Iraqi Christians Fear Fallout of US Pullout, Turkish Invasion
A few days ago, Donald Trump announced he was pulling out U.S. troops from Northeastern Syria. At this, some of my friends were happy. In Iraq, the native peoples of the land (Assyrian/Chaldean/Syriac) have lost our land to Kurdish nationalists. They didn’t protect Iraq’s Christians against ISIS when it attacked. Iraqi Christians mostly see the policies of the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) as a threat to their very existence as an ethnic and religious group. In Syria; however, despite some naysayers, there are some Christians who have aligned themselves with Kurdish forces in Northeastern Syria.
But still, we shouldn’t be happy about the prospect of a bloody Turkish invasion. Turkish dictator Tayyip Erdogan is a radical, anti-Semitic Islamist. He wants to re-establish the Ottoman Empire. That’s the regime that oppressed millions of Christians for centuries, and launched the Armenian, Assyrian, and Greek genocide. (To learn more, please see The Thirty-Year Genocide.)
Turkey: An Islamist Aggressor
Under Erdogan’s leadership, Turkey continues to oppress Christian communities across that vast country. He promises to re-open the great cathedral Hagia Sophia as a mosque. Erdogan aggressively wants to Islamize Europe. He went to Germany and ordered Turkish immigrant women to have at least five children, to speed up the process. Turkey has held Europe hostage by threatening to ship millions more Syrian immigrants, refugees from the civil war he helped to start.
Erdogan was one of the first patrons and sponsors of ISIS, whose fighters he sheltered and oil he bought. That’s how they bought their weapons. He has sponsored militias linked to al Qaeda. They want to conquer all of Syria, and drive out its Christians and other religious minorities. They have been just as brutal as ISIS in their treatment of conquered Christians. This January, in Afrin, after the last Turkish invasion, they hunted down Christian converts from Islam door to door, to impose the sharia penalty. That is, death.
Making Christians Refugees, Unleashing ISIS
Erdogan claims to want a 20-mile buffer zone alongside Turkey’s border. He will fill it with Syrian refugees new to the region. This would displace ancient Assyrian Christian communities. They would pay the price for a civil war they didn’t start or lead. These innocent people would become refugees, like so many helpless Christians in Syria and Iraq.
For Iraqi Christians and other recent victims of ISIS, this invasion would prove a disaster. The Syriac Democratic Forces (SDF) reports that it currently guards some 60,000 ISIS prisoners, including both fighters and their families. If attacked, the SDF will give up on guard duty, and release this deadly element. It will pour into nearby Iraq, and relaunch ISIS’s war of genocide against Iraq and its native peoples, especially Christians. Iraq’s already fragile, protest-ridden government would likely fall. The country would mostly fall into the ready hands of Iran. If Iran uses Iraq and Syria as a road to make terrorist strikes on Israel, Jerusalem might have to invade.
Christians as Scapegoats for the West
With all this chaos brought on by an American decision, many who do not agree with the US policies in the region will strike at the nearest scapegoat— native Christian communities like my own. We’re wrongly seen as “honorary” Westerners, even though we are indigenous to our lands in Iraq, Turkey and Syria and the West has done almost nothing to protect us. We pay the price for American policies, but rarely see any benefit. Three fourths of our community were killed or driven from Iraq after the American intervention in Iraq. Will this latest mistake let ISIS purge the last of us from our homeland?
This Turkish invasion which President Trump wants to enable would reignite two civil wars, and send another million refugees fleeing into Europe. It doesn’t advance American interests, and it threatens more than a million Christians in two countries with genocide. It’s a blunder and also a crime.