Saywan Barzani: Mosul one year on. The faults of the West
Rome (AsiaNews) - A year ago, the jihadist group "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant", later the self-proclaimed "Islamic state", launched an offensive with which in one day they conquered and occupied the city of Mosul and the Nineveh Plain. In Mosul, their leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi proclaimed a caliphate that spans parts of Syria and Iraq, and seeks to occupy the Middle East and Mediterranean Africa, threatening Europe and even America and the Vatican.
What distinguishes the Islamic State (IS), even from al-Qaeda, is the profound cruelty which it exerts on its enemies and practices with sharia. The videos posted online publicist their bloodiest atrocities: beheadings, crucifixions, mass executions, sexual slavery, lessons in violence for children. After the flight of 130 thousand Christians and other 400 thousand Shiites and Yazidis, a coalition led by the United States is attempting to counter the expansion of IS. But the results are mediocre. Even the liberation of Mosul "programmed" for April, then May, appears to be without any real effective power.
A year on from the tragedy that marked the Iraqi people and divided the country, AsiaNews asked the opinion of Saywan Barzani, Iraqi ambassador to Italy. For Barzani - nephew of Massoud, the governor of Kurdistan - the religious elements of the conflict are secondary: the IS militia are "backward-looking and barbaric" criminals. What makes it difficult to find a solution for Iraq and the Middle East is the distance and "resignation" of the West and the international community in the face of a terrorist threat that threatens the world. And this, after having promoted and armed Isis for years as an anti-Assad group in Syria. Here is the interview he gave to AsiaNews.
A year ago Mosul was taken by the Islamic state. And its recapture still seems far off.
Mosul is still in the hands of this horde of barbarians, one of the most heinous groups in history ... Human lives have been lost, but also dignity. They destroyed people, but also archaeological sites. Mosul has experienced all of this: a horrible tragedy. It is the first time in hundreds of years that such barbarians have invaded this region.
The reason for this is the death of international support; the West has closed their eyes to this destructive ideology that is called "Islamic", it has turned a blind eye to the financial, political, armed support of this backward-looking ignorant and cruel group. Iraq is the victim of this invasion and cannot face it alone: This is an international war, it is the war of all humanity against obscurantism.
It is in our power to be ready to retake the city of Mosul. So far we have taken quite a few cities and areas that were previously under the Islamic State [SI, or Daesh, according to the acronym in Arabic - ed]. But we need international support to rid the region around Mosul and Anbar.
Why do you think the international community is so timid in supporting you against the IS?
It is a long story. It goes back to the origin and the formation of this criminal group that boasts a showcase for religious propagation. The West - and especially the United States, which is a superpower - should not allow these groups to roam at large and have an exaggerated influence. There are countries large and small – who remain unnamed - who support these groups and are trying to have gain influence in the region, as if they were the great powers, but such strategies are motivated by petty competitions, envy, jealousy ... All this has led to War in Iraq and Syria and perhaps other countries.
What is daily life like in Mosul?
We have contacts and eye witness accounts. Life goes on with what little electricity or water the government of Kurdistan can distribute to the people in Mosul: you cannot punish people because of their conquerors. From an economic standpoint, there is always some help from the Iraqi government to the approximately 2.5 million civilians living under the Islamic state. The situation is extremely difficult. It is now clear that Daesh are incapable of producing anything, there are no industries, or services; They produce nothing. If they want to return to the way of life of 1000 years ago, it is clear that they cannot meet the current needs of the population, as a modern and administered state. It is a passing movement of complaint, protest, supported by neighboring countries, but I do not think that they can continue to govern because they have nothing. They depend entirely on the West for weapons and cannot even produce a knife. Everything comes from foreign countries. Beyond a some small oil production in Syria and Iraq, they have nothing else. They support themselves by selling women, oil, applying taxes on the population, and selling archaeological artefacts. They sell ancient statues or friezes, Mesopotamia is rich in archaeological sites and museums. In another few months or a few years, Daesh will be over because it cannot continue in this way, without responding to the needs of the population, with a backward-looking and violent style of rule, forcing people to obey, to wear the veil, to go to the mosque. But without having anything to trade with the outside world, they are condemned to self-suffocation. They still resist because they survive on smuggling or organized crime.
There is a lot of talk in Italy about Iraq’s Christians, but Daeshì victims are not only Christians ...
If we talk of the victims in the sense of those who are killed, there are many more killed among Muslims. If we talk about people who have fled, then yes: Christians are among the most affected. Now in the area of Mosul, there is not a single Christian or Yazidi, or shaba, or Shiite left.
The difference between a Kurd and a Christian is that the Kurdish is killed immediately and his woman is sold. Christians are forced to choose between several options: either convert to Islam or pay the fee of protected, or flee, or you are killed.
According to IS ideology, Christians could live under them as protected, as long as they pay a fee. But no Christian accepted this. They have all have fled to Kurdistan, where they can live safely. As they forced them to flee, the IS took their property, their homes, their land. On the other hand we still have 3 thousand missing Kurdish women, sold on the market, and so far we have rescued very few. The IS has killed thousands of Kurds and other people. Not to mention the Yazidi, killed on Mount Sanjar. The IS ideology wants the death of Kurds, the Yazidis, Shiites, Muslims anyone who disagrees with them, and then there are the Christians.
The current problems of the Middle East are framed in the context of a conflict between Sunnis and Shiites, of a hegemonic confrontation between Saudi Arabia and Iran ... But in all of these interpretations the West is very slow to act. What is your advice to the international community?
I do not think that the source of division and war in our country is a religious one. In Iraq there are at least 17 different religious groups. The problem in the Middle East is not whether we are Sunnis or Shiites. The issue is that there is a war of interests, a war between smaller and larger countries and at the same time the disappearance, the resignation of the West.
Until 30 years ago there were two blocs led by the superpowers, the Socialist bloc and that of the free world. Every country in the Arab world chose to side with one or the other block. Today there is a multipolar world. And so every group, every little country feels entitled to intervene with the money it has, with which it finances the media, ideologies that wants to propagate. In each country – take Libya for example - there are dozens of groups: each is funded, supported by some country or other and are fighting among themselves.
We need to bring order, we need someone like the West, the United States as a superpower, or the UN Security Council, we need them to intervene and compel these countries to respect laws and security. You cannot close your eyes to the billions of dollars that are spent on weapons, on television every day to foster hatred and war. It must be said that this is not a religious conflict: the populations are predominantly Muslim, and are paying the heaviest tribute to the instability and destruction.
At least 90% of the victims are Sunni and not because we are Shiites, but because this war ignites countries that are predominantly Sunni. This war is now unfolding without any strategy, order or goals: it has become a normal thing to kill. It is almost impossible to watch the news in these countries, so full of bloody cruelty: mangled corpses, severed heads, mass executions.
This is a danger for all humanity. Across a region of 500 million inhabitants has fallen into this nightmare because of the disengagement of the free world. A handful of men have been allowed to lead this region into total destruction and the destabilize the world. As you know, at least 50 thousand refugees have arrived so far in Italy. But even more will reach the Mediterranean coast if we do not address these problems. Nothing can be resolved if international laws and principles are not respected in the Middle East. Failing this, the region is abandoned to anarchy, where men can do what they want, kill whomever he wants. The smartest move for the West is to prevent these little actors from doing whatever they want for their low economic reasons. We must end the protagonism of these small countries and IS, and other organizations.