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ABC Documentary: The Rescue of Iraqi Christians

The ABC 20/20 documentary graphically portrayed how these Iraqi Christians threatened with genocide fled from their millennia old community of Qaragosh, Iraq, after a mortar attack by ISIS.  The Christian community they fled was one of the oldest in the Middle East and was violently desecrated by ISIS.  They were told by rampaging ISIS jihadis they had three choices; to flee, remain as virtual slaves or be killed. They were among the more than 170,000 internally displaced Christians in Iraqi Kurdistan threatened by barbaric apocalyptic ISIS less than 30 miles away.

The Qaragosh Christian community fled and became locked in a virtually immoveable massive traffic jam. They abandoned their vehicles fled on foot to Erbil. There they found  sanctuary in the courtyard of Mar Elia Chaldean Catholic Church presided over by resourceful Father Douglas Bazi.  At first housed in tents, the 560 refugees were subsequently housed in caravans, with space heaters, limited sanitary facilities and communal kitchens.  They were Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) who dared not enter UN High Commission for Refugees reception centers in Kurdistan, that already house 1.8 million largely Muslim refugees, for fear of retaliation. They lived in fear of any future as they lack residency.


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Iraqi Christian Grandfather Nissan and his grandchildren Mar Elia Church Compound, Erbil, Kurdistan December 14, 2015. Source: ABC 20/20.

That is when a remarkable alliance came to their aid. The ABC 20/20 documentary, narrated by Elizabeth Vargas, outlined who were prime actors:

Glenn Beck‘s charity, Mercury One’s Nazarene Fund, raised more than $12 million for the evacuation and resettlement efforts of the refugees. Contracted by the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom, former U.S. counter-terrorism officers Joseph and Michele Assad have spent the past four months forging a close partnership with Father Douglas Bazi at Mar Elia. The Assads were managing the risky plan of getting the refugees out of Iraq and finding a country that would grant them asylum so they can start their lives over.

Slovakia, a predominantly Catholic country, agreed to open its doors to at least 25 Iraqi Christian refugee families — 149 people in total — on the condition that no terrorists would pass through the Assads’ security check.

The Hudson Institute Center for Religious Freedom in a press release about the ABC 20/20 documentary provided the time line and key actors involved in this dramatic rescue:

In summer 2015, Hudson Center for Religious Freedom director Nina Shea initiated a project  to resettle Iraq’s most vulnerable minorities in countries where they would have residency rights (denied them in Kurdistan), practice their religion freely, and be safe. On August 17, Chaldean Catholic priest Douglas Bazi, who operates the Mar Elia camp, met with Shea at her office and asked her help to resettle his refugees out of the region. Shea immediately agreed.

With the encouragement and support of Hollywood producer Mark Burnett, Hudson brought on as an advisor evangelical leader and author Johnnie Moore and contracted security expert Joseph Assad. For three months, the team carried out extensive research, vetting, planning, logistical support, advocacy and preparatory travel under this project.

During this period, Shea met with the Syriac Catholic Patriarch Younan, several other Iraqi bishops, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vice President of Slovakia, and diplomats, legislators and officials from dozens of countries in North and South America, Western and Central Europe, Australia, Armenia, and Kurdistan, as well as those of the United States.

It was the small Central European country of Slovakia that finally agreed to accept the Iraqi Christians, after being urged to do so by a key Vatican official who is Slovakian. On December 10, the Hudson team took these Iraqi Christian refugees to Slovakia in a plane chartered by Mercury One, the charity of media personality Glenn Beck, supported with [$12 Million in] funds donated by thousands of American citizens.

“While the world is focused on Syrian refugees, we never forget that tens of thousands of vulnerable Iraqi Christians who’ve escaped ISIS remain stranded in camps in Kurdistan and throughout the region with dim prospects of ever returning home,” said Nina Shea. “We hope our efforts will prompt other countries – especially the United States – to take them in.”

Slovakia is the first country to accept a large group of displaced “IDP” Iraqi Christians who survived ISIS and are displaced inside Iraq. Four days after Slovakia opened its doors, on December 14, and after closely observing the Center’s project, the neighboring Czech Republic announced it too would admit Iraqi Christian IDPs, beginning in January, 2016.

