More From Alder's Ledge

December 15, 2014

So That Others Might Live

Muslims Who Defied The Nazis

(Noor Inayat Khan 1914-1944)

In the face of evil it is easy to turn one's eyes away. For many people this is the response that comes natural. It is a tendency that permits evil to spread. It is through the silence of good men and women that evil propagates. Yet there are those who don't just bear witness to evil but decide to stand toe to toe with evil itself. These few, these heroes, grit their teeth and clinch their fists as they refuse to back down.

For the Jewish people there was a generation of men and women who decided to take this stand. Millions of men and women rolled up their sleeves and picked up their rifles. None of them had to stop the spread of Nazism. None of them had to bleed and perish so that we, the Jewish people, might have a chance to live. It would have been possible to contain the Germans with far less sacrifice. Yet they, the brave, came to our rescue... many to never live to see the defeat of our oppressors.

This is not the story of American GIs or the Russian red army. This isn't the story of how the so called "West" saved the day. No, today we will look at how those society has told us hate us joined the fight to save us. In a world that even then claimed Islam and Judaism were incompatible, these brave souls decided to fight, bleed, and sacrifice so that others might live.

This is the story of Muslims who stood in the gap as Judaism suffered it's darkest hour.


Noor Inayat Khan was born in Moscow on the first of January, 1914. The world was at war and any hope for the end of the flow of blood was still not yet in sight. Yet her parents were given a blessing that day that so many expecting parents wish and pray for, that hope that comes with every new life.

By the time Noor Khan was in her twenties the world was once again headed for war. She had studied music and medicine and had even written her own children stories. Yet when war did break out and hostilities with Germany seemed inevitable, Noor Khan didn't look the other way. Instead, Noor Khan trained as a nurse with the Red Cross in her home country of France. While others prepared for others to defend them if Germany attacked, Khan prepared herself to help those in need. 

In May of 1940 Germany's Waffen SS whipped around France's inadequate defenses and invaded France. Noor Khan's family escaped to England as the French government surrendered in a tram trolley. Hitler would tour Paris while Noor Khan joined England's Women's Auxiliary Air Force so that she could help fight for France. She would train as a wireless operator while the Germans pillaged Europe just across the English Channel. 

Noor Khan's ability to speak French fluently gained the attention of England's Special Operations Executive (SOE). The SOE needed people with Khan's knowledge to go across the channel and help spy on the Nazis in France. Noor Khan's willingness to fight against the evils of Nazism made her a perfect candidate for what many would look at as suicide. 

In June of 1943 Noor Khan was flown into France and made her way to Paris where she would join the Prosper Network. Yet shortly after Khan arrived the resistance network came under attack by the German Gestapo. With the capture of resistance members came the fear that the Prosper Network had been compromised. Khan was encouraged to make her way back to England so as to evade capture by the Germans. And yet Noor Khan refused. She argued that she was the last wireless radio operator left in the group. So she would stay and fight despite the inherit risks. 

Noor Khan made attempts to rebuild the resistance network as she continued to keep London informed with wireless transmissions. Her efforts went on for three and a half months as the threat of capture lingered overhead. It wasn't till October that the Gestapo finally got the information they needed to arrest Noor Khan. 

Upon arrest the Gestapo found documents that allowed them to crack the code the spy "Madeleine" had been using. Noor Khan's code was then used to capture three more agents landing in occupied France. Yet under constant torture, Noor Khan refused to give the Nazi's any information that could have further compromised the work of the SOE in London. Dedicated to the war against Nazism, Noor Khan endured humiliating conditions and bravely faced a life in chains. Despite their best efforts the Gestapo could not break Noor Khan. 

In the summer of 1944 the Gestapo transferred Noor Khan and three other agents to Dachau Concentration Camp. The agents were questioned, beaten, and harassed by the Nazi SS. On the twelfth of September, 1944 Noor Khan met with the fate that Nazism had allotted all of Judaism. Put before a Nazi SS death squad, Noor Khan and the other three agents were shot and killed. 

Noor Inayat Khan had been given the chance to run away. She had been given the chance to live as comfortable a life as anyone else could have in England during the war. If anything, she had the chance to live free and stay out of harm's way. Yet Noor Khan took to the battle field against an enemy that was well known for it's brutality. When death came marching in it's wretched black uniform, Noor Khan held her head high and prepared to stand her ground. 

Bloody April in Sarajevo

“...our home is your home; feel at home. Our women will not hide their faces in your presence, because you are like family members to us. Now that your life is in danger, we will not leave you.”
Mustafa and Izet Hardaga speaking to Joseph Kavillo

Yugoslavia had been a target of the Nazis for some time. It was a stepping stone toward Greece and a vital part to Hitler's plan to take control of the Balkans. In April of 1941 the Luftwaffe began bombing Sarajevo as the Nazis made arrangements to occupy the city. Once the bombs began to fall the Waffen SS would begin it's assault upon the city. And it was in this bombardment that the Kavillo family, a Jewish family, found their home completely demolished. This was the Kavillo family's introduction to the horrors of the holocaust.

Joseph Kavillo's family had waited out the bombing in the forest. It was only after the bombs stopped dropping that Joseph Kavillo returned to survey the damage the Nazi's warplanes had wrought upon Sarajevo. He was planning to bring his family to the factory close to their old house so as to seek shelter as the war ravaged on. A family friend, Mustafa Hardaga, spotted Joseph and offered him and his family to take shelter in his house. This was in spite of the fact that Mr Hardaga knew that the Nazis offered no mercy for anyone who would willingly house Jews.

It wasn't long before Joseph Kavillo decided to move his family out of the Hardaga house and try to relocate them to the Italian controlled areas of Yugoslavia. When his family was safe, Joseph decided to stay behind. It was in this process that Joseph Kavillo was arrested by the Nazis in Bosnia. He was taken into captivity and kept in chains outdoors in the cold. Kept like an animal, Joseph Kavillo was not fed or offered shelter from Bosnia's harsh weather.

Zejneba Hardaga, the wife of Mustafa, found Joseph chained in the snow. She risked her life to smuggle Joseph food and water. Over the course of Joseph's time in chains it was Zejneba who kept him alive till she could find a way to help Joseph escape his chains and flee to be with his family. If it had not been for her, Joseph Kavillo would have either froze to death or starved in his chains.

Not long after Joseph Kavillo had rejoined his family in the Italian controlled area of Yugoslavia the Italians handed over control to the Nazis. Once again the family was trapped by the Nazi army. It's grip upon Bosnia had become absolute. So once again the Kavillo family made their way to the home of the Hardagas where they would again be sheltered by their Muslim friends. 

The Hardaga family risked everything to save their fellow Bosnians. The Gestapo had a headquarters just a short distance from their home. And yet this Muslim family took in a Jewish family in their greatest hour of need. The danger of being caught was ever palpable. Both families would have faced concentration camps or even death in the streets as the Nazis fought to smash Bosnian resistance. This was friendship at its finest. It was a heroic act that would not soon be forgotten. 

