Jihad, the Failed 'Surge,' and the Abandonment of Iraq’s Non-Muslim Minorities

The current predicament of Iraq’s Yazidis and Christians, past as prologue, also illustrates mainstream conservative ignorance and dishonesty about Islam and the creed’s timeless sine qua non institution, jihad.

Post-surge Iraq -- the paragon of General David Petraeus’ counterinsurgency (COIN) doctrine “triumph” -- rapidly deteriorated into a hotbed of anti-Christian, and anti-Yazidi, Islamic brutality well before the emergence of the traditionalist Islamic Caliphate movement ISIS.

As reported December 5, 2011, in the Wall Street Journal, according to Archbishop Louis Sako of the Chaldean Catholic Church in the northern provinces of Kirkuk and Sulimaniya, at least fifty-four Iraqi churches had been bombed and at least 905 Christians killed in various acts of violence since the U.S. invasion toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003.

Noting that hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Christians have fled, the archbishop stated: “It’s a hemorrhage. Iraq could be emptied of Christians.” Archbishop Louis Sako’s assessment was confirmed by a Minority Rights Group International report released at the end of November 2011 which included these summary findings:

Since 2003, Iraq’s religious minority communities have been targeted for abduction, rape and murder and had their homes and businesses destroyed, specifically because of their faith. They have received threats and intimida­tions to pay a protection tax, convert to Islam, or leave their homes and country. The violations against religious minorities documented by MRG in its 2010 report continue. Major areas of ongoing concern are Baghdad, Nineveh Plains, Mosul and Kirkuk. ... Christians are at particular risk for a number of reasons, including religious ties with the West, perceptions that Christians are better off than most Iraqis, and leadership positions in the pre-2003 government. The fact that Christians, along with Yezidis, con­tinue to trade in alcohol in Iraq (both groups have traditionally sold alcohol in Iraq), has also made them a target in an increasingly strict Islamic envi­ronment. Waves of targeted violence, sometimes in response to the com­munity’s lobbying for more inclusive policies (for example, reserved seats in elections) have forced the Christian community to disperse and seek refuge in neighboring countries and across the world. In 2003, they num­bered between 800,000 and 1.4 million; by July 2011, that number had fallen to 500,000, according to USCIRF [the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom].

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) Report on Iraq, December 2008, chronicled the oppressions to which the Yazidis were subjected -- including mass killings -- after the U.S. invasion in 2003 through the end of the “surge”:

Yazidis, Yazidi leaders, and Yazidi sites in Iraq have suffered threats and attacks since at least 2004. Minority Rights Group International reports that there were 25 reported killings of and 50 reported violent crimes targeting Yazidis from September to December 2004.  These incidents included two men being beheaded days after being threatened by conservative Muslims for failing to abide by a smoking ban during Ramadan. In Mosul in March 2004, flyers could be found stating that divine awards awaited those who killed Yazidis and in 2007, the Islamic State of Iraq, issued a fatwa calling for all Yazidis to be killed. In September 2004, the Yazidi spiritual leader survived a bombing attack in Aif Sifni.

Yazidi cultural buildings and private property were damaged after dozens of Kurds attacked Shaikhan in retribution for two Yazidi men being found in a car with a married Kurdish woman in 2007. On April 22, 2007, unidentified gunmen killed 23 Yazidis from the Kurdish town of Bashika. Reportedly, the gunmen stopped a bus outside of Mosul, discerned the Yazidis on the bus from their identity cards, told all other passengers to get off the bus, and drove the Yazidi men to eastern Mosul, where they were lined up against a wall and executed. Yazidi refugees told the Commission that after this incident, members of their community in Mosul started receiving threatening letters, spurring many to flee the city. The scale of the attacks against Yazidis increased dramatically on August 14, 2007, when four coordinated suicide bombings in the northern Yazidi towns of Qahtaniya and Jazeera killed 796 civilians and wounded another 1,562. The attack, which destroyed the two towns and left more than 1,000 Yazidi families homeless, followed … letters and leaflets condemning Yazidis as “infidels” and “anti-Islamic.”

The UN reported that, in the first half of 2008, at least 5 Yazidis were killed in Sinjar. On December 7, 2008, two Yazidis reportedly were killed in a liquor store in Mosul. On the night of December 14, 2008, seven members of a Yazidi family were gunned down in their home in Sinjar.  Minority Rights Group International reports that those Yazidis who remain in Iraq are fearful of traveling outside their communities, which has led many farmers to lose their livelihoods because they no longer go to markets to sell their produce. Yazidis with whom the Commission met report members of the community having to depend on middlemen to sell their produce.

