CHICAGO (CBS) — A suburban couple, originally from Iraq, has been watching with growing alarm what’s happening to family in their homeland as ISIS militants take over ever larger sections of the country.
WBBM Newsradio’s Regine Schlesinger reports, after emigrating from Iraq decades ago, Nili and Henry, Assyrian Christians, now live peacefully in the northwest suburbs, but they’re hearing from desperate relatives back home.
“My sister calls me every day. She cries on the phone, ‘Please, help us.’ I wish there is a way of taking all the Christians out of Iraq and just save them,” Nili said.
Nili’s sister, along with her husband and three children, had to flee Mosul after the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), an extremist group that follows an extreme anti-Western interpretation of Islam, moved in and gave the 2,000-year-old Christian community a choice – either convert to Islam or be killed.
Those who flee aren’t allowed to take anything but the clothes on their backs.
“Even passports. They took away their identity, their passports, their everything. There’s no way of leaving the country now,” Nili said.
In areas controlled by ISIS, there have been reports of mass executions and beheadings.
“I just want something to be done about all the Christians that are dying in Iraq,” Nili said.
Henry said he believes, after invading Iraq and toppling Saddam Hussein, the United States has a responsibility to those now threatened by extremists.
“We just hope that the American government will start doing something about it, before it’s too late,” he said. “In the very near future they’re going to be taking over more cities, and very soon you might see them in Baghdad as well.”
ISIS, which already controls parts of Syria and Iraq, has begun pushing north into Kurdish areas, looking to impose its vision of an Islamic caliphate – a Muslim state led by a religious and political leader with absolute authority – on the entire region.