In the 1990's the city of Sarajevo fell under siege once again. This time the Serbian militias were surrounding the city and laying siege to the Bosnians. The Hardaga family were the targets this time. The Serbs wanted to ethnically cleanse Bosnia of it's Muslim citizens. Genocide was spilling Muslim blood as Bosnia's Jews tried to flee. 

The UN rarely allowed Bosnian Muslims the chance to run away from the bloodbath their arms bans had helped to engineer. Yet the Hardaga family had friends that wanted to help... friends that owed their lives to the heroism of the Hardagas. In 1994 the Hardaga family was brought to Israel as their homeland was bleeding out. Some 50 plus years had passed since the Kavillo family had been saved by the Hardaga family. But it was an act of true friendship that time could not fade the memory of. 

(Kaddour Benghabrit)

Within The House Of G-d

In 1926 the Grand Mosque of Paris was built as a token to the thousands of Muslims who had given their lives in "the war to end all wars". It was, and remains, a grand building dedicated to the Islamic faith and the belief in one G-d. Kaddour Benghabrit was one of key figures in helping to establish the massive structure in Paris. And it was Kaddour Benghabrit who was responsible for the mosque when the French Vichy government took power and aligned itself with the Nazis' final solution.

When the Nazis began collecting Jews for deportations there was a flaw in their original plan. It was one that had roots in France's colonial past. While there were plenty of French Jews in Paris that could easily be picked out and sent off for deportations, the diversity of France's Jewish citizens emerged. Jewish citizens from France's North African colonies had much more in common with Muslims than they did with European Jews. Their names, their culture, and their community were all linked with how Judaism had adapted itself to North African Islam. Many were closer friends with France's Muslim population than they were with the Jewish communities the Germans were familiar with. And it is in this aspect of France's unique diversity that the Nazis' plan ran into a wonderfully unique problem.

France's Muslims were not readily willing to hand over their Jewish neighbors. They had no desire to adopt the sorts of racial ideas and religious extremism that Hitler was preaching. There are many stories of influential Muslims in Paris who risked everything to do what was right. They risked their lives to save a people that Hitler believed they should hate. These Muslims found ways to help their Jewish brothers and sisters evade capture by the genocidal Nazis.

One way was to bring their Jewish neighbors to the Grand Mosque of Paris.

There was no organized effort involved. This was not an underground railroad of any sorts. It was simply a response in the heart of a community to stand beside their brothers in desperate need of help.

The head imam of the Grand Mosque of Paris was mainly responsible for housing Jewish refugees who turned up at the mosque. Kaddour Benghabrit was said to be responsible for giving these refugees Muslim identification papers so that they might make their way to safety. Kaddour also brazenly showed Nazi generals around the mosque even while Jews hid inside so that the Nazis might be fooled into believing he was cooperating.

In 1940 the Vichy government began petitioning the Grand Mosque to stop any actions it might be taking to save Jews from the Nazis. The head imam and Benghabrit remained defiant as they continued to give shelter to Jewish refugees who showed up at the Mosque. Their faith demanded it. Their actions demonstrated that which they believed. 

The Nazis showed their belief that Islam was a natural ally in the Nazi hatred of Judaism. They had expected the Bosnians in Yugoslavia to side with them in killing off Yugoslavia's Jews. In France they had expected the Grand Mosque to be the home of Islamic hatred for European Judaism. Yet the Muslims who operated the mosque showed that Islam was and is not opposed to Judaism. Their actions may have saved only a few dozen or potentially hundreds of Jews from the Nazi death camps. But as time goes on, as long as their story is told, their actions will show that Muslims and Jews are brothers in our unique faiths. Their actions should forever show that Judaism and Islam can and should live side by side in peace. 

Lest We Forget...

Muslims have a faith that teaches tolerance and an understanding of others. While some may abuse the faith, there have always been Muslims who have stepped out of the mold society has shaped for them... there have always been Muslims who have risked their own lives to save those of others. Beyond the news articles and daily broadcasts of stories like those of ISIS and other extremists... beyond the stereotypes... there will forever be Muslims who show the love of their Prophet's teachings.

These are the sorts of Muslims the world should never forget. These are the sorts of brave men and women that the world needs to talk about with a sense of pride and respect. We will all forever remember the names of villains like Osama bin-Laden. Yet we should also remember the names of heroes like Mustafa and Zejneba Hardaga. These brave and honorable souls should be inscribed not just on monuments but also imprinted upon our collective memory.

May G-d bless those who sacrificed so that others might live.

October 10, 2014

1915's ISIS

The Young Turks and The Islamic State

With the continued spread of the Islamic State terrorists across Syria and Iraq the world has bore witness to what genocide in the modern era looks like. This is not genocide committed by a state, it is not genocide committed by one particular ethnic group; this is genocide being committed in the name of religion. Though the Islamic State (often called ISIS, IS, or ISIL) does not practice Islam, in it's purest form, they do believe that their calling to create a caliphate and implement strict Islamic laws is called for by Islam itself. Their rigid devotion to these goals has created a wave of terror that has rapidly spread across the Middle East. It is so brutal, so barbaric, in it's nature that even old enemies have begun to work together in efforts to suppress the threat ISIS poses to the modern world.

The belief system that has spawned ISIS is not new. It is not the first time extremists within Islam have committed grotesque acts of genocide in their devotion to a perverted ideology which exploits their faith. As early as the turn of the 20th century there were modern day extremists who had found a niche in perverting Islam for their own political agendas. Sure, there have been many since. And there is little doubt that there will many more in the future. But one in particular stands out when thumbing through the history books. One that was just as hedonistic and savage in it's use of genocide to prop up a failed caliphate.

The Rise Of The Young Turks

 "You are greatly mistaken. We have this country absolutely under our control. I have no desire to shift the blame onto our underlings and I am entirely willing to accept the responsibility myself for everything that has taken place." 
~ Enver Pasha

In 1889 the Young Turks movement began with a conspiracy hatched in the Imperial Medical Academy in Istanbul, Turkey. What began with the goal of deposing the sultan of the Ottoman Empire and instituting a constitutional government rapidly failed as the students who had organized it fled to Europe. Yet their dream of a more democratic society within the Ottoman Empire did not die. As with most ideological revolutions, the methods utilized by the sultan to combat it were ineffective in crushing the ideals already embedded within Turkish society. Once the seeds of the revolution had been cast, the Ottoman Empire could do little to stop them from taking hold. 

As the movement grew so did the ideas being fed into it. While some within The Young Turks had pushed for more equality amongst the diverse population of the Ottoman empire, many of The Young Turks pushed a policy of "Turkification". The illusion of a more democratic society being constructed under The Young Turks would rapidly vanish as Turkish nationalism took hold amongst it's leadership. When they finally did get the sultan to step aside in 1908 with the creation of a constitutional government the more rabid members of The Young Turks movement took charge. 

