Imagine a very old grandmother. The multiple battles, abuse & genocide she’s faced over the years have made her weak, frail, poor and worst of all, lonely, left to feel abandoned. Bits of her soul have been chipped away with every struggle she’s faced. Her descendants are scattered throughout the world in search of a better life, and because they are not with her, they are slowly forgetting their traditions, their culture and most importantly, their language & identity. Every time the grandmother faces her demons, her descendants do whatever is within their capabilities to help her, to give her hope. They too are helpless, and they all know it. She knows it. Her time is running out…
It has been almost a year since the incomprehensible demands were made to the inhabitants of Mosul. A few days after those events, I received a desperate message from my good friend Nuri, asking for help with his newly formed group, A Demand For Action. He asked me to gather a few people to join his cause. I didn’t know where to begin. I didn’t have many connections in the community. That’s when he introduced me to people in my own country. People he knew. People that I got to know and later called my team.
We had three aims and they were very clear. First was to raise awareness in the media (to get the air-time so people around the world knew what was happening). Second was to raise awareness with politicians (in the hopes that they would take notice and send in help – both military and humanitarian aid). Third was to ensure that our ethnicity was not being erased, as we did not want to be referred to Iraqi or Kurdish Christians. We all knew that one of the most powerful tools in this era is Social Media, especially Twitter. Within days we created a Twitter social media army that had over 100 members who tweeted constantly. This was our cry for help, and we got the world’s attention fast.
A Demand For Action quickly formed teams in other countries. As our global community found out about our cause, they wanted to be a part of us. We grew by 2-3 countries each week until we got to 19. We started to write letters to politicians in many countries, reported from the ground, gained a massive following on Facebook, coordinated demonstrations around the globe, got interviewed by countless TV & radio stations. Foreign Ministers, Prime Ministers & Ambassadors were beginning to listen to us, we began attending UN & EU conferences and producing short documentaries. We transported much needed items direct to Erbil, established strong relationships with ANCA, established ourselves as a NGO in Sweden and even set up an office in Washington DC, where one of our most significant accomplishments has been the National Defence Authorization Act (NDAA) approval to provide support for local security forces in the Nineveh Plain. Another significant ADFA accomplishment I am proud of is a resolution in the European Parliament that passed for the benefit of the victims; Assyrians/Chaldeans/Syriacs, as well as Yezidis and other minorities of the region. We also received a lot of criticism, but we did not let that distract from our efforts to help our people, who were suffering yet another Genocide.
Considering this was all volunteer work, we were extremely busy and exhausted. We went from setting aside 15-30 minutes a day to 4-8 hours a day. We were active on social media, correcting journalists & historians, writing articles, conducting interviews, contacting politicians, trying to raise funds and everything else we could think of, to help our people back in Iraq. Our lives had changed, and this volunteer work was taking its toll on all of us. However, no matter how tired we were, we all knew that our people were suffering and that they needed us.
A Demand For Action had become such a big part of our lives and we had read so many articles and watched so many YouTube clips that we all started having nightmares. Some of us (a few) left ADFA as they couldn’t bare it anymore. The Genocide was too much for them. What helped the rest of us through these nightmares was talking to our ADFA colleagues about it. The support we all receive from each other is second to none.
The first nightmare I had was on the 1st of September. It’s still vivid in my mind. I had a dream that I was captured as a prisoner of ISIS in Australia and lined up with a bunch of other people. They singled me out and brought me to my knees,. Hands bound & extremely exhausted from being beaten, I had given up on life. My captor pointed a gun so hard into my cheek that I actually woke up from the pain. The weird thing is, in the dream, I had accepted death and was just waiting for the trigger to be pulled. All I could think about was my son, and that I would never see him again.
The 2nd dream I had was around mid-March this year, where I was in my car with my cousin, trying to get to a train station. We somehow ended up on the edge of a desert. I pulled over to get my navigator on my phone to work. Not even 10 seconds later we were surrounded by a dozen young and old black males in army clothes with guns pointed at us. I couldn’t breathe. I was almost paralysed. In a panic, I tried to turn the car on to drive away but they all lifted their guns ready to shoot. My window was open. One of the older ones came up to my window and said “keys!”. He pointed the gun at my forehead. After I gave him my keys, the younger ones, whom I could see through my rear vision mirror, raised their guns with one hand and screamed “Allah u Akbar” …
Despite all the work, community issues and the nightmares (which were just dreams for me, but a reality for our people in Iraq & Syria), we continue with our work. I have never been more proud to be a part of an organisation. For the first time in our history we have a truly globally coordinated organisation. One voice. One mind. One. All I can hope for is that the next 12 months and beyond brings more accomplishments for our people’s plight.
We all know that our people need our help and most importantly, our children need us to provide them a better future. I need to provide my own child with a better future. This was further nailed into my heart when one morning my wife was in bed checking all the Facebook updates with all that was happening to our people. My four year old son looked at her phone and then rolled over and said:
“What are you doing mama?”
She said “Reading about the Assyrians”
He replied “We could go there, you know,… and protect them”
A Demand For Action – Australia