by, Nicole Chavez and Joe Sutton | CNN | h/t Vlad Tepes
It’s not the first time the center was attacked or vandalized. In January, police said 30-year-old Lauren Kirk-Coehlo broke windows, damaged property and placed bacon on door handles at the Davis center. She was sentenced to five years’ probation on June 15 after pleading guilty to a felony hate crime, CNN affiliate KVOR reported.
The Sacramento chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations called both incidents “apparent acts of intimidation” and thanked law enforcement for their response.
“Decisive action by law enforcement authorities sends a strong message of deterrence to anyone who contemplates turning their bigoted views into acts of intimidation,” said Basim Elkarra, the group’s executive director.
by, Faiz Siddiqui, Julie Zauzmer and Sarah Pulliam Bailey
The death of a Virginia teenager who police say was assaulted and then disappeared after leaving a mosque in the Sterling area isn’t being investigated as a hate crime, authorities said Monday.
On Sunday, police found the girl’s remains and a 22-year-old man has been charged with murder in connection with the case.
Video courtesy of: Wochit Entertainment
The mosque, the All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS) in Sterling, and relatives identified the girl as 17-year-old Nabra Hassanen of Reston.
Fairfax County police identified the man charged with murder in her death as Darwin Martinez Torres of Sterling. On Monday, they did not release any explanation as to why they weren’t investigating the murder as a hate crime.
According to accounts from police and a mosque official, a group of four or five teens were walking back from breakfast at IHOP early Sunday when they were confronted by a motorist. All but one of the teens ran to the mosque, where the group reported that the girl had been left behind, according to Deputy Aleksandra Kowalski, a spokeswoman for the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office.
“Immediately thereafter, the ADAMS’ personnel notified both Loudoun County and Fairfax County authorities who immediately began an extensive search to locate the missing girl,” the mosque said in a statement.
Loudoun and Fairfax police jointly conducted an hours-long search around Dranesville Road and Woodson Drive in Herndon, which is in Fairfax. Remains thought to be the girl’s were found about 3 p.m. Sunday in a pond in the 21500 block of Ridgetop Circle in Sterling. During the search, an officer spotted a motorist driving suspiciously in the area and arrested Torres, police said.
Police said they collected several articles of evidence but declined to provide further details.
The girl’s mother said detectives told her that Nabra was struck with a metal bat.
“I can’t think of a worse instance to occur than the loss of a 17-year-old on Father’s Day, as the father of a 17-year-old myself,” Loudoun County Sheriff Michael L. Chapman said.
Detectives think the remains are those of the girl, but the chief medical examiner’s office will confirm the identity and manner of death, Fairfax police spokeswoman Tawny Wright said.
Shoyeb Hassan, the co-chair of ADAMS, said that during the last 10 days of Ramadan, the mosque has extra prayers at midnight and 2 a.m., and members frequently go to McDonald’s or the 24-hour IHOP to eat before they start their fast at sunrise, as Nabra and her friends were doing.
The killing rattled a Muslim community in the midst of celebrating Ramadan, a month of religious observance in which adherents fast from dawn to sunset for about a month. The period culminates in the feast-like celebration Eid al-Fitr, which is expected to fall next weekend.
“We are devastated and heartbroken as our community undergoes and processes this traumatic event,” Rizwan Jaka, chairman of ADAMS, said in a statement. “It is a time for us to come together to pray and care for our youth.”
ADAMS is Northern Virginia’s largest mosque and, with 11 chapters around the District and Northern Virginia, is among the nation’s most well-known congregations. According to ADAMS’s website, the Sterling location is 25,000 square feet and can accommodate more than 700 people. It includes a youth weekend school, a gymnasium and multipurpose hall, the site says.