In the beginning there was the proposed idea that minority ethnic groups and religions would have equal rights as Turkish Muslims. However, with the rise of the Pashas, the new leaders of The Young Turks, this promise vanished into thin air. Instead of offering unity amongst the diverse population of the Ottoman Empire, the Pashas set out to vilify certain ethnic groups and religions. This goal became easier to achieve as the world was plunged into "the great war" in Europe. With Russia and the Balkan states threatening the spread of yet more war and bloodshed on Ottoman lands, the Pashas capitalized upon the fear these wars created. 

World War One would offer the Pashas the cover behind which they could implement their policy of Turkification. The undesirables, as they saw them, could now easily be disposed of as the world focused on the threat Germany posed to Europe. Old scores could now be settled with the ethnic groups in the Balkans. A long standing hatred of Armenians could now be rehashed across the eastern portions of the Ottoman Empire. And the ancient Christian communities in the Middle East could now be targeted for annihilation without much backlash from Christian Europe or the rising influence of America. World War One offered the Pashas their chance to revitalize what they viewed as their own caliphate. 

Flirting With The Quran

The mixture of patriotism and religion helped The Young Turks rally large portions of the Turkish population to their cause. By not only offering the Turkish citizens greater freedoms than that the sultan permitted them but by also giving them a sense of superiority over "the others", The Young Turks had snared many of their fellow country men. The sense of religious superiority that The Young Turks had fed the Turkish citizens of the Ottoman Empire came through their denial of similar rights to other faiths within the empire. This elevated Muslim citizens to a higher level within society while engineering a new sense of serfdom amongst members of other faiths. And nowhere was this made more evident than with the Christian subjects now trapped under The Young Turks harsh dictate. 

By hen-picking verses from the Quran to support their ideology, The Young Turks set out to segregate Muslims from other faiths within the empire. This process utilized an already existing method that divided society up into "millets", or social classes. This stage of Turkification is also currently recognized in the stages of genocide as the classification stage. By using the millet system to pit Turks against "the others", the Pashas had set the Ottoman Empire on course with seemingly endless bloodshed.

Classification was just the start. Once the Young Turks had created an atmosphere in which millets could thrive they needed to accelerate the Ottoman's race toward all out genocide. This required the Pashas' to utilize their political influence over the mosques within the empire. Through this influence they could twist Quranic verses to take the next step toward genocide, symbolization. 

By taking the labels applied to "indigenous Christians" and mixing in a tone of "us verses them", the Young Turks were able to push toward genocide. This also permitted Muslim leaders across the empire the opportunity to re-institute unjust taxation under distorted interpretations of the Quran. Where the Young Turks had set up labels for the "enemy within", the Muslim community leaders had taken the leap into the stages of dehumanization and organization against Christian minorities. All of which was seemingly justified by the Young Turks' policies dictated by the umbrella of Turkification. And with religious leaders within the Muslim community backing the politics of the genocide, bloodshed was inevitable.

Rivers Of Blood

“Turkey is taking advantage of the war in order to thoroughly liquidate its internal foes, the indigenous Christians, without being thereby disturbed by foreign intervention.” 
~ Talat Pasha

The Pontic Greeks

(Greeks Mourn After Massacre, 1922)

In 1914 the Pontic Greeks became the first victims of Turkification. Though they had existed along the shores of the Black Sea for far longer than any Turks had, the Young Turks claimed all the land as Turkish. And since both ethnically and religiously the Greeks were seen as unable to be "truly Turkish" the order for their expulsion and destruction came without hesitance.

Ottoman commanders gave the order, "There is nothing but death for the Greeks, who are without honor. As soon as the slightest sign is given you, destroy everything about you immediately. As for women, stop at nothing. Do not take honor or friendship into consideration when the moment of vengeance arrives."

The Greeks within the Ottoman Empire had done nothing to warrant the genocide they would now suffer. They had simply been born Greek in a land where the governing body had embraced radical nationalism and religiously fueled hatred. The "moment of vengeance" had arrived upon them as a result of the Ottomans' defeat in the wars in the Balkans in 1912-1913. Though none of them had, with any real evidence to be supplied, fought against the Ottomans. They simply lived too close to the Balkans and just happened to be Christians.

For the Young Turks the opportunity to expel the Pontic Greeks from the Ottoman Empire was one they had long awaited. The Pashas had eyed a make-believe fortune they thought the Greeks' church and community had stashed away. And then there was the land itself. The millet system had dictated that both the land and wealth of the Greeks was rightfully Turkish. This genocide was therefore obligated by the very policies the Young Turks had set for their failed empire.

Greek men and boys were immediately rounded up to be used as "labor battalions" in the Ottoman Empire. The Young Turks justified this by saying that the Ottoman Empire was under assault from the Russians and Balkan states. Their reasons were well picked in the fact that they could easily paint the outside attackers as Christian armies and thus claim that the Greeks should be forced to defend Turkish lives. This permitted the Young Turks to further dehumanize the Greeks and at the same time claim they were forcing the Greeks to prove their loyalty. It was a method that both fed into the nationalistic fervor and the religious ideology that was plaguing Turkish society at the time. No mention was given as to what conditions the Greek slaves would face in their tormentous captivity.

Greek women were often taken as sexual slaves by Turkish military members and their own Turkish neighbors. Girls were considered cheap and their value in Ottoman society was clearly less than that of man when the laws The Young Turks used are scrutinized to any degree. These women, if they survived the rape, were rarely given freedom. Many would be disposed of once the system under which they were held as slaves was finally abolished. Others would die in captivity from relentless abuse and neglect. While others would live out their lives as even less than third class citizens in a nation that had promised equality just a decade ago.

The rest of the Greek population was subjected to outright massacres and deportations. In the massacres the Ottoman military saved their bullets by utilizing knives to slash and kill their victims. Their assaults on unarmed civilians were brutal and personal. The perpetrators of the genocide against the Greeks had to watch as their victims gasped for their last breath and as blood and life slipped from the victims' bodies. This was a savage campaign that one can only guess was meant to harden the soldiers for the genocides still yet to come. It was a method that Hitler's SS death units would utilize in their creation of soldiers that could kill without hesitation.

Those who were deported were raped, robbed, and beaten as they were herded out of their homes and into the barren central lands of the Ottoman Empire. There they were left in concentration camps where food, water, and shelter were not provided. The lands upon which they were left were void of any means with which to support themselves. Those who dared to venture beyond the camps were killed if caught or died in the deserts upon which they had been placed.

The genocide of the Pontic Greeks would last from 1914 till 1923. By the time the killings ended the Young Turks had presided over the massacre of around 700,000 - 950,000 Greek civilians. The genocide had been fueled by the lack of ability on behalf of The Young Turks to "Turkify" the Greeks. Or otherwise put; the Young Turks could not force the Greeks to accept the culture or religion that The Young Turks had wished to impose upon them. The Greeks had kept their faith and their culture in spite of the brutal treatment the Young Turks had given them.