The United States does not accept Iraqi Christian IDPs for resettlement. Last summer, the State Department had even withheld two-week tourist visas from some of the same Christian children evacuated through the Center project last week; they had been awarded scholarships by a New Hampshire sports camp.

We have written about the plight of Assyrian and Chaldean Christians in Kurdistan and Syria and the refusal by our State Department to admit them under the Refugee Resettlement Program. We have published articles and conducted interviews about the genocidal threat towards Iraqi Christian with Canon Andrew White, the Vicar of Baghdad and Joseph T. Kassab of the Iraqi Christian Advocacy and Empowerment Institute (ICAEI) in both the New English Review and interviewed them on The Lisa Benson Show.  The Lisa Benson Show has established the Queen Esther Project to assist in funding efforts for the rescue of Yazidis, Christians and other non-Muslim religious minorities faced with extinction by ISIS.

One of the suggestions made by Kassab of the ICAEI, is an emergency airlift akin to that used to evacuate 130,000 Vietnamese in the closing days of the Vietnam War.  That was the first wave of Vietnamese refugees that ultimately numbered over 1.2 million. Our State Department had the temerity to suggest that these threatened Christians were excluded when they are covered by one of the priorities in our Refugee Admissions Program, fear of religious persecution.  Moreover, as Shea of the Hudson Institute has written, Christians were apparently excluded from a proposed State Departmernt genocide ruling that only covered Yazidis.

Those Vietnamese refugees were brought to Gulf Coast and created a vibrant community engaged in shrimping and other economic enterprises.  There is a large Vietnamese Catholic Church, Our Lady of Martyrs, in our community.  Instead of admitting these threatened Christians, the Administration is granting admissions to Syrian and other Muslim refugees, despite concerns about possible ISIS terrorist infiltrators among them.  Iraqi and Syrian Christians would be easily vetted and would likely be admitted under Family Reunification Visa Programs. The question is will Americans who took time out from holiday preparation to watch the ABC 20/20 documentary  be aroused to contact the White House and Congressional Representatives to open this country to admit Iraqi Christians as productive citizens, as they did Vietnamese four decades ago.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review.

Obama Administration supports Radical Islam: State Department Hosts Pro-Muslim Brotherhood Egyptian Contingent

Waleed Sharaby, is a secretary-general of the Egyptian Revolutionary Council   State Department  1-1-27-15

Waleed Sharaby, Secretary  General of the Egyptian Revolutionary Council, who flashes the Rabia Muslim Brotherhood resistance sign. U.S. State Department 1-27-15, Source: screenshot.

Tuesday evening in Washington, D.C., we had more evidence of the Administration’s policy of appeasing Muslim Brotherhood opponents of the Al-Sisi government in Cairo, the latter seeking to reform radical Islamic doctrine espousing Salafist Jihad.  Adam Kredo of the Washington Free Beacon reported this latest example of outreach to Radical Islamist groups in the Ummah, “Muslim Brotherhood-Aligned Leaders Hosted at State Department:”

One member of the delegation, a Brotherhood-aligned judge in Egypt, posed for a picture while at Foggy Bottom in which he held up the Islamic group’s notorious four-finger Rabia symbol, according to his Facebook page.

That delegation member, Waleed Sharaby, is a secretary-general of the Egyptian Revolutionary Council and a spokesman for Judges for Egypt, a group reported to have close ties to the Brotherhood.

The delegation also includes Gamal Heshmat, a leading member of the Brotherhood, and Abdel Mawgoud al-Dardery, a Brotherhood member who served as a parliamentarian from Luxor.

Sharaby, the Brotherhood-aligned judge, flashed the Islamist group’s popular symbol in his picture at the State Department and wrote in a caption: “Now in the U.S. State Department. Your steadfastness impresses everyone,” according to an independent translation of the Arabic.

