Aug. 15, 2018
Maj.-Gen. Majid Al-Tamimi died in August 2014 trying to pilot his Iraqi helicopter to rescue Yazidis who were fleeing Islamic State.
Today there is a new monument in northern Iraq’s Sinjar region to his heroism. In the dark days of that year as ISIS seemed unstoppable, there were just a few bright spots that showed through. Four years later, the situation in Sinjar is bleak. The area, also called Shingal by locals, was devastated by ISIS and more than 300,000 Yazidi residents have yet to return home.
It is a testament to the lasting effect of ISIS that most of those areas destroyed during the war and the communities ISIS singled out for genocide and ethnic cleansing – including Shi’ites, Yazidis and Christians – have not returned to their pre-2014 lives. This is one outcome of genocide, that communities targeted by groups like the Nazis often cannot recover. Jewish communities in many parts of Europe vanished and will never return.
The difference between the legacy of ISIS and that of the Nazis is that ISIS was allowed to achieve a form of victory not by winning the war but by the unwillingness of people to confront ISIS crimes. We can see this in the wall of silence in may countries, particularly Europe, about what intelligence services knew and when they knew it about the 5,000 citizens of EU countries who joined ISIS. In 2014, ISIS was open about its goals. It said, “We are going to kill the kuffar,” the word for “non-Muslims” or “infidels.”
On social media, hundreds of thousands of accounts shared ISIS videos of executions, beheadings, machine gunning people into mass graves. It looked like the Holocaust, as though you could have watched the Einsatzgruppen in real time. Yet almost nothing was done in 2014 to prevent thousands of people from joining ISIS. Instead, all that was done was a concerted media campaign to claim that ISIS was “violent extremists” and “militants” and “insurgents” – a whole conveyor belt of terms designed to make us think ISIS isn’t like the Nazis, it’s something else.