The Assyrians

 (Western Media Reported as Genocide Occurred)

In the third century the Assyrian people of Mesopotamia adopted an emerging faith that was quickly spreading, Christianity. This adaptation within Assyrian society was one for which the Assyrian people would die for time and time again. Yet it is such an intrinsic part of Assyrian society that despite their persecution for it, it still persist to this day.

At the end of the 19th century the Ottoman sultan had grown weak in his control over the Ottoman Empire. In an attempt to break up what the sultan saw as a "troublesome" portion of the empire's ethnically diverse population, the Assyrians suffered deportations from their native homelands. The irregular army, mainly Kurdish cavalry, was brutal in it's treatment of Assyrian civilians. Yet this was just the start of Assyrian suffering in the modern era.

Prior to the political instability of the late 19th century, the Assyrians had embraced the millet system under the sultan. It had provided them with some degree of religious and political autonomy within the Ottoman Empire. Yet when the Young Turks came to power the very system that had protected them became the same system that would permit even greater persecution of the Assyrian people. With the redefining of the millet system came the demonetization of the "indigenous Christian" communities. And thus the targeting of the Assyrian community under the guise of implementing the millet system to the letter of the law.

Assyrian churches became targets of local Turkish militias, often sponsored by the Young Turks, as all signs of Assyrian Christendom came under fire. The community leaders amongst the Assyrians were taken off to be falsely accused of trumped up charges only to end up executed. The Young Turks wished to decapitate the Assyrian community as a whole. They wanted a defeated Assyrian population from the start. The goal was absolute submission and then annihilation. It was a strategy that was designed to limit resistance to the genocide The Young Turks had begun to carry out.

In 1914 the Turkish army began to ethnically cleanse Assyrian villages in mass operations commanded by Pashas. Men and boys from the villages were often killed on the spot while at other times the Assyrian men were forced into slave labor. Those who were forced to work for the Turkish army were given little to no food and absolutely no protection from the elements. These slave labor battalions were worked to death with the intent of killing the Assyrian male population. Those who ended up on the front lines of Turkey's war with Russia were placed in areas where they could be killed easily by both Ottoman forces and Russian shelling. The Young Turks fully intended for all Assyrian men and boys to be dead no matter how loyally they served their oppressive dictators.

Turkish men and soldiers were rewarded for their depravity by the Pashas by allowing them to abduct and enslave Assyrian girls. Women who were too old to be considered useful for sexual slavery were often raped and then killed or simply put to death on the spot. For the sexual slaves, death would come in either its physical form or through the trauma inflicted upon them as they were forced into a living hell. These abducted girls would be forced to denounce their faith, convert to Islam, and rid themselves of any signs of their native culture. To the Pashas, this was the quickest way to destroy the Assyrian culture and ethnically cleanse their bloodlines.

For those who were not outright killed in the initial massacres the horrors of deportation awaited them. The elderly, the ill, the young, and the survivors were forced into cattle cars and sent into the interior of the Ottoman Empire. The Young Turks claimed this was for their own good since it removed them from areas close to the war front. Yet the concentration camps they were sent to were nothing more than barren patches of land upon which food would not grow nor could it be found.

In 1915 the London Times reported that thousands of Assyrians were being kept in concentration camps around Baghdad, Iraq. The Turks would not admit to how many Assyrians had started out on the initial death marches into Iraq's barren desert. Yet by the time news was filtering out into the British media there was only around thirty thousand survivors left alive. While the British government petitioned to take these survivors into their protection, the Turks stalled any attempts to rescue the starving Assyrians from the concentration camps the Pashas had established. For The Young Turks, this would have meant that the genocide of the Assyrians would not be complete.

By the end of the Turkish genocide of the Assyrians an estimated 750,000 Assyrians had been slaughtered or starved to death. Their property and their homes had been handed over to Turkish and Arab neighbors. The lives they had led in their homeland were now a memory to those who had managed to cling to life. And the acknowledgement of their suffering under The Young Turks genocidal regime still has yet to be achieved.

The Armenians

(Armenian Community Leaders Hung Publicly in Constantinople)

There was no minority that The Young Turks hated more than the Armenian people. The radical nationalists had long accused the Armenians for every military defeat and political crisis that the Ottoman Empire had suffered. Armenians were the perfect scapegoat for The Young Turks not only for their faith but also because of the Armenians' historic claims to a national homeland. This allowed the Pashas to not only create a "Turkey for the Turks" through the genocide of the Armenians, but also permitted them total control over Armenian lands. The destruction of the Armenians fed both the Pashas' hatred of non-Muslims and their political ambition of reconstructing their empire. 

On April 24th, 1915 the Pashas orders for the arrests and executions of Armenian community leaders was given. On that fateful day the genocide of the Armenian people began in earnest. Turkish military was deployed and prominent Armenians were immediately arrested. The Pashas had desired to eliminate those they viewed as capable of rallying Armenians in a resistance movement against the coming genocide. Yet in spite of the Pashas' attempts, the Armenian people were only galvanized by the attacks on their community. And resistance to the onslaught by Turkish authorities would be met with resistance by the common Armenian civilian. 

The Mountain Of Moses

(Armenian Defenders of Musa Dagh)

As the Turkish military razed Armenian villages and began deportations of Armenian civilians there were four areas where resistance was organized. Musa Dagh was one of those locations.

Six villages laid at the base of the mountain, Musa Dagh. This scenic mountain stands along the edge of the Mediterranean Sea just south of modern day Iskenderun, Turkey. And it was in these six villages that the Armenian civilians were ordered to submit to the deportations ordered by the Pashas. They were told that they would leave the shadow of Musa Dagh and be sent off into the deserts of Syria. Yet none of them believed the reasons The Young Turks were giving for leaving their homes. 

Taking only a few hundred rifles and a months supply of food, the Armenians took to the mountain to seek refuge from the approaching Turkish army. On July 21st the Ottoman forces laid siege to Musa Dagh in an attempt to force the Armenians down the mountain and into captivity, or certain death. Those trapped on the mountain put up fierce resistance in their attempts to keep the Turks from coming up the mountain after them. Every Armenian on Musa Dagh was prepared to die there if help did not arrive. None of the Armenians wanted to be taken by the Turks who had already begun to wipe out their homes below. 

By the time September arrived the Armenians knew that their survival relied upon gaining the attention of passing Allied ships. World War One was still raging and Turkey was still the enemy of the Allied forces. Yet the Armenians knew that there was an off chance that their homemade banners could eventually capture the attention of a passing friendly vessel. 

