Hungary’s new Holocaust museum divides Jews, faces ‘whitewash’ accusations

FILE PHOTO: The new Holocaust museum called the House of Fates is pictured in Budapest, Hungary, October 15, 2018. REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo

By Krisztina Than

BUDAPEST (Reuters) – A planned new Holocaust museum in Budapest has divided Hungary’s Jewish community and triggered international concerns that it will downplay the wartime role of Hungarians in the persecution and deportation of Jews.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s right-wing government plans to open the museum next year to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the deportati7on of Hungarian Jews to death camps in German-occupied Poland. More than half a million Hungarian Jews were among six million Jews killed in Europe during the Holocaust.

In a Sept. 7 decree, the government granted ownership of the new museum, called the House of Fates, to the Unified Hungarian Jewish Congregation (EMIH), one of the three registered Jewish groups in Hungary.

The permanent exhibition, to be set up by the EMIH with government help and housed in a former railway station, will be based on the concept of historian Maria Schmidt, who is an ally of Orban and owns a pro-government weekly.

It will use personal histories to explore the 1938-48 period in Hungary, with particular focus on children, and will also feature temporary exhibitions and education programs.

But the project, first announced in 2014, has drawn criticism from Israel’s Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center.

“The museum concept clearly avoids addressing the role and responsibility of… Hungarian leaders of that era for the plight of the nation’s Jews, and their eventual abandonment to the hands of Nazi Germany,” Robert Rozett, Director of the Yad Vashem Libraries, said in a statement last month.

It also seeks to gloss over the role of ordinary Hungarian citizens, he said. “It is implied that Hungary was actually a nation of rescuers. This is a grave falsification of history.”

BLOODY HISTORY

The head of EMIH, Rabbi Slomo Koves, said the museum remained open to suggestions from others, including Yad Vashem, adding that only about half of the concept was so far ready.

Koves said he wanted to give young visitors “an emotional relation to the story” along with all relevant context.

Hungary began ostracizing and discriminating against Jews under its right-wing ruler Miklos Horthy long before World War Two when it was an ally of Nazi Germany. In 1944 the Germans invaded Hungary to stop it switching sides and in just eight weeks, with the collaboration of the authorities, some 437,000 Hungarian Jews were deported to the Auschwitz death camp.

Tens of thousands of others were herded into ghettos in Budapest and killed, mostly by Hungarians.

The World Jewish Congress has suggested that Hungary put the museum under the supervision of an international body such as Yad Vashem, the U.S. Holocaust Museum and the Federation of Hungarian Jewish Communities (MAZSIHISZ).

The chairman of MAZSIHISZ, Andras Heisler, echoed that call, adding: “We’ve received much support from the government but this… dividing of the Jewish community affects us very negatively.”

Orban told parliament this month the opening of the museum could wait until the disputes surrounding it “die down”.

Budapest already has a Holocaust Memorial Center in a former synagogue that was opened in 2004.

Orban has repeatedly declared a policy of zero tolerance on anti-Semitism but has also risked angering Jews with remarks about “ethnic homogeneity” apparently aimed at right-wing voters and has been accused of trying to whitewash Hungary’s past.

In 2014 Orban’s government erected a monument to victims of the Nazi occupation that critics said depicted Hungarians only as passive victims, absolving them of guilt. But Orban has also spoken of “the very many Hungarians who chose evil over good”.

Gergely Gulyas, Orban’s cabinet chief, said the government would bear responsibility for the content of the new museum.

“We bow our heads before the victims of the Holocaust who became victims because the Hungarian state was unable to protect its own citizens and collaborated in the deportations,” he said.

(Editing by Gareth Jones)

Myanmar not ready for return of Rohingya Muslims, says UNHCR

FILE PHOTO: A Rohingya refugee camp in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, September 19, 2017. REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton/File Photo

By Serajul Quadir

DHAKA (Reuters) – The U.N. refugee agency called a Myanmar minister’s visit to Bangladesh to meet Muslim Rohingya refugees a confidence-building measure, but said conditions in Myanmar were not ready for their return.

Myanmar Social Welfare Minister Win Myat Aye, who heads rehabilitation efforts in Myanmar’s troubled western Rakhine state, told about 50 Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh on Wednesday that getting the repatriation process moving was top priority.

But the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said on Thursday Myanmar was not prepared.

“Conditions in Myanmar are not yet conducive for the voluntary, safe, dignified and sustainable return of refugees,” it said in a statement, adding that the responsibility remains with the government to create such conditions.

According to U.N. officials, nearly 700,000 Rohingya have fled into Bangladesh from Rakhine to escape a military crackdown since August, amid reports of murder, rape and arson by Myanmar troops and Buddhist vigilantes which the United Nations has likened to “ethnic cleansing”.

Buddhist-majority Myanmar rejects the charge, saying its security forces launched a legitimate counter-insurgency operation on Aug. 25 in response to Rohingya militant attacks.

The refugees are living in cramped camps in the port of Cox’s Bazar and Bangladesh is keen for them to return home soon, especially with the oncoming monsoons expected to cause major devastation at the camps.

The UNHCR called on Myanmar