Arsalan Iftikhar, an international human rights lawyer and commentator, said that he and his wife were at the mosque for evening prayers, which ended about 12:30 a.m. Sunday. As they were pulling out of the parking lot, he said, he saw a group of teenagers congregating and talking loudly about going out to eat. The girls, he said, were wearing the abaya, a full-length dress many Muslim women wear.
Police said Monday they aren’t investigating the death as a hate crime, but the issue was on the minds of many Muslims on Sunday.
Video courtesy of: Wochit News
Last month, two men on a Portland train were stabbed and killed after they intervened to protect two girls who were being harassed with anti-Muslim threats, according to authorities.
Sunday night, a van struck a crowd of pedestrians, including worshipers leaving a pair of mosques in London. Witnesses said the pedestrians were struck as they departed late-night prayers.
The ADAMS Center has a paid armed security guard at the Sterling site, according to Iftikhar. He said many mosques have increased security since six Muslim worshipers were killed at a mosque in Quebec earlier this year.
Nabra’s slaying sent a chill through the community when news spread Sunday.
“People are petrified, especially people who have young Muslim daughters,” Iftikhar said.
Virginia officials condemned the killing Sunday night and expressed condolences to Nabra’s family.
Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-Va.) said she visited ADAMS Sunday and met with leadership and law enforcement officials.
“We are heartbroken and horrified by the news of the brutal murder of a beautiful 17-year old girl,” Comstock said in a statement.
The congresswoman represents Virginia’s 10th District, where the mosque is located. “We know there is no greater pain for any parent and Chip and I extend our prayers to her family and loved ones at this difficult time and the entire ADAMS Center community,” she said. “We commend the Fairfax County Police Department and the Loudoun County Sheriff’s office for their diligent work in apprehending the perpetrator. This case should be investigated and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
Virginia Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam (D) said he and his wife, Pam, were “deeply disturbed” by the assault and killing.
“There is absolutely no place for this kind of violence in our Commonwealth,” Northam said in a statement. “Every Virginian should feel safe and welcome in our communities, and no parent should ever have to experience such a heartbreaking tragedy. As the police investigation continues, I urge all Virginians to keep Nabra’s friends and family in their hearts.”
Virginia Attorney General Mark R. Herring (D) echoed Northam, urging Virginians to show compassion and kindness.
“The ADAMS Center has always welcomed me and so many in Northern Virginia like family,” Herring said. “This unspeakable attack feels like an assault on our entire community. Words fail at a time like this, so we’ll all have to do the best we can to surround them with the love and support they’ve always shown each of us.”
On a crowdfunding page to support Nabra’s family, donations surged Sunday night, jumping from $10,000 to nearly $18,000 in less than an hour. Shortly before 10 p.m., the fundraising page had met its $25,000 goal.
In a neighborhood full of Muslim immigrant families, the Hassanens’ modest Reston apartment was the one overflowing with friends and laughter most days, friends said Sunday.
“It’s a family where if you’re feeling down and you need to laugh, this is where you go,” said Samar Ali, 26, who grew up in the Hassanens’ apartment complex.
On Sunday night, that apartment normally filled with laughter was crammed with more than 30 women in traditional Muslim garb, sobbing and comforting one another. At the center of the crowded, dimly lit living room was Nabra’s mother, Sawsan Gazzar.
“Please pray for me, please pray for me,” Gazzar sobbed in Arabic. Her phone rang constantly. To her brother and sister in her native Egypt, she said, “Pray for me that I can handle this . . . I lost my daughter, my first reason for happiness.”
The night before, Gazzar had cooked a feast for Nabra, the oldest of her four daughters, who wanted to host a big iftar break-the-fast dinner for all her friends from ADAMS and South Lakes High School, where she just finished 10th grade.
The iftar was packed — Nabra was always popular and sociable. And when it ended, a friend’s mom drove some of the teens to ADAMS for the midnight prayers that mark the last 10 days of Ramadan. Family members said she frequented the mosque during Ramadan.
And during the holy month, the mosque was filled with teens like her.