On September 12th the survivors on Musa Dagh managed to gain the attention of a passing French warship. Once the French forces were able to bring five ships close enough for the Armenians to evacuate the mountain safely the survivors were permitted to board the Allied vessels. By this point only around four thousand Armenians were still alive. Yet for them this was a victory. For this was their salvation from certain death at the hands of their Turkish assailants. 

These four thousand would spend the rest of the genocide in refugee camps in Egypt. Despite the conditions endured as refugees, these were the fortunate ones. They had managed to resist the genocidal efforts of The Young Turks. They had managed to defy the orders of deportation and the horrors of the concentration camps in Syria's deserts. And for the women; they had managed to escape possible rape, murder, and/or sexual slavery.

Slave Battalions

(Greeks, Assyrians, and Armenians utilized as slave labor by Turks)

The Greeks and Assyrians suffered the same slavery at the hands of the Turkish military. Yet it was the Armenians who were more regularly forced into this humiliating form of suffering as the Ottomans sent endless battalions of slaves to the front lines. The Young Turks had recognized the fervor with which Turkish soldiers tortured and tormented their Armenian slaves. And therefore permitted more and more Armenian men and boys to be forced into conscripted labor for their failing army. 

In the autumn of 1914 there had been 40 thousand Armenian men serving loyally in the Ottoman military. These men were the first to be turned into slave labor battalions. Their rifles were confiscated and all their equipment that could be used to resist was taken away. Their comrades in arms were suddenly their masters. And their job went from defending their homeland, the empire, from foreign invaders to suddenly being forced to work as slaves for new tyrants. 

Slave laborers in the Turkish military were utilized as human pack-mules. They were made to carry the equipment of their old comrades and pull the wagons upon which weapons of war were taken into battle. There was no job too degrading for them to be forced to do. The more filthy and dehumanizing the task, the more back breaking the work, the more the Turkish slave drivers forced their captives to do the tasks at hand. 

When a slave labor battalion outlived it's uses the Turkish military turned their rifles upon men who had once fought to maintain Turkish sovereignty. If a slave labor battalion would cost too much to transport, if the food to keep them alive was running low, if there was simply a lull in the war; the slaves could be dispensed of without concern or care by the Turkish forces. Greeks, Assyrians, and Armenians serving as slaves were not to be considered human. Their torture and torment was dictated from the top down. And their lives were cheap. To outlive their purposes on the battle field was a death warrant for these unfortunate souls. 

Slave labor would continue well after World War One and the war with Russia. The Ottomans kept the institution of slavery alive so that the genocide of the "indigenous Christians" could persist.

The Bounty Of War

(Armenian Woman Tattooed During Her Sexual Slavery)

As men and boys were being sent off to die as slaves the Armenian women were left vulnerable to a different form of slavery. The Young Turks had designed in their dictates certain clauses which permitted the forced marriages and temporary holding of Armenian women as sexual slaves by Turkish men. This form of slavery was meant to reward the butchers who had cleared Armenian villages and executed countless Armenian civilians. It was a perverse incentive for the Turkish soldiers and politicians who supported the genocidal regime in Istanbul. And it permitted Turkish neighbors to literally move into an Armenian home and claim both the building and woman as their own. 

In almost every genocide there is a certain focus on the "blood purity" of an enemy. While Hitler's Nazi's would seek to cleanse their own people of "impure blood", The Young Turks sought to destroy the blood lines of their victims through mixing their own with it. The goal in both is to destroy a lineage that can be idealized by the victims that will inevitably survive even the most thorough genocidal attempts. It is the desire to wipe clean any memory of the victims' culture, community, heritage, and supposed racial identity. 

For the Young Turks this was made evident as they supported practices that not only dehumanized the victims of this sexual slavery but also set them apart from any offspring that might result form their abuses. The Young Turks incited a campaign to tattoo, or mark visibly in some way, sexual slaves that were kept long term in Turkish homes. This act would set aside women who were slaves from the rest of Turkish society. It would permit them to be ostracized by the community in which they were being held captive. And it would further make it easier for Turkish families to take any resulting children and raise them separate of their mothers.

It became common practice for many Armenian women who were taken slaves to be used in mass rapes and then, if they survived the rape, to be killed. When this occurred amongst the Turkish military it often led to Armenian girls being beheaded, having their throats slit, bayoneted, stabbed, shot, or hung. These victims were first made to suffer the barbaric rapes inflicted upon them only to have to be tortured to death by the rapists. 

There was no mercy shown to the sexual slaves taken by Ottoman Turks. Their enslavement was meant to not only separate them from the rest of the Armenians but served as a way to segregate the victims from the rest of humanity. The tattoos, the piercings, the rape, the beatings, the public humiliation; all were ways the Ottomans sought to break their spirits and kill the Armenians' soul.

(Armenian Girl Who Survived Torture By Turks)

Death Marches and Death Camps

"The Ottoman Empire should be cleaned up of the Armenians and the Lebanese. We have destroyed the former by the sword, we shall destroy the latter through starvation."
~ Enver Pasha

In April of 1915 the Pashas gave the order for the Turkish military to begin forced deportations of all Armenians across the Ottoman Empire. The Young Turks wanted every Armenian village cleared out and the Armenians in them to be sent in one way or another to the deserts of Syria. In some cases the Armenians were put in cattle cars and shipped toward Syria. But in almost every case, at some point, the Armenians were forced to march into the desert where they were expected to die from exposure. 

Around 75 percent of all Armenians who were deported would die along the way to the concentration camps. Those who reached the concentration camps were not met by the sight of gas chambers or barbwire fences. These death camps were simply patches of barren earth where the victims themselves were expected to stay under the guard of nearby Turkish soldiers. If they dared to try to leave they would be executed by sword or a bullet. 

There were no means with which to provide themselves protection from the harsh winters of Syria's deserts. There was no way to hide from the summer sun. And water was nowhere to be found. Food was a distant memory for the victims of deportation. There was simply no way for life to continue in these hellish conditions. 

Those who had died along the way had suffered rapes, torture by the Turkish military, and random executions. If the deportees had not been able to carry onward to their deaths the Turkish soldiers were more than willing to oblige them with a beheading or impalement. The corpses of those who had gone ahead of them lined the ditches and pathways. Bodies of victims were strung up in the brush along the way. Rape victims decayed in the streams and behind shrubs. The signs of death were never far away. 

Death marches were used to deplete the numbers of Armenians who would need to be executed later. The Young Turks knew well what would happen to the Armenians as they were forced to walk into the deserts. This was just death by another cruel method. The goal, after all, was annihilation of the Armenians. 

The Aftermath

(Armenian Child Receiving Care In A Refugee Camp)

When the genocides committed by the Pashas and Turks finally did end the carnage was spread across the entire breadth of the Ottoman Empire. While the Ottoman Empire itself would dissolve and modern nation states arose in it's place, the legacy of Turkish atrocities did not dissolve so easily. Mass graves still remained along the trails of death and around the concentration camps and razed villages. Burnt out villages still smoldered in the wake of war. And countless refugees now were left in limbo. 

