“Baghdad ha perduto la sua bellezza e non ne è rimasto che il nome.
Rispetto a ciò che essa era un tempo, prima che gli eventi la colpissero e gli occhi delle calamità si rivolgessero a lei, essa non è più che una traccia annullata, o una sembianza di emergente fantasma”
If Aida had known the severity of the
storm that was about to come down on Qaraqosh, she would have fled her
home at the same time that most other Christians in the northern Iraqi
city left. Qaraqosh, a settlement of about 50,000 that lies 20 miles
east of Mosul in the province of Nineveh, has long been considered the
capital of Iraq’s Christian minority.
But in August of last year, the
Kurdish militia defending the town from the Islamic State withdrew. Tens
of thousands of Iraqi Christians and other minority civilians
evacuated, many of them in a desperate flight
east towards Erbil, the capital of Iraq’s Kurdish region. But Aida and
her family stayed behind, hoping the situation might improve.
Yet after ISIL fighters occupied the
city, they were soon threatened with execution if they did not convert
to Islam. After two weeks, her family was given the chance to leave. But
as Aida was readying to depart Qaraqosh on a minibus, her
three-year-old daughter Cristina was taken from her arms by a fighter
from the Islamic State. When Aida refused to depart without her
daughter, they threatened to kill her and her husband.
Stories like Aida’s were what inspired Spanish filmmaker Alfredo Panaderoto make the documentary “Guardians of Faith”
with five colleagues. The group spent three weeks in Iraq’s Kurdish
region interviewing Christian families forced from their homes. Panadero
spoke with Global Journalist’s Nicole Osuna about the making of the
Global Journalist: Why did you choose Iraq as the setting for the documentary?
Alfredo Panadero: We were very influenced by the testimony of Douglas Bazi,
who is an Iraqi priest from Baghdad. He endured a kidnapping in 2006,
in which he was tortured for nine days by a Shiite terrorist group. For
five of those days he didn’t have anything to eat or drink … Iraq is a
place where in the past year, Christians had to flee out of Mosul and
other cities due to the spread of the Islamic State.The idea was to go
where things were happening; we felt that there were many stories that
had to be told.
GJ: Did you feel threatened at some point when you were filming?
Panadero: We were told to be
very careful in terms of the places we were going and the people we were
talking with, how much time we could spend on the streets. We were
careful. But no,we went to two
war fronts and there wasn’t an issue. We also went to an area outside
the Kurdistan region that’s called Kirkuk. It is a city where there are
current cells of the Islamic State.
GJ: What effect do you think the Islamic State has had on the region you were in?
Panadero: First of all, I
would like to say that as the days pass, I see less reasons to keep
calling the group “ISIS” (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria). The group
does not want to stay in Iraq and Syria, they are actually aiming for
Europe and they have already started to attack Europe. They are truly
aiming to affect Western society in general.
Daesh [an Arabic acronym for the
Islamic State] has changed the lives of these people because they have
been forced to flee to avoid having to renounce their Christian faith,
which is an example of courage, profound coherence and faith. Many of
these Christians continue trusting God and maintaining their faith.
Nevertheless, it is true we met people who were in a very difficult
physical and psychological state that have lost all hope and that want
to leave their country.
GJ: Do you think the stories you heard correspond with what’s been reported in international media outlets?
Panadero: To tell you the truth yes and no.
On June 10, 2014, [Spanish newspaper]
El Mundo published that Muslims in the city of Mosul had opened the
doors for the Islamic State – which is true – but what they failed to
mention was that they also sold out the Christians living in the area.
They went to Christian homes to threaten them by saying that if they
didn’t leave they [the Christians] would be killed by Daesh or them [the
Muslims]. I think that the issue is not sufficiently reported by
international media outlets and what is reported is very superficial and
doesn’t do justice to the current situation.