Gazzar said she thought Nabra and her friends would eat at the mosque after the prayers, and she would have forbidden her from walking to IHOP in the middle of the night. But she also wasn’t surprised that the girl went out; she and other teens had done it safely last year.
Other mothers in the apartment Sunday night echoed the same thought repeatedly — they and their children had always felt safe taking the sidewalk path to IHOP or McDonald’s for a fun meal on those final Ramadan nights.
Gazzar loaned her daughter an abaya to wear to the mosque Saturday night, since Nabra didn’t typically wear traditional Muslim clothes. She heard from a detective that when the man in the car started shouting at the teens, Nabra tripped over the long garment and fell to the ground, just before she was struck.
“I think it had to do with the way she was dressed and the fact that she’s Muslim,” Gazzar said. “Why would you kill a kid? What did my daughter do to deserve this?”
Nabra was a diligent student, so much so that although she was extremely proud to get her first job ever at a McDonald’s, she quit when her manager didn’t understand that studying for a school exam took priority over a work shift. Family members were quick to note her interest in fashion and makeup, and her recently acquired nose ring.
All four Hassanen girls were born in the United States — the younger ones are 11, 10 and 3. Ali described Nabra as a “daddy’s girl” who was close with her father, a bus-and-limo driver. Her father spent Sunday at the mosque, Ali said, beside himself with worry all day.
Gazzar’s phone rang yet again, and this time she didn’t answer. She turned instead to the hundreds of photos stored on it, scrolling through them until she landed on one of Nabra visiting her parents’ homeland in Egypt, laughing as she embraced two of the teen’s little sisters.
“They’d all be laughing. They used to be really happy.”
She gazed into the girls’ eyes, and cried harder.
by, Elliot Friedland | Clarion Project
The Defense Department has signed a deal to sell $12 billion of F-15 fighter jets to Qatar. US Defense Secretary James Mattis reportedly met with representatives of Qatar to sign the deal on June 14. Bloomberg reported the deal was for 32 jets, to be manufactured primarily by Boeing.
This is despite a statement on June 9 from President Donald Trump that Qatar is a “high-level” sponsor of terrorism.
“The nation of Qatar, unfortunately, has historically been a funder of terrorism at a very high-level,” Trump said on Friday.
“We are pleased to announce today the signing of the letter of offer and acceptance for the purchase of the F-15QA fighter jets, with an initial cost of $12 billion dollars,” the Qatari Defense Ministry announced in a statement on Wednesday afternoon about the deal. “We believe that this agreement will propel Qatar’s ability to provide for its own security while also reducing the burden placed upon the United States military in conducting operations against violent extremism.”
Video courtesy of: CNN | Elliot Friedland | Clarion Project
Qatar is currently embroiled in a row with its neighbors over support for terrorist groups. Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, the Tripoli Government in Libya, Yemen and the Maldives have all severed relations with the tiny wealthy oil state. Qatar is currently receiving food and diplomatic support from Turkey and Iran. The UAE ambassador to the U.S. recently suggested using the presence of the U.S. air base in Qatar to pressure the country to end support for extremism.
Qatar stands accused of bankrolling terror groups including Hamas and al-Qaeda-linked groups in Syria, in addition to allowing Hamas leaders to operate out of Qatar.
Some of these groups are connected to the deaths of Americans. Qatar originally funded Libyan militia group Rafallah al-Sehati, according to the New York Times. A breakaway faction of Rafallah al-Sehati formed Ansar al-Sharia, the group suspected of being responsible for the 2012 murder of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens at the American consulate in Benghazi.
Qatar also allowed the Taliban to set up a political bureau in Doha and allowed fundraisers tied to al-Qaeda affiliates free reign to raise money for jihadi groups in Syria. For example, in December 2013, the U.S. Treasury designated Abdul Rahman al-Nuaimi as a global terrorist and accused him of raising and transferring $2 million per month to “al-Qaeda in Iraq” and $250,000 to al-Shabaab, al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Somalia.
