President Obama recently admitted in an interview with 60 Minutes that, “the intelligence community acknowledges that they may have originally underestimated what was happening in Syria [with] ISIL,” giving ISIL, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, the kind of attention that their initial violent acts should have spurred. The recorded and much publicized executions of American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff by ISIL were the first to catch both the attention of the media and the American people. ISIL did this because they assumed, correctly, that publicly beheading two westerners would be the most effective and immediate way to grab the attention of not just the United States, but the rest of the world as well. Yet, ISIL has committed numerous human rights violations in the name of a warped ideology, against the peoples of their own lands and culture, that many are unaware of.
Although ISIL had already been terrorizing local areas for quite a while, it wasn’t until January of 2014 that they started to become globally recognized as a threat. Since then, they’ve seized territory in both Iraq and Syria, forcing a twisted, unrecognizable version of Islam onto its unsuspecting residents. There have been multiple public executions, unprovoked mass murders and crucifixions, including one instance where a man was crucified alive for eight hours. Thousands of Iraqis and Syrian people have been killed or wounded and others displaced, fleeing across the desert to refuge in neighboring Jordan.
Recently featured on 60 Minutes was the story of a village of Yahzidis (non-Muslims) in Iraq. They were told by ISIL to wave a white flag, that the takeover would be peaceful, and that no one would be harmed. ISIL told them they had until Sunday to convert, but came back before Sunday, saying that they were told the villagers were not going to convert, and for that they would not be forgiven. The men of the village were all put on trucks and told they were being brought to a refugee camp miles away. Instead, the truck stopped about 300 yards away from where the women and children were still being held, and ISIL members told the men to lie on their stomachs. ISIL fighters then proceeded to shoot. There were no survivors. Approximately 380 men were killed and the 10 or 12 who survived, did so by pretending to be dead and later crawling out of the mass grave.
Meanwhile, the women of the village were given away as prizes. Sheiks had the right to choose three girls and ISIL militants had the right to take one. They were raped and sexually abused indiscriminately. Rape was used as a means of converting them. “If you do not convert, we will rape you all, and sell you to ISIS militants in Syria,” they said. In Syria, a young girl will sell for around eight hundred dollars. This story surfaced when a young woman, who was being held captive, managed to escape during a blackout. Her brothers were among the ten or so survivors of the mass killing and had been shot three to five times, respectively. They also helped to bring this story to light.
What ISIL is doing in Iraq and Syria is starkly similar to previous flagrant violations of human rights, including Nazi Germany and Rwanda.. A seemingly simple-minded American government, media, and populace are slow to realize that this is genocide. We have a moral responsibility to act, no matter how large our national debt ceiling may be.