Another member of the delegation, Maha Azzam, confirmed during an event hosted Tuesday by the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy (CSID)—another group accused of having close ties to the Brotherhood—that the delegation had “fruitful” talks with the State Department.

Note this comment of Eric Trager of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy:

Maha Azzam confirms that ‘anti-coup’ delegation, which includes 2 top [Muslim Brothers], had ‘fruitful’ conversations at State Dept,” Egypt expert Eric Trager tweeted.

“The State Department continues to speak with Muslim Brothers on the assumption that Egyptian politics are unpredictable, and the Brotherhood still has some support in Egypt,” he said. “But when pro-Brotherhood delegations then post photos of themselves making pro-Brotherhood gestures in front of the State Department logo, it creates an embarrassment for the State Department.”

Sam Tadros, Egypt expert at the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom in Washington, DC commented:

“I think the Muslim Brotherhood visit serves two goals,” Tadros said. “First, organizing the pro Muslim Brotherhood movement in the U.S. among the Egyptian and other Arab and Muslim communities.”

“Secondly, reaching out to administration and the policy community in D.C.,” Tadros said. “The delegation’s composition includes several non-official Muslim Brotherhood members to portray an image of a united Islamist and non-Islamist revolutionary camp against the regime.”

Counter terrorism expert, Patrick Poole said:

What this shows is that the widespread rejection of the Muslim Brotherhood across the Middle East, particularly the largest protests in recorded human history in Egypt on June 30, 2013, that led to Morsi’s ouster, is not recognized by the State Department and the Obama administration,” Poole said.

“This is a direct insult to our Egyptian allies, who are in an existential struggle against the Muslim Brotherhood, all in the pursuit of the mythical ‘moderate Islamists’ who the D.C. foreign policy elite still believe will bring democracy to the Middle East,” Poole said.

It is beyond time for the GOP-controlled Congress to investigate why the Administration deigns to provide auspices to invite Egyptian and other foreign Muslim Brotherhood leaders to meet publicly with White House National Security and State Department officials in Washington. This latest example continues the impression that the Obama Administration supports Radical Islamic doctrine.  It is a further example of how far the Administration has gone in fostering infiltration of Muslim Brotherhood domestic and foreign groups in the U.S. enabling their  “messaging”.  All while this Administration persists in deracinating the vestiges of Jihad threat doctrine training for our military, homeland security and national law enforcement agencies.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review.

Hillary”s State Department was “delusional” on Boko Haram

Earlier today when we posted on Hollywood’s ‘sudden awareness’ about Sharia, we noted the comments from last nights Fox News The Kelly File about former Secretary of State Clinton contesting requests from the CIA, FBI, National Counter-terrorism Center to designate Nigerian Jihadist group, Boko Haram, “a foreign terrorist organization.” Nina Shea, noted human rights lawyer and, director of the Washington, DC -based Center for Religious Freedom of the Hudson Institute, who we also positively cited in our post, revealed in a National Review On-line  post, just how delusional the State Department was under Clinton’s leadership on this issue.

Our take,  Clinton was reflecting the Administration’s obsessive redaction of any reference to Islamic doctrine as the wind behind the sails of this murderous band of terrorists. Secretary Clinton held hearings in December 2011 with representatives of  the EU, OSCE and members of the  Saudi-based Organization for Islamic Cooperation. They were endeavoring to prefect implementation of the UN Human Rights Council Res.16/18 on Combating Religious Intolerance  – a thinly disguised version of  a global Sharia Blasphemy code. Shea, whose interview is included in our collection, The West Speaks, was present at those State Department Istanbul Process proceedings. In our post on that State Department conference, Shea called it ‘perverse.”  In response to her New York Post op ed on those State Department proceedings we wrote:

The Istanbul Process is not only perverse but an affront to our Constitutional rights of free speech under the First Amendment. We await confirmation of how perverse the Washington Istanbul process conference was when exposure drafts of the “best practices” of combating alleged religious intolerance are released early next year [2012]. They should be the subject of intense scrutiny in hearings by Congress.