None of this stopped the deal going through. The full deal, originally agreed in November 2016, is for $21 billion worth of F-15QA fighter jets. The deal was originally authorized by Congress and the president while Barack Obama was in office. However, Trump seemingly took no steps to prevent the deal.
Middle-Eastern dictatorships have been stocking up on arms recently. The region imports more weapons than any other and it’s not just Qatar.
Weapons imports by Saudi Arabia and Qatar rose by 275% from 2011 to 2015, according to a report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
“The combined value of Saudi Arabia and the [United Arab Emirates’] defence imports is more than all of Western Europe’s defence imports combined,” Janes senior analyst Ben Moore said in a statement last year. “The global defence trade market has never seen an increase as large as the one we saw between 2014 and 2015.”
Although Washington remains the world’s number one weapons exporter, it is not just the U.S. that is funding and arming sponsors of terrorism in the Middle East.
British arms giant BAE sold sophisticated surveillance systems to a slew of oppressive states including but not limited to Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar, Oman, Morocco and Algeria, a new investigation just revealed.
Saudi Arabia also stands accused of exporting extremism worldwide. Nevertheless, the U.S. Senate just approved a sale of $500 million worth of bombs to the Saudi Air Force for use in the war in Yemen.
The systems allow these governments to track and read most communications, the physical whereabouts of their citizens, listen to what they say by hacking into their smartphones and more.
“It used to be that ‘the walls have ears’, but now it’s ‘smartphones have ears,’” Manal al-Sharif, a Saudi women’s rights activist who also now lives abroad since escaping Saudi Arabia, where she was forced to leave one of her two sons behind.
“No country monitors its own people the way they do in the Gulf countries. They have the money, so they can buy advanced surveillance software.”
That equipment is coming from Western countries like the United States, Canada and the UK, which talk a tough game on terrorism and extremism but continue to sell high end weapons systems to the most repressive theocracies in the world.
“We had a decision to make,” Trump said in his statement calling out Qatar for funding terrorism. “Do we take the easy road or do we finally take a hard but necessary action?”
When the question of a deal for $12 billion worth of hardware came up, Trump certainly made his decision.
At least One Pronounced Dead; Multiple Injuries
by, Paddy Dinham | Daily Mail | h/t Blazing CatFur
Two people are feared dead after pedestrians were hit by a white van near a renowned north London mosque, in what is being described as a ‘terrorist attack’.
One man has been arrested but it is feared two more suspects may be on the run after the van ploughed into a crowd outside Finsbury Park Mosque, as they finished taraweeh, Ramadan evening prayers.
Eyewitnesses reported seeing bystanders wrestle the suspect to the floor and pin him down until officers arrived at around 20 past midnight.
Others added that the congregation of victims were trying to save a man who had collapsed at a bus stop, and other unconfirmed reports suggested that the attackers had knives and a man had been stabbed.
Video courtesy of: CBS New York
Emergency service crews were also spotted trying giving cardiac massages to the injured in a desperate bid to save them.
Mehdi, a 38-year-old worshipper, told the Evening Standard: ‘There were loads of people coming out and the van took a left and went straight into them.
‘I saw four of five people one the floor. At least one person was stabbed.
‘The crowd caught a guy. He tried to do a London Bridge thing.’
Jeremy Corbyn has expressed his shock at the incident, which took place in his Islington North constituency.
He said: ‘I’m totally shocked at the incident at Finsbury Park tonight. I’ve been in touch with the mosques, police and Islington council regarding the incident.
‘My thoughts are with those and the community affected by this awful event.’
Finsbury Park Mosque has undergone wholesale changes under new leader Mohammed Kozbar, since the days when hook-handed Abu Hamza was imam there from 1997 until 2003.
Mr Kozbar told The Sun: ‘Whoever did this, he did it to hurt people and it’s a terrorist attack.