1.5 million Armenians had been exterminated during the genocide of the Armenian people. Nearly a million Assyrians and a million Greeks had been slaughtered as The Young Turks committed genocide against them. For the Assyrians, those left displaced in Iraq, genocide would strike again in 1933 and under Saddam Hussein. For all three peoples the memory of death would linger for generations so as to never be forgotten. 

Not a single orchestrator, participant, or beneficiary of the genocides committed would ever face trial for their crimes against humanity. The nation of Turkey would be quickly forgiven as the Western allies attempted to gain a foothold in the Middle East. The United States, the nation who documented the Armenian Genocide while it occurred, would go on to becoming allies with the Turks. Both Europe and America would base their military and establish their sphere of influence out of Turkey. If anything, the former Ottomans benefited greatly through their genocides against the Pontic Greeks, Assyrians, and Armenians. 

Historians now refer to the genocides committed by Turkey as "the forgotten genocides". For the most part, this pathetic analysis of one of history's largest (and unpunished) crimes is very true. Over three million lives lost and history has forgotten them. 

The Islamic State

Modern Islamists have little in common with the organized government of the old Ottoman Empire. Yet the crimes that the Islamic State (ISIS, IS, ISIL) commit are eerily familiar. The goal of constructing an Islamic caliphate under which only Muslims (and even then, not all Muslims) are permitted to live directly reflects The Young Turks' ambitions. A desire to force a culture, no matter how perverse it may be from the original, upon all those trapped within a failed caliphate mirrors what the Pashas wished when they said, "a Turkey for the Turks".

When the ISIS militants laid siege to the Yazidis who had fled to a mountain they had, if only for a moment, recreated the crimes of the Turkish military at Musa Dagh. They intentionally isolated and fired upon a surrounded and outnumbered civilian population. Regardless of geography, the intent behind the crime was identical. And the only way out of the snare for the trapped victim was certain death or slavery.

As the ISIS militants force Syrian and Iraqi Christian minorities to convert to Islam or face death they reconstruct the orders given by The Young Turks. And just as with The Young Turks, conversion to Islam does not guarantee the victim that he/she has evaded death. For those who do manage to live under their new oppressors are put into a system of classes where they are the lowest ranking member.

While ISIS beheads, buries alive, burns, tortures, shoots, stabs, and butchers minorities they are following in the footsteps of the Turkish army who came before them. In burning out entire villages the ISIS members ignite the flames that Middle Eastern Christians saw lit under the Ottoman Turks. Forced evictions that often lead to death marches place these minorities in the footsteps of their ancestors. And for the Yazidis, the sexual slavery their girls face is exactly like that which Christians faced under the Ottomans.

There is nothing new that ISIS can bring to their genocide of the Middle East's ethnic and religious minorities. There have been savages like them in the past. And there will be barbaric heathens like them in the future. What must change is the willingness on the part of the outside world in addressing these crimes against humanity. We must learn to combat the perpetrators of genocide not only after the genocide has occurred but also while it is happening. There is no reason that we, in our modern age of information, should be willing to look the other way like we did with the Greeks, Assyrians, and Armenians. While there is nothing new that ISIS can bring to the table, there is something we can... the desire to fight.

History is not written by the meek, the pacifists, or those who pray for a better tomorrow. It is written in the blood of those who have fallen while others looked the other way. All evil has ever needed to prevail is the willingness of good men to say nothing, do nothing, and beat their chests when its over as though they won the day. We do not currently face the same tragedy in what was once the Ottoman Empire because of the religion of those perpetrating it. We face the reality of yet another genocide because we have closed our eyes to the reality of it. We have covered our ears so as to not hear the cries of the dead ringing out from graves they never should have had to go to. History has been written in their blood because our "free world" decided to set on the sidelines while others died.

If in a hundred years the genocides being committed by ISIS are not remembered or even recognized it will not be because they didn't happen. If the crimes of ISIS are forgotten it will be because, just as we have done with the Armenians, we will have decided to forever turn our backs upon those left in the killing fields.

We will have once again lost our humanity.


You can contact Alder's Ledge on Twitter by tweeting to us at:


Some of the resources used for this post can be read by following the links listed below. 
Please note that not all sources are listed.

Tattooing of Armenian Girls:

Basic overview of the Genocide:
The Young Turks

September 23, 2014

Labour Trafficking In America

(Part of our ongoing discussion on Human Trafficking)

In Series One, Alders Ledge outlined its working definition of the term “human trafficking” as a reference for future articles in the series, and the discussion now turns to “labor trafficking” in the United States. This is, perhaps, the type of slavery with which most Americans are familiar, as it is studied in U.S. and American History classes. For purposes of our discussion, “labor trafficking” shall mean:

The recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring, or receipt of persons; by means of the threat, use of force, or other forms of coercion, abduction, fraud, deception, through abuse of power or exploitation of a position of vulnerability, or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another for the purpose of exploiting labor and/or services. (UNODC, 2014)

It is vitally important for Americans, and the world, to understand that slavery NEVER ended in the United States, and history textbooks rarely frame discussions around this fact. Instead they focus on traditional notions of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, the Constitution, and the Emancipation Proclamation, which did nothing to actually stop the exploitation of labor and services in the country. We’ll examine the various ways in which exploited labor and/or services continued, post-Proclamation, through today.


Post-reconstruction saw Black Americans subjugated to slavery via criminalization, through race-based laws known as The Black Codes. Prisoners were subjected to slave labor for profit by companies, prison wardens, and others with stakeholder-status in having a supply of free or nearly-free labor. Sharecropping introduced another form of exploitation. While a study of the history of corrections, Black Codes, and sharecropping are easily identifiable as forms of labor trafficking, as defined by UNODC, many fail to make the connection: slavery did not, literally, end after the Civil War. Laws were specifically written to criminalize only the actions of Black people…laws that were far too easy for any “freed” Black to “break.” Violating such laws landed former slaves in prison, where they were subjected to slave labor, once again. With the decline and eventual eradication of sharecropping by the 1960s, other forms of peonage, slavery, and exploitation gripped the country, and the world.


When Americans think “slavery,” the images that come to mind are those depicted above. While it is important to note that non-Blacks were also subjected to indentured servitude in the founding of America, historically, the vast majority of slavery centered on Blacks and agriculture. As agriculture declined, new methods of exploitation began to flourish, a much more “inclusive” slavery that sought to take advantage of human bodies, regardless of color. However, the “new” forms of labor trafficking still predominantly exploit minorities, especially immigrants, women, and children. While we observe that some forms of labor trafficking affect legal and illegal immigrant residents, it is important to note that human trafficking affects native-born citizens, as well. This is not an "immigrant" issue. This is a global human rights issue.
The Modern Face of Labor Trafficking in the USA
While 59% of labor trafficking is not found in the agriculture sector, it continues to proliferate in the industry, especially among migrant and seasonal farm workers. Nannies and housekeepers (think: Mammy figures in slave days of the past) and other domestic positions provide a ripe climate for exploitation. While sex trafficking will be highlighted in a future series, it is important to mention here that hostess and strip clubs are also rife with slave labor, outside of the traditional notions of forced prostitution (sex work). The actual performances, duties, and dancing (the labor) can be exploited, with or without forced sexual contact with customers (Alders Ledge does not conflate voluntary sex work with human trafficking, a discussion more appropriate for the upcoming series on sex trafficking).

