OP-ED – ISIL’s Campaign of Terror Must Be Stopped
Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada
Over the summer we’ve all watched with horror as a human tragedy is unfolding in Iraq. The so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’s (ISIL) campaign of terror has been brutal. But while the summer is waning, ISIL’s evil campaign is not. They’ve already killed thousands, maimed many more, traumatized whole families, and left mothers, daughters, sons and fathers homeless in dusty internally displaced persons (IDP) camps in their own country. A staggering 1.8 million people are believed to have fled ISIL’s advances.
The long-term damage caused by ISIL is something you can’t put a number on. They have terrorized and murdered Christians, Yezidis, Shia Turkomens and other ethnic and religious minority groups. They have destroyed ancient religious monuments that are hundreds of years old. They have raped children and forced women into sexual slavery. They have summarily executed Iraqis of any creed or ethnic group who have shown resistance to their reign of terror. Time and time again, ISIL has shown its total depravity and inhumanity. As Prime Minister Stephen Harper stated, Canada condemns the systematic campaign of persecution that is being perpetrated by ISIL to force hundreds of thousands of Christians to convert to ISIL’s nefarious brand of Islam. The very notion of religious freedom is what ISIL is working to eradicate and what the Iraqi people and the international community cannot surrender.
The legacy they’ve left Iraqis will take the strong will of the international community to overcome. I visited Iraq over the last few days to demonstrate visibly that Canada stands with the government and people of Iraq at this challenging time. We met with the Iraqi leadership to convey this strong message of support and to express our hope that a united government would soon be formed to govern for all Iraqis regardless of their faith or ethnic identity.
We spoke to the leadership in Baghdad and Erbil about the dire security situation and the catastrophic humanitarian crisis. Talk and diplomacy during these times are crucial. But actions speak louder than words. I was pleased to see first-hand with my colleagues the positive impact of Canada’s two-pronged assistance to Iraq—helping the victims of ISIL’s actions and supporting those who are on the front lines in the fight against ISIL.
Canada is providing much-needed humanitarian assistance. This support will directly result in more tents on the ground, more access to clean water and other basic items that displaced people desperately need. On security, Canada is helping to provide critical military supplies to security forces in Iraq fighting ISIL, including through two of our own transport aircraft. And we are supporting regional efforts to prevent foreign fighters from entering Iraq and Syria.
These commitments have made Canada one of the top single-country donors to respond to the crisis in Iraq—something all Canadians can be proud of. From the front lines with the Peshmerga forces, to the families in the IDP camps, praying they can safely return home soon—Canadians have made a profound difference. But there is much more to do, and Canada can’t do it alone.
ISIL poses a threat not only to Iraq, Syria and the region, but also to global security. We all have an interest in stopping this scourge because it is threatening not just Iraq and its citizens, but freedom-loving people around the world. I believe terrorism is one of the greatest challenges of our generation. The international community must unite to destroy this scourge, and we must defend the principles that have made our nations great, prosperous and free.
The smells, heat and vastness of the Iraqi desert—but mostly the plight and courage of the Iraqi people in the face of unspeakable suffering—are things I will never forget. The Iraqi people’s fight for their dignity and freedom from bigotry and oppression will forever stay ingrained in my thoughts and will guide Canada’s foreign policy in the region and beyond, moving forward.