Georgina, CAN - A Georgina man is in a desperate race against time to rescue his sister and her family from Baghdad, Iraq.
Described as the most dangerous city on Earth, Baghdad is torn apart by sectarian violence amid a wider civil war.
It is a city where how you worship God can literally get you killed.
Sam Taan, who operates the Daisy Mart in Sutton, said the urgency to get his sister, Ban, her husband Raad (their last names are withheld over safety concerns) and their two young sons, grew last month when Raad's brother Fatah was murdered by one of the many Islamic militias that prowl the city.
“He was working in a house doing some plumbing. You do whatever job you can get,” Mr. Taan said. “He finished and had just left to go home when five guys came up to him.”
The five armed men were members of the notorious militia controlled by fanatical Shi’a cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr.
“Who are you?” they asked him.
He told them.
“What sect are you?”
This is a question often asked to determine if the person accosted is a Shi’a or Sunni, the two Islamic sides locked in bloody conflict and ethnic cleansing.
Fatah, 40, said he wasn’t with any of the two. “I’m a Christian,” he said.
He was told he had to convert. He refused.
“That was it,” Mr. Taan said. “They shot him immediately in the head. That’s the way it is over there now. Today, you are alive. Tomorrow, you could be dead.”
Things are growing steadily worse for his sister’s family, he said.
Raad can’t find work, so they have to rely on what she makes in her job as an accountant for the government.
Their two children only go to school occasionally because of the danger.
Children have not been spared in the hate-filled ethnic conflict, victims of murder squads or fanatical suicide bombers.
They have been harassed and threatened for being Christian, in their case with the Chaldean Catholic church.
The Chaldeans have been in the region since about 600 BC, long before the emergence of modern Iraq.
There is growing evidence Christians and other minority religions are targeted for ethnic cleansing by al-Queda in Iraq.
Life under Saddam Hussein was harsh, he said, but it wasn’t the bloody anarchy it is today, as the ill-fated United States invasion and occupation stretches into its fourth year.
He will co-sponsor his family to come to Canada, but he needs a community sponsor — an organization, association or corporation, for example a service club, Mr. Taan said.
Under Canada’s refugee sponsorship program, the community sponsor must have the financial ability to support the family if necessary, usually for a year.
Mr. Taan has contacted MP Peter Van Loan’s office.
“They’ve been very helpful in providing the information,” he said. “Now hopefully, someone will step forward.”
Mr. Taan came to Canada about 10 years ago, sponsoring his wife, parents and younger brother to come here three years later.
All are now proud Canadians, he said.
Mr. Taan and his wife, Rita, and their children, Lourdes, 3 and Lawrence, 1, live in Keswick.
“We’re very anxious to get them out,” he said. “But there are so many obstacles. I hope someone can help us. My sister is my parents’ only daughter. They are the last of our immediate family left in Iraq.”
Since the outbreak of war, Christians have fled in record numbers.
A little more than half of the original 750,000 are left, most of them in the safer Kurdish region in the north.
In places such as Baghdad, though, they have been threatened, assaulted and murdered and many of their churches destroyed.
Mr. Taan hopes his sister’s family can come to Canada and settle in Georgina, where he and his own family have found a safe haven and a welcoming community.
Anyone who can help, can call Mr. Taan at 905-722-6341 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Report provided by John Slykhuis