‘We call it a terrorist attack as we called it in Manchester, Westminster and London Bridge.’
Witnesses told MailOnline that they saw two additional suspects run away once the van had stopped.
Atikur Arhman, 41, from Finsbury Park, said: ‘There was three people in there. They caught one and are looking for another two.
‘An elderly man who just came from the mosque, he just fainted and people were picking him up when the van he just sped up and ran them over when the guy was one the floor.
‘People said the driver had a gun with him.
‘It’s not safe anymore after what’s been happening. It’s not been safe to walk.
‘Two people ran away and one got taken away to the police.
Another person saw the horror unfold added: ‘When they stopped two guys run away and with one guy people stopped him.
‘If he’d gone for the main entrance then maybe 15 or 20 would have been killed.’
He added he heard there had been fatalities but did not want to ‘jump to conclusions.’
Fabian Santana, 22, went to a nearby chicken shop before coming out and seeing the carnage unfold.
He said: ‘I went in the chicken shop and my friend was outside, when I come back outside the same guy who was standing next to my friend was on the floor.
‘If I didn’t go in the chicken shop I could have been done for.
‘I just feel like London for the last couple of weeks has not been safe. I’d rather go out of London.
‘One of the attackers looked drunk off his face.
‘Whose going to get in a van and drive straight at Muslims at this time?’
A different anonymous witness said: ‘There was three people beside the van, just one van. One is tall and the other two people ran away.
‘The people finished with the mosque and were going home normally and then the van bumped into them.’
Video courtesy of: Son OfADon
Jamal, 21, told MailOnline: ‘I think it’s terrible what happened in so many locations I don’t know if I’m going to be alive tomorrow, I’m worried what’s going to happen tomorrow, it’s scary
‘It’s not safe in London, total, 100 per cent it is not safe, I’m worried to come out of my house right now, it’s not safe.’
Andrew, a courier who did not wish to give his surname, said he saw three people on the floor and at least one of them appeared to be in Muslim dress.
The 45-year-old, of St Albans, Hertfordshire, said he was driving back from a night shift when he saw the aftermath of the collision.
He said: ‘When I drove past slowly I could count three people on the floor and police were performing CPR on one of them.
‘The guy having CPR performed on him was in a gown, ethnic clothing.’
One resident told how he jumped out of the way as the van struck pedestrians.
The man, who did not want to be named, said: ‘The gentleman went straight down this road, people were just conversing, talking, just doing what we’re doing.
‘And he just came into all of us.
‘There was a lot of people. We got told to move straight away.
‘I was shocked, shocked, shocked. There were bodies around me.
‘Thank God I just moved to the side, I just jumped. Everyone is hurt. Everyone is actually hurt.’
Jennifer Heape said: ‘Apparently a van has ploughed into people coming from Finsbury Park mosque. People are reporting of several injured, some fatalities.
‘Police are escorting people home very calmly. They are making sure people stay indoors.
‘No panic, but it’s very serious. A LOT of helicopters.’
An eyewitness who lives on Seven Sisters Road told the BBC there were people ‘shouting and screaming’.
She added: ‘Everyone was shouting ‘a van’s hit people’.
Video courtesy of: sab ali
‘There was this white van stopped outside Finsbury Park Mosque that seems to have hit people who were coming out of the mosque after prayers finished.’
A Metropolitan Police helicopter was seen circling overhead as photographs posted on social media showed a huge response from the emergency services.
Dozens of police cars and vans cordoned off a large area of the normally bustling thoroughfare as stunned locals gathered at the scene.
Images on Twitter appeared to show a clean-shaven white man with black hair being detained by police officers behind a van, surrounded by a group of shouting onlookers.
The vehicle in question appears to have been rented from a company based in Wales, Pontaclun Van Hire.
A woman named Hajal said her sister witnessed the immediate aftermath of the incident.