The dining and food service industry provides a haven for traffickers, who force their victims to cook, clean, stock, and wait tables for little or no pay, often while under the complete control of their “handlers,” while living in controlled congregate housing. In addition, the manufacturing of clothing and foodstuffs also provide avenues for forced, coerced, and under/no-paid labor. With over 1.5 million employees in the hospitality industry, the United States has seen a rise in traffickers’ exploitation of room attendants, other hospitality-centered positions, even casino workers. Ever wonder about the knocks on the door by young people selling products, like magazine subscriptions? Many such peddling rings exploit the door-to-door market by denying food and accommodations to those who fail to make their quotas, even abandoning “employees,” leaving them penniless and without transportation in unknown cities. In short, ANY industry with a demand for cheap labor and little-to-no oversight is ripe for labor trafficking, including group care homes, construction, and landscaping.


Most Americans directly benefit from modern-slavery. Everyone eats, and most do not grow their own food. Many people dine out and stay in hotels, and we all live in, or travel to, various constructed buildings. Trafficking touches our lives in ways we may not have considered before. Anti-immigrant adherents may not care about the abuses of immigrant populations, rationalizing that “they ought not to be here, in the first place.” Hostess/stripper clubs are rife with “slut-shaming” and “victim-blaming,” and the voices of the exploited, the trafficked, are often silenced under the belief that these women and girls actively choose to earn a living “on their backs” and should “know the consequences” of their profession. When presented with evidence of force, victim-blaming still occurs: “They were stupid if they couldn’t see it;” “Why didn’t they just runaway or call police?” These judgments do not address the criminals who force and/or kidnap their way into exploiting human bodies. Finally, notice the eerie silence about slavery in these arguments. There is no acknowledgment that slavery still exists, and it resolves the cognitive dissonance felt when one realizes the benefits they unwittingly receive via trafficking. 



Obviously, a single blog post cannot provide the space for nuance on such a large, complex topic. Our purpose is to bring awareness and empower you to take action. Below are suggested readings for those interested in a deeper understanding of modern labor trafficking in the United States.

  • Life Interrupted: Trafficking into Forced Labor in the United States (2014). See on Amazon.
  • Nobodies: Modern American Slave Labor and the Dark Side of the New Global Economy (2008) See on Amazon.
  • The Slave Next Door: Human Trafficking and Slavery in America Today (2010). See on Amazon.
  • The Coercion of Trafficked Workers (2011). See Online.

August 19, 2014

Left To The Dogs

Iraq's Minorities Threatened With Genocide

(Yazidi struggle to escape the advancing ISIS threat)

Circling like vultures, ever ready to pick at the bones of their fallen victims, the dogs of the Islamic State gather for yet another massacre. Their mouths foam with the disease that has infected the countless generations of hedonistic barbarians that came before them. This plague manifested itself with the colonialists that once spilled blood in these same fields. This disease is the same illness that once sent Europe into the dark days of the 1940s. It is the same hunger that drove on the Khmer Rouge as they turned rice patties into the killing fields. ISIS is the manifestation of the disease that has doggedly nipped at the heels of humanity for all of our existence. Its the disease that now threatens to put the final nails in Iraq's coffin.

Blood still drips from the veins of the crucified, the beheaded, and from the lifeless bodies of those left in ditches after mass executions. The mantra for this new caliphate is written in their blood, the ink of the barbarians that exploited their deaths, a medium that speaks to the indifference of the onlooking world. It is in their deaths that the foundations of Isis's terror has been laid. With every fallen victim comes a new mountain of propaganda in this depraved push for religious dominance. It is a sacrifice, a burnt offering to Isis's own insanity, that feeds the wicked intentions of Islam's radical fringe factions.

Tonight the Yazidi people are the scapegoats that are to be offered up so as to feed the lust of those who claim to fight for All-h. Their women and girls are to be used for sexual deviancy. Their men and boys to be drained of their blood as their bodies return to the sun scorched soil. Their voices to be forgotten as they, in their darkest hours, offers up one final scream in hopes that a deaf world might finally hear.

Never Meant To Be Lambs

(Yazidi Temple At The Highest Peak of Sinjar Mountains)

No community has ever faced genocide with the timidness of a lamb. Once the butcher's knife makes it's first appearance the would be victims always find ways to defy the fate they've been slated. Their voices become raised. The muscles become rigid and the heels dig in for the fight ahead. It is not in the nature of man to take that last breath in peace. There has never been a victim of genocide ready to die for the sinful lust of another. The Yazidi are no exception to this rule.

When ISIS came to Sinjar the Yazidi community already knew what was awaiting them. Due to their religious beliefs the Islamist radicals had already plotted to kill the "devil worshipers" in mass. The black flag that ISIS uses was an unadulterated symbol of their intentions toward the Yazidi minority. No quarter would be given, no mercy would be shown, and no peace could ever be obtained from the clutched fists of the barbarians that comprise Isis's forces.

But what makes the Yazidi such a vulnerable target in Isis's genocide of "non-believers"?

Much like Muslims, Jews, and Christians; the Yazidi are monotheists. They believe in one god who created all life here on earth. Yet the connection with Islam almost ends at that point alone. For it is in the Yazidi religion, Yazdanism, that the belief in one god diverges into other beliefs that Islam does not share. It's these differences that place Islamic fundamentalists at odds with the "pagan" beliefs of the Yazidi.

In Yazdanism the creator god entrusted the world to a Heptad of Seven Holy Beings who were to care for all of creation. These "angels", or heft sirr (the Seven Mysteries), are all to "bow to Adam (man)". Yet the head of the heft sirr, or archangels, does not bow to mankind. Instead, Tawûsê Melek, who was said to be created from the creator god's own illumination, refuses to bow to mankind. This makes Tawûsê Melek a special part of Yazdanism and is revered by the Yazidi faith.

Islam and Christianity have long equated the worship of these "angels" as demon worship. And it is in the worship of Tawûsê Melek that the Abrahamic faiths have created their worst offense to Yazdanism. For it is in the story of Tawûsê Melek that fundamentalists (Muslims and Christians alike) have concocted the belief that this lead angel is their demon Shaitan (Satan). Yet it is in the story of Tawûsê Melek that it becomes most evident that Yazdanism is a distinct and separate religion from Islam, Christianity, and Judaism. For it is in his story that Yazdanism's many other influences becomes more evident (including Gnosticism, Zoroastrianism, and several eastern religions).

