Approximately two thousand
Assyrians and other Christian Iraqis are living illegally in Sweden
since Immigration Minister Billström approved their deportation.
let me give him and the Swedish Migration Board an update on the
situation in Iraq. Thousands of members of ISIS, a Jihadi Group, have
invaded Iraq’s second biggest city. They are an Islamist group who
believe that anyone not following their interpretation of the Quran does
not have the right to live. They also believe that non-Muslims should
convert, pay taxes for living as second class citizens or die. Most
Christians, maybe all, have left Mosul. Iraqis, no matter ethnicity or
religion, are human beings, like you and me, they are also made out of
flesh and blood. They have thoughts and feelings. Sometimes we occupy
ourselfs with statistics and figures and forget that. How many were
killed? How many have fled? How many will come to Sweden? What happened
today is not something that started yesterday. For Assyrians and other
Iraqi minorities this has been going on since the US invasion of the
country. To show you some human faces, let me tell you the story of
three brothers. We may call them the "Riyad", "Sargon" and "Daniel."
was winter 2010, outside St. Clara Church in downtown Stockholm. A few
minutes after I had held my talk on how the Swedish asylum system
operates, twenty Christian refugees from Iraq gathered around me. They
all had their asylum applications rejected and they were wanted by
Swedish police. If they were arrested they would be put in custody and
thereafter put on a flight back to Baghdad, in handcuffs. One of them
stood a bit aside and he had pulled down his cap so you couldn’t see his
eyes. He waited until the others broke up and left. Suddenly he
know you have a lot to do, I know you everybody wants you to look at
their case, but my situation is very different, please I beg you to call
me when you can."
He left a note with his mobile number on. I put it in my pocket along with a dozen others.
This is how it sounded when my collague Karin Wirenhed and I did a segment in Swedish Radio in June 2010 about Riyad.
is a Christian Assyrian who has worked for the American army in Iraq.
His brother Sargon worked at the same military base was kidnapped by
Islamist extremists in their hometown Mosul in norther Iraq. Sargon was
consequently brutally murdered in front of a video-camera. The video
shows Sargon sitting on a chair, his face and his body bare witness to
torture. With his eyes fixed on the camera he is forced to say that he
is a traitor and a spy because he has worked for the enemy USA. He is
blindfolded as four masked men stand behind him, one of them reads a
death-sentence. What happens after is too horrific to describe. It is
more unpleasant than what the brain dares to take in. When it is all
over the brothers head is displayed like a trophy. Without the blindfold
so that you can see who it is. The DVD with the murder spreads like
wildfire, to stop Iraqis from working for the Americans and for driving
non-Muslims on the run from Iraq. A few days after the murder Riyad
wandered among hospitals in Mosul to find Sargon’s corpse. He did.
Everything except the head. Riyad was also threatened himself, as well
as all his family and all other Christians. Every time he closes his
eyes, the movie with his brother Sargon shows up in his head and he’s
can’t to forget how his brother looked when he found him in the
month ago Riyad got back in touch. He wanted to invite me to his wedding
and needed an address to send the invitation to. When we met, a week
ago, he had not slept for days. He was exhausted. He could barely speak.
if the same thing happens to Daniel, my only surviving brother, what if
they cut his head off too. And his children wife? His children, 9 and
16 years old, what’s going to happen to them?
had decided to postpone his wedding. He couldn’t get married, dance and
enjoy himself when Daniel and his family were hiding in a basement in
Mosul. Daniel did also flee from Mosul when Sargon was killed. While
Riyad was smuggled to Sweden Daniel stayed in Baghdad, he couldn’t
afford to get all his family smuggled. The price per person is 20,000
Euro. Also it’s dangerous to get smuggled with kids all the way from
Iraq to Europe. When things became calmer in Mosul he returned to his
A couple of
days after the invasion of Mosul, on the 12th June 2014, Riyad giave me
Daniel’s telephone number. He as hiding in a basement in Mosul with his
family. He whispered so his children couldn’t hear his fear and
I don’t know what to do, I can’t go out on the street with my wife and children.”
Monday the 16th of June, Daniel has managed to flee with his family to
Erbil in Kurdistan, Iraq. It took them a whole day. They couldn’t make
it through the official border since Kurdistan can’t bare to take in
more refugees. Daniel called a friend who knew a way in. From Erbil
first few days after that ISIS took over Mosul, I still had a touch of
hope that we could still stay there. But when they read out the
declaration for living conditions, I knew it was over. It will be very
difficult to live in Mosul for everyone, regardless of religion. But for
us who are Christians and Assyrians it’s worse. They require that all
women must be veiled and preferably never leave home. Christian graves
and thousand of years old Assyrian artifacts will be destroyed.
Hairdressers closed. Everyone must pay a tax and we Christians will be
forced to pay twice as they believe that there is a fee we must pay to
be protected. The moment I heard ISIS’s declaration, I decided to pack
up what little we could get with us and escape. Now we have lost
everything, home, all our things, everything. But we are at least alive.
Sweden Riyad lives as an illegal refugee and is working for 30 Swedish
crowns, less then 5 dollars, per hour. The reason Riyad fled and went
through hell on the way to Sweden was that his brother was beheaded and
the terrorists looked for him too. He was also on their list of
”traitors” that should be beheaded for working with Americans. Riyad’s
family gathered up all the money they had, they sold their gold, and
paid smugglers to get him to Sweden. Here he was rejected asylum and
became an illegal refugee, one among many.
Swedish Migration Board had earlier proposed that refugees could return
to other locations within Iraq from where they fled from. So the
question is how many who have had their applications rejected and are
now live in hiding will dare to reapply? What will happen to the Iraqi
Christians who are here illegally. What does the Immigration Minister
Billström have to say?