History will show that Congress did little to expose the OIC -backed UN proposals. The Administration went about its way redacting DoD, FBI and DHS counter-terrorism manuals of any references to Islam, Jihad and Sharia. The Justice Department under Attorney General Eric Holder subsequently enforced those delusional views.

Here is Shea’s NRO post on the State Department  evasion of the realities of  Boko Haram as a global terrorist organization under Secretary Clinton.

nina shea

Nina Shea, Director, Hudson Institute Center for Religious Freedom

NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE

MAY 9, 2014 5:35 PM

The Obama State Department’s Understanding of Boko Haram Was Even More Delusional than You Thought
By Nina Shea

A news article in today’s New York Times sets out to explore why the United States waited until November 2013 to designate Nigeria’s Boko Haram as a “foreign terrorist organization.” In light of the group’s latest atrocity – the kidnapping and enslaving of over 200 schoolgirls in Nigeria’s Borno state last month –this is a very good question.

The article makes the point that the terrorist designation was made after Hillary Clinton resigned as secretary of state, and confirms reporting that it came after a two-year debate in which “the Justice Department, the F.B.I., American intelligence officials and counterterrorism officials in the State Department” all called for the designation but State ultimately opposed it.

Clinton’s then–assistant secretary for African affairs, Johnny Carson, tells the Times that State opposed the designation for “for six or seven different reasons,” which boil down to an equal measure of fear of the affect on Boko Haram, possibly making it seem more important and popular, and wariness of legitimizing a Nigerian government crackdown. State counterterrorism official Daniel Benjamin essentially gives a “what difference does it make?” shrug, stating: “Designation was one of many tools and not the most urgently needed one in dealing with the Nigerians. ”

That ends the article’s probe. But a review of the State Department’s actual statements  from that era would have revealed a flawed official analysis of the situation that is more disturbing.

In 2012,  the State Department was declaring that Boko Haram was motivated not by Islamic extremism, but by anger at “poor government service delivery” and “poverty” generally.  Its policy was to actively oppose Nigerian military involvement and support greater American aid and investment to the country, particularly to the areas giving  rise to Boko Haram militants.

As I wrote on the Corner on April 12, 2012:

The day after [an Easter Sunday] Nigeria church bombing, at a forum on U.S. policy toward Nigeria held at Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies, Clinton’s Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson, overlooking Boko Haram’s self-proclaimed identity, pattern of behavior, statements and very name, which means “Western education is a sin,” publicly denied that Boko Haram has religious motives. He went out of his way to stress: “Religion is not driving extremist violence in . . . northern Nigeria. Carson is articulating official U.S. policy. Its theory is that Boko Haram is “exploiting religious differences” to “create chaos” to protest “poor government service delivery,” poverty, and a variety of good-governance concerns.

The State Department attributed the phenomenon of Boko Haram to the poverty and low levels of literacy in the north, rather than the other way around. Briefing an audience that was specifically interested in strategic insights,  he described the U.S. policies then in place for Nigeria. As Carson itemized:

We have provided technical assistance to support reform in the power sector. We have taken a large energy trade mission to the country, and encouraged the swift passage of a strong petroleum industry bill that brings more transparency to the sector. We have recognized the importance of Nigeria’s agriculture sector and supported Nigeria’s comprehensive agriculture development plans. And in the health sector, we have committed over $500 million a year to the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, demonstrating how critical we consider Nigeria in the worldwide fight against HIV and AIDS.

All the programs Carson specifically named were directed to economic and health development, some of which may have actually created financial incentives for more Boko Haram violence. He stressed this was important “particularly in the disadvantaged North of Nigeria where Boko Haram finds support.” Carson made a point of stating that U.S. policy was to press Nigeria to “de-emphasize the role of the military.” (All of this could have been scripted from the MoveOn.org petition campaign on Nigeria at the time.)

The U.S. State Department’s delay in giving “terrorist” designation to Boko Haram had real policy consequences. It helped the Obama campaign narrative that al-Qaeda was on the run. But it didn’t help Nigeria, whose girls and boys, men and women, Christians and Muslims are now paying with their lives and living in dread of a larger, more powerful Boko Haram.

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EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on The New English Review.