However, due to the complexity of any given faith, we will not delve too deeply into the story itself but rather look at how it has been exploited to target the Yazidi minority.

Westerners have long romanticized the Yazidi in as much the same way as they have with any other Eastern religious minority. Their faith is not explained in Western media when it so callously equates it to Islam. The religious practices aren't valued for their unique contributions to world community but are rather slighted by upholding old myths of devil worship. Their culture as a whole isn't recognized for it's depth and beauty but rather is looked at with a passing glance.

The Muslim world has long targeted the Yazidi community with pogroms and social injustices of all sorts. Imams and religious leaders within Islam have accused the Yazidi of serving Shaitan (Satan) due to their incredible lack of understanding when talking about Yazdanism. The methods of worship and prayer that are hallmarks of Yazdanism are considered pagan by Islamic fundamentalists. Throughout the centuries the Yazidi have been rounded up and killed in smaller versions of their current holocaust. Their children are targeted with forced conversions to Islam. Their women used as sexual objects, so easily discarded after they've outlived their purpose. And the Yazidi men have often been massacred by Arab neighbors. All of this because the fundamentalists could not look beyond the strangling hold their own faith places upon the overall conscience of an already ethnocentric society.

Both East and West have failed to recognize the value of a richly diverse society, a society to which the Yazidi culture and beliefs could so greatly contribute. While not all Muslims demonize the Yazidi and their beliefs, and not all Westerners dehumanize them by marginalizing their culture, the damage inflicted by those who do is already visible. In a community, like that found in Iraq's northern regions, the lack of tolerance for differing beliefs and practices is intolerable. It permits a situation in which only the largest faiths and ethnic groups are capable of surviving while minorities are forced to struggle to eek out an existence.

Now the Yazidi prepare to fight back. Now they have no other option but to stand up and defiantly look death in the eye. All because the world, as a whole, has long ignored their screams for help.

From The Hearts of Men

The Yazidi believe that all evil in this world arises not from a "great Satan" or demonic presence of any form. It is in their religion that the true nature of evil is best explained. For it is in the Yazidi faith that evil is said to be the product of man's heart, and man's heart alone. The Islamic State is proving this to be true. The apathy of the world community is proving this to be the only source of evil in this dark and dreary world.

When Saddam tried to exterminate the Yazidi the world generalized their plight by bunching them in with the Kurdish population of Iraq. When pogroms have occurred and the Yazidi were targeted by their Arab neighbors the colonial powers wrote it off as a "ancient rivalry" of sorts. Just as with the Roma in the Porajamos, the world denied the magnitude of Saddam's crimes by denying the targeting of the Yazidi for their faith and ethnicity. Just as with the Bosnian Genocide, the world devalued the lives of the Yazidi by cheapening their plight with excuses for the aggression of the Arabs. In every genocide the Yazidi have faced there has always been an apathetic world ready to look the other way. In every struggle to survive the Yazidi have found themselves begging for help from an increasingly deaf world.

Today we watch as the most powerful nation on the planet offers only tokens of support for their plight as it refuses to commit to the promise of "never again". Cheap air strikes are all the world's most technologically advanced military will give as it's governing body refuses to do all it can to stop the genocide of the Yazidi. So as the dead and soon to be dead drift from this earth we monitor their demise with drones overhead. And as the children of the Yazidi face slavery and sexual abuse at the hands of ISIS heathens we bomb random artillery pieces and abandoned checkpoints. This is the extent of morality in our modern age. We promise the same intervention the allies inadvertently offered the Jews, and yet when the time to commit arises... we are impotent, so to speak.

It was once said, and often repeated, that the only thing that evil needs to succeed is the silence of good men. The Yazidi believe that evil arises from the hearts of all mankind. But they also believe that the good in this world also is a product of the human heart. Thus a war, of sorts, can be depicted as raging within the human spirit. A desire to create, a desire to save, and a desire to protect are all found within the heart of man. Yet the desire to destroy, to devour, and to prey upon others can also be found within the same heart; at times, simultaneously.

The salvation of modern man is the ability of mankind to overcome the evil we so often create. If mankind is truly "good" inside, if there is a hope for a better world still yet to come, then there is a way to conquer the evil tendencies of man. The first, and far from the least of which, is the apathy that so often paralyzes us in this struggle.

If communities like that of the Yazidi people are to survive in this ever shrinking world then we must surrender ourselves to empathy rather than apathy. We must adhere their afflictions to our own sense of survival and thus make their struggle our own. By denying the value of their culture, by giving into the notion that someone else will "save" them... we lose something of ourselves. In remaining silent we hand over the sword to their executioner. By no lifting a finger to stop their demise we join the ranks of the barbarians that slaughter them.

A world that believes in equality, tolerance, understanding, and the value of diversity can not bare the blight of groups like ISIS. No matter what your religion is, no matter where in the world you are, the struggle to stop the spread of genocide and hate is one that you can not turn away from. Either you are willing to fight against racism, religious violence, ethnic hatred, and bigotry or you are a contributor to it. You don't get to remain silent.

Scream Bloody Murder

Many of you won't have the option to get out there and do the physical work required to stop genocide. There probably won't be rallies and protests in support of the Yazidis. And when it comes to the political legwork many of us are intimidated by the actions required to just get the ear of our government long enough to scream for the Yazidis. But there is still the work of raising awareness. And this is a job that all of us should be doing without hesitation. It is a job that each of use are supposed to be doing for all victims of genocide, regardless of who they are and/or who the murderers are. 

In the notes below you will find countless links that are easily shared on twitter, facebook, tumblr, pintrest, and all other social media sites. These articles should be read and used in conversations so that you can help bring awareness of the Yazidis' plight. But they are just a start. You should, and will need to, continue to read more about the Yazidi people and the genocides they have endured. The more familiar you become with the people and their struggle the more convincingly you can share their story. 

In addition to being an online presence for the Yazidi community, you should also be sharing their story in your daily life as well. Each of us have countless conversations daily. Chances are you will spend some time today talking about anything and nothing at all with people from many different walks of life. These are all opportunities to raise awareness. With some tact and patience, you can usually grab the attention of at least one person who is willing to listen. And that one person is a chance to keep the information flowing. That one person is a chance to stir the heart of your fellow man and create the opportunity for positive change... to touch the "good" within their heart. 

As long as you have breath in your lungs...

You should be screaming.

So while you are talking about Gaza, Sudan, North Korea, or the Rohingya... don't forget the Yazidi. While you are talking about television shows, music, politics, sports, or simply making small talk... don't forget the Yazidi. If and when the opportunity arises... scream for them. 

Source Documents
(note: not all are listed)

The Guardian



The Daily Star (Lebanon)

London Evening Standard

The Straights Times

The Telegraph

The Independent