Op-Ed: Drawing a line in the dirt in Iraq

Posted Aug 6, 2014 by Paul Iddon
The horrendous assault on Iraq's civil society should not stand if the basic tenets of law and human rights are to stand.
An Iraqi Yazidi family that fled the violence sits at at a school where they are taking shelter in t...
An Iraqi Yazidi family that fled the violence sits at at a school where they are taking shelter in the Kurdish city of Dohuk on August 5, 2014
Safin Hamed, AFP
I almost called this piece “drawing a line in the sand in Iraq”. I hastily opted out of such a title because one common misconception or image that many people have of Iraq is one which associates it with a barren desert. An image helped and formulated in part by the ridiculous operation titles given to past American military operations against Saddam Hussein's Iraq, Desert Storm, Desert Sabre and Desert Strike to name a few. One would be forgiven for momentarily forgetting about the actual treasure trove that is Iraq's cultural heritage when one thinks of the connotations and image which come to mind when one hears the word desert.
Iraq in reality is a very flawed and imperfect secular state. One that is sadly fragmenting before our eyes. Its democracy is deeply flawed and inert thanks in large part to the unproductive marginalization of ethnic and religious minorities in the political process by the present Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Such policies have rendered the Iraqi government and the Iraqi Army highly unorganized and ineffective when it came to combating the vicious sectarian ISIS onslaught which succeeded in overrunning large swaths of northern Iraq last June.
But as has been the case with Iraq for some time now, beneath the despair and seeming hopelessness of it all lies some hope for the future. As dire as the situation with ISIS is now, just ask the Yazidi's whose community is being viciously assaulted and its members subjected to an attempt of genocide, history indicates that there is every chance it might change. And change fast and for the better when these vicious sectarians are confronted.
The Kurdish Peshmerga paramilitary are the ones taking the lead in this fight against ISIS. They know all too well what being subjected to an attempted genocide entails. And they will be reassuringly steadfast when it comes to defending their own autonomous region, situated as it is on the periphery of these Christian and Yazidi communities of which ISIS are doing their utmost to dismember and destroy.
A hero among the Iraqi Kurds on social media has just been born in the form of Mam Uzer a Kurdish Peshmerga veteran who was recently captured on video taking down the black flag of ISIS which was recently flown over Rabia and declaring that, “We chased them out and took their vehicles.”
It is quite a spectacle to watch unfold. The Kurds are now on their own two feet seizing the initiative to help others and combat those who openly rejoice at terrorizing and driving minorities from their communities and homelands. As I write this thousands of Yazidi's (who are themselves ethnically Kurdish) are stranded in the mountains which they fled to in order to escape ISIS and are struggling to survive exposed as they are in the open. Those who did this to them are being confronted by another minority who were of course late in the last century being hunted and gunned down and gassed in their thousands in the mountains.
One hopes that in the near future one will see the Yazidi's and Christians of Iraq resettled safely in their ancestral homeland. That is where the line in the dirt ought to be drawn. Where the rights and safety of Iraq's minorities are adequately safeguarded. That's what separates the Cradle of Civilization from the wilderness of the desert. And that's essentially what is at stake in this fight. The saving of the former, imperfect as it may be, from becoming the latter.