She told LBC Radio: ‘Everyone was just running everywhere she didn’t realise what was going on at first until she people on the floor.
‘She ran to see first victim and realised it was a family friend.’
‘An old man didn’t have a pulse. Police came and took over. She said it could have been an accident.
‘At first she thought there was some sort of fight. There were 15 to 20 people hitting somebody – she didn’t realise it was the man who ran over the people.
‘She said someone was still under the van but he was breathing. The second [more seriously injured] person was family friend who at first said he couldn’t feel his legs.’
Another person who lives nearby, Ishmael, told the station: ‘I pray there regularly. I’m there right now. There’s a very close friend of mine and in a very bad critical condition.
‘I hear from the other guys that they just stand there and have a coffee.
‘The van drove to there. I had just left the area because I wasn’t feeling very well.
‘One of my friends witnessed it. He told me the van went through the people standing there. 6 or 7 people, and one Asian guy is definitely dead.
‘My friend is in bad critical condition. He was under the van. His head was bleeding.
‘Someone took a video of him. Very shocking video. He’s got family and a wife.
‘The police answered the phone and told me he’s alright. But the other friend they don’t really know his condition. They’re both in ambulances and heading to a London Hospital.
‘Something’s going to happen here one day here. Since that incident I had a feeling something was going to happen to the Mosque. We don’t have no security.
‘This is Ramadan and there was no security at all. Anyone who wants to do anything can come there. If someone wants to kill hundreds they can come there easily.’
Cynthia Vanzella said on Twitter: ‘Horrible to watch police officers doing cardiac massage at people on the floor, desperately trying to save them. I just hope they did.’
Another social media user reported: ‘Islamaphobic attack in Finsbury Park right now. A van swerved off the main road and ran over several Muslim men.’
A Met spokesman said officers were called at 12.20am ‘to reports of a vehicle in collision with pedestrians’.
They added: ‘Officers are on scene with other emergency services. There are a number of casualties being worked on at the scene. There has been one person arrested.’
The incident follows two terrorist attacks in a matter of weeks at Westminster, Manchester and London Bridge.
The Muslim Council of Britain has confirmed that worshippers leaving Finsbury Park Mosque were targeted when a van ran into them, adding: ‘Our prayers are with the victims.’
London Ambulance Service Deputy Director of Operations, Kevin Bate said: ‘We were called at 12.15am to reports of a road traffic collision at Seven Sisters Road.
‘We have sent a number of ambulance crews, advance paramedics and specialist responses teams to the scene. An advance trauma team from London’s Air Ambulance has also been dispatched by car.
‘We are working closely with other members of the emergency services at the scene.
‘Our priority is to assess the level and nature of injuries and ensure those in the most need are treated first and taken to hospital.
‘More information will follow when we have it.’
False Criminal Charges Placed Against Iraqi Christians in America by Islamic Interim Government in Iraq
by, Lauren Markoe | NCRonline.org | h/t T. Shoebat
Some Chaldeans and their supporters are wondering why more Christian Americans — their co-religionists — are not speaking out against the impending deportation of hundreds of them from the U.S. to Iraq, which many liken to a “death sentence.”
About 200 Chaldeans — members of a group of Christians indigenous to Iraq — were rounded up by ICE agents in past weeks, including 114 in the Detroit area last weekend.
Martin Manna, president of the Chaldean Community Foundation, based in Sterling Heights, Mich., said he’s frustrated by evangelicals and others who have expressed outrage over the persecution of Christians in the Middle East but who have been silent about the Chaldeans who face deportation.
“They could be doing a lot more,” he said. “They could be saying, ‘Wait, we have been fighting to protect these people in their ancestral lands and now we are sending them back to those areas that we’re not doing enough to protect?'”
Philippe Nassif, executive director of In Defense of Christians — a Washington-based group that seeks to protect persecuted Christians in the Middle East — pointed to evangelicals such as Franklin Graham, president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, who held a summit in Washington last month to rally support for Middle Eastern Christians he called victims of genocide.
