A small but determined army of Assyrian Christians is fighting back against the advance of ISIS along the Ninevah Plain, but it’s commander-in-chief says it’s success and the fate of suffering Christians depends heavily on the United States, the American people and other western allies.
“We can face IS without any fear. We can fight them if we have the support,” said Emmanuel Khoshaba, commander-in-chief of the Assyrian Military Forces. “We need training. We need weapons. We need equipment. We need to feel that our families. We need to feel that when you fight on the front lines, that your family is not in need and can live in dignity.”
Equipping and arming a rebel army would carry risks for the U.S. and other like-minded nations. The advance of ISIS into Iraq was highlighted by Iraqi forces quickly surrendering and abandoning their American-made equipment.
Khoshaba says that won’t happen with the Assyrian Military Forces.
“This is the difference. We fight for our land. We are fighting for our historical land. We are fighting for our village, for our cities, for our future,” said Khoshaba.
He says the problem with the Iraqi troops was they had no attachment to the land they were defending.
“[The soldiers] didn’t think they belonged to that area or that territory. The Islamic State came to him and he ran away,” said Khoshaba.
The Assyrian Military Forces began in the summer of 2014 in the wake of ISIS sweeping through Mosul and into the Ninevah Plain and imposing Sharia Law on those they conquered. In August, the terrorists advanced to the point where Khoshaba and other Assyrians had to make a decision.
“At that time, our people faced occupation from the Islamic State, from those terrorist barbarians. I had been in Irbil and I saw what was happening to my people. We decided to pick up arms and go fight for children, for women, for old men, for our life, for our future,” said Khoshaba.
The group started with just 12 fighters and desperately needed weapons. In desperation, Assyrian Christian women sold their wedding rings and other objects made of gold to finance the purchase of AK-14’s and other munitions.
The Assyrian Military Forces have been able to stunt the progress of ISIS along the Ninevah plain, but the fight is difficult and ISIS is far from defeated. Khoshaba says ISIS fighters are as ruthless as you would expect.
“It’s what you can imagine about the barbarian. They believe they are over humanity. They must kill [their enemies] or make them obey what they want from them,” said Khoshaba.
Despite their bloodthirsty reputation, Khoshaba says they are skilled fighters on the battlefield.
“They are fighting with strategy. Most of them are ex-Saddam officers, intelligence and Republican Guard. So they have a strategy. They know how to fight. What they are doing to the innocent people, that is why we call them barbarians,” said Khoshaba.
While the resistance is strengthening in the Ninevah Plain, life is not getting any better for Christians in the region.
“It’s still very, very bad because we don’t have the support to give them help,” said Khoshaba. “Our people life in bad conditions in camps.”
Khoshaba says Assyrian Christians lived comfortable lives prior to the invasion and lost everything in one night when ISIS swept through, leaving many refugees. Khoshaba says those interested in helping to meet the physical needs of Assyrian Christians do so at unitedassyrianappeal.org.