On the evening news, San Diego 6 reported an international story that was all too close to home: ‘Local Iraqis worry about family still in Iraq as ISIS ramps up threats.’ After repeated waves of forced migration, there are already more than 35,000 Chaldean Catholic Iraqi refugees (and descendants) in the San Diego area alone.
It was a powerful interview, with a relative of an endangered family, by a concerned journalist. The risk to the community in Iraq is grimly real, and the anxiety of the community in the diaspora (in this case, in the United States) is unimaginable, but they are being subjected to psychological torture through propaganda as well as lethal violence. Incidentally, the paper trail for this report may indicate the source of the “confirmed” rumours of undocumented destruction.
Islamists, do not try to use my research for your propaganda: the Islamic State’s bigotry and violence is all too real.
Ethnic cleansing through psychological torture
As journalist John Carroll summarised part of his longer interview with local Ray Dawood, he explained the images on screen: ‘He says this picture shows them blowing up a church. Here, you can see they’ve already set fire to Mosul’s [Chaldean] cathedral, the scorch marks visible on the walls.'(1)
Except, none of the images showed any Chaldean community building, let alone any Chaldean church’s destruction. One of the photos showed the dynamiting of a Shia mosque (after the collapse of the identifying minaret). So, one of the points of confusion is that this information is emerging through Christian refugees in Iraq and their communities abroad. One of the insights is that these photos are being shown to and accepted by locals and refugees as well as diaspora. So are these the sources of the communities’ “confirmed” reports of destruction?
It is not clear whether Christian activists are trying to provoke international intervention by exploiting the fears of Chaldean refugees and diaspora communities, whether the Shia-led Iraqi government is trying to elicit greater international support, or whether the Islamic State is trying to torment its victims and ethnically cleanse them without a level of atrocity that would finally provoke significant international action. It is clear that someone is doing something vile.
The bombed Chaldean church is a dynamited Shia mosque
This is not a frame of the bombing of a church in late July.
A frame of the site before destruction confirms that it was a mosque, not a church.
The Chaldean cathedral on fire is an Armenian church near a fire
This is not a photograph of the Chaldean cathedral on fire in late July.
It is a photograph of a fire outside the Armenian Church of Saint Etchmiadzin in mid-June.
The fire damage to the Chaldean cathedral in Mosul in Iraq in 2014 is fire damage to a Coptic church in Minya in Egypt in 2013
This is not a photograph of fire damage to the Chaldean Cathedral of Saint Ephraim in Mosul, Iraq, July 2014.
It is a photograph of fire damage to the Coptic Church of Prince Tadros in Minya, Egypt, August 2013.
The reality of the propaganda campaign does not change the reality of the deadly threat
‘Dawood said ISIS has told Christians that they won’t do anything to them [personally] until the end of Ramadan which is about 6-days away. After that, they said, “just wait and see what we do“.’ There is no reason to doubt that threat.
1: This was also written into the accompanying text report. ‘Dawood said watching what ISIS fighters are doing to Mosul is gut-wrenching. He said they blew up a church this past weekend. He showed pictures showing Mosul’s cathedral which had been set on fire by ISIS, scorch marks visible on its walls.’