“They came to D.C., a whole bunch of them,” said Nassif. “They brought up the issue that needed to be brought up, but we’re not seeing the follow-up. If they can’t stand up for the people who already made it here, then how can they stand up for the ones in the Middle East?”
Graham this week had not spoken out about the Chaldeans in custody until Thursday (June 15), when he issued a statement after an inquiry from RNS.
“I find it very disturbing what I have read about Chaldean Christians being rounded up by ICE for possible deportation. I would encourage the president to have someone investigate these cases thoroughly,” Graham said in a statement.
“I understand a policy of deporting people who are here illegally and have broken the law,” Graham’s statement continued. “I don’t know all of the details, but I would encourage our president to give great consideration to the threat to lives of Christians in countries like Iraq.”
Nassif said he was glad Graham felt moved to speak out.
But Nassif said there should have been more of an outcry when news broke of the Chaldeans’ plight.
Although the Knights of Columbus, the Catholic fraternal organization and a longtime ally of the Chaldeans, is circulating a letter on their behalf, “we aren’t seeing a lot of these other larger voices in the community standing up for the Iraqi Christians,” Nassif said.
“If all these people really care about these communities in the Middle East, they should also be caring about the communities that are living here in the United States that are being sent back,” he said.
Another group that has taken a stand on behalf of the Chaldeans: the American Civil Liberties Union. It filed a class-action lawsuit in federal court in Detroit on Thursday to halt the deportations.
Some of the Chaldeans detained by ICE have committed crimes, but their families say those offenses were often nonviolent and happened decades ago. The convicted have served their time and have become productive members of society on whom their families depend, they say.
A Department of Homeland Security representative defended the government’s actions.
“The agency recently arrested a number of Iraqi nationals, all of whom had criminal convictions for crimes including homicide, rape, aggravated assault, kidnapping, burglary, drug trafficking, robbery, sex assault, weapons violations and other offenses,” DHS spokeswoman Gillian Christensen said in a statement.
“Each of these individuals received full and fair immigration proceedings, after which a federal immigration judge found them ineligible for any form of relief under U.S. law and ordered them removed.”
Advocacy groups and the U.S. government have for years documented the danger to Christians living in Iraq, whose numbers have plummeted to less than 200,000 from a high of 1.2 million before the Iraq War. Many died during the conflict and hundreds of thousands fled to safer lands. Today Iraqi Christians sit in the crosshairs of the group known as the Islamic State, which is losing territory but still active in Iraq.
More than a year ago Congress and the State Department, under then-Secretary of State John Kerry, recognized the slaughter of Christians in the Middle East as a genocide.
“This is not complicated,” said Thomas Farr, director of the Religious Freedom Project at Georgetown University’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs. “Iraqi Christians have formally been designated by the United States as victims of ‘genocide.’ They and other named minorities of that declaration should be welcomed to this country. Those who have made it here already should not be deported.”
Chaldeans are Eastern Rite Catholics, who affiliate with the Roman Catholic Church but have their own bishops and patriarch. They believe their ancestors were converted to Christianity by Thomas the Apostle.
The largest groups of Chaldeans reside in Iraq and Syria. In the U.S., population estimates range in the hundreds of thousands, with more than 100,000 living in Greater Detroit, where many began to immigrate in the 1920s.
“On a practical level, this is mind-boggling,” said Nina Shea, an international human-rights lawyer who runs the Center for Religious Freedom at the Washington-based Hudson Institute. She can’t think of a safe destination for the Chaldeans in Iraq.
“The director of Homeland Security — does he know that there has been a genocide declared there by the United States? Had anyone told him? Does ICE know this?” Shea said.
“In a situation of genocide you don’t deport anybody. We didn’t even deport Gitmo detainees to places where they would be killed.”