate on us more than others? We don’t understand why, until this day.”
Eibner commented, “I don’t use the term ‘liberated’ areas” to describe land recaptured from ISIS, “because I believe that language should only be used at such time when people are free to go back and live in peace and security. Liberation means that the disputes that the outside powers have over their land come to an end, that those outside powers say, ‘Go back to your villages. We will make sure that you can live in peace. We will not claim land. We will not try to change the demographics of the region’ – an old game that everybody has been playing for a very long time at the expense of the religious minorities. When that happens, there will be a situation that merits the name ‘liberation.’ So far, I don’t see any clear sign of that political understanding.”
For Christians, Yazidis and other minorities to be able to return, Pascale Warda said, “We need an international presence. We need a real force.” Reconstruction and reconciliation must be backed by guarantees of safety.
More than two years after 200,000 Christians and 300,000 Yazidis fled their homes to escape ISIS, political conflicts over Iraq’s future are preventing them from returning home – even to areas “liberated” from ISIS control. Without strong international guarantees of protection, there may be no future in Iraq for Christians and Yazidis.
William Warda comments, “Minorities are scared to return to their homes, because who will guarantee that what was done to them by ISIS will not be repeated by other groups?” Eibner and William Warda agree that only credible, governmental guarantees of security will allow Christians and other minorities to survive in Iraq.
CSI has been working in Iraq to provide support to Christian victims of terrorism and genocide since 2007. To support our continued efforts to help Christians survive in Iraq, please donate.