Many Yazidis have been attacked for owning alcohol shops, although The New York Times has reported that some Yazidis opened liquor businesses in Baghdad in late 2007. Yazidis have reported to the Commission that Muslims refuse to frequent their businesses or businesses that employ Yazidis because Muslims consider them to be “dirty.” Many Yazidis have stopped performing religious ceremonies, fearful of being attacked.Yazidis also complain of being underrepresented in local government and of their representatives being barred from or ignored in meetings.

Sebastian Maisel, an American academic researcher studying the Yazidis, updated their situation since the 2011 U.S. troop withdrawal, and noted continued attacks against them beyond the Kurdish-controlled areas, prior to the ISIS jihadist depredations:

On May 14, 2013 ten Yezidi shopkeepers were killed during an armed attack on alcohol vendors in Baghdad. It is worth mentioning that only non-Muslims are permitted to sell alcohol, and that the armed forces do little to protect them. The Muslim-majority public looks down upon the industry and those who work in it, adding to the anti-Yezidi discourse. In an increasingly segregated Iraqi society, Yezidis have not found acceptance or safety outside their traditional realm.

Pace great expense of British blood and treasure over more than a decade of military occupation beginning at the end of World War I and even after the Assyrian massacres (by Arab and Kurdish Muslims) of 1933-34 that transpired upon Britain’s withdrawal, British Arabist S.A. Morrison wrote (in “Religious Liberty in Iraq”, Moslem World, 1935, p. 128):

Iraq is moving steadily forward towards the modern conception of the State, with a single judicial and administrative system, unaffected by considerations of religion or nationality. The Millet system [i.e., Ottoman dhimmitude -- not reflected by this euphemism] still survives, but its scope is definitely limited. Even the Assyrian tragedy of 1933 does not shake our faith in the essential progress that has been made. The Government is endeavoring to carry out faithfully the undertakings it has given, even when these run directly counter to the long-cherished provisions of the Shari’a Law.

But it is not easy; it cannot be easy in the very nature of the case, for the common people quickly to adjust their minds to the new legal situation, and to eradicate from their outlook the results covering many centuries of a system which implies the superiority of Islam over the non-Moslem minority groups. The legal guarantees of liberty and equality represent the goal towards which the country is moving, rather than the expression of the present thoughts and wishes of the population. The movement, however, is in the right direction, and it may yet prove possible for Islam to disentangle religious faith from political status and privilege.

Eight decades later, the goals of true “liberty and equality” for Iraq (and Afghanistan) remain just as elusive.

After yet another Western power has committed great blood and treasure toward their liberation in both Muslim nations, their politico-religious leadership appears more likely to continue promoting Sharia despotism than liberal democracy.

Pew survey results reported in 2013 have confirmed the abject failure of the U.S.-midwifed Iraqi and Afghan “democracies” to fulfill the utopian aspirations of the Bernard Lewis doctrine. The negative prognostications, epitomized by my colleague Diana West's evocative description “Making the world safe for Sharia,” have instead been realized.

Specifically, the Pew data indicated 91% of Iraqi Muslims and 99% of Afghan Muslims supported making Sharia the official state law of their respective societies.

Hurriyya, the Arabic term for “freedom” which actually means “perfect slavery to Allah and his Sharia” -- Islamic religious totalitarianism -- has triumphed over the diametrically opposed Western, Judeo-Christian conception of individual liberty founded upon the bedrock freedoms of conscience and expression.

We have a moral obligation to oppose Sharia, which is antithetical to the core beliefs for which hundreds of thousands of brave Americans have died, including -- between 2001 and the end of 2014 -- over 6800 in Iraq and Afghanistan.

There has never been a Sharia state in history that has not discriminated (often violently) against the non-Muslims (and Muslim women) under its suzerainty. Moreover, such states have invariably taught (starting with Muslim children) the aggressive jihad ideology which leads to predatory jihad “razzias” on neighboring “infidels,” even when certain members of those “infidels” happened to consider themselves Muslims, let alone if those infidels were clearly non-Muslims.

That is the ultimate danger and geopolitical absurdity of a policy that ignores or whitewashes basic Islamic doctrine and history, while, however inadvertently, making or re-making these societies “safe for Sharia.”