Josef Shaba

Everyone can do something. If I can, so can you!

It was an ordinary morning and we sat and ate breakfast. I was seven years old and the

year was 1991. Suddenly, the ground began to shake beneath us and our ears were

stunned by the bombs falling. The war between Saddam Hussein’s army and the Kurds

and Assyrians / Syriacs / Chaldeans had broken out in a large scale. My parents packed

some clothes, left the half-eaten breakfast, and put us all in the car and headed for

Turkey. Since then we lived as refugees, either in tents or in the seedy back alleys of

one of the country’s major cities.


In recent months, since the IS invaded Mosul and then emptied the Nineveh plains from

Christian Assyrians / Syriacs / Chaldeans, Yezidis, Kurds and others, I have not been

able to sleep. Every time I see a picture or a video clip from the genocide in Iraq and

Syria, my mind stops functioning. I cannot sleep or eat. Instead, I surf the web, find out

as much as I can. One day I saw something that triggered a thought in me. I saw a video

of an Assyrian singer who had traveled from the US to Iraq to help the refugee children.

It was then that I decided that I would do the same thing but I wanted to make a

documentary. There are millions of us in Diaspora, in countries such as Sweden, the US

and Australia who are affected by the ongoing genocide.


We see how our brothers and sisters are kidnapped, raped and slaughtered. We feel

incredibly powerless. In Sweden, a freelance journalist Nuri Kino initiated a grassroots

movement in just a few months which is represented in 19 countries. This was proof that

there are many of us around the globe feeling powerless.


I got Nuri’s number so I rang and rang but no answer. I didn´t give up. When he finally

answered, he sounded stressed. I asked for a few minutes of his time. I said I wanted to

go to Erbil and do something, anything! I asked if he had any ideas. “Documenting,

filming, photographing, interviewing” he said. I had no experience in journalism. Nuri´s

organization A Demand For Action has team members in Iraq. He said that he would

guide me.


I, an ordinary technician, took courage and contacted the media company Crisp. They

were interested. I booked a ticket, found people who could help me film. So I started my

mission. I did not know then that the little I contributed would change so much for so

many. On the first day, we filmed the refugees’ situation, how they lived in either dirty

buildings, or very thin tents. It was heartbreaking to see all the children who are the

same age that I was when we got in the car that morning long ago.


The second night I was there it started raining hysterically. I panicked. I immediately

thought of all the children in the tents. When we got to the first refugee camp it was as I

feared. All tents had been flooded with water. The children were crying because of lack

of milk and the parents were worried about where to spend the night. It was muddy

everywhere so people could barely walk without them sinking into the mud. I did what

Nuri had asked. I started interviewing people, filming, photographing and documenting.

Pictures and videos streamed out to the whole world, politicians, NGOs and the media

were contacted via email, Twitter and Facebook.


Finally I’m back home in Sweden. I´m exhausted. I still cannot eat or sleep well. I am not

alone. Millions of people feel the same. Obviously I’m proud to have helped victims of IS

to have made their voice heard but they are far from safe or secure. How long will this

genocide continue without the world or the politicians putting an end to it?


Joseph Shaba


An ordinary technician from Södertälje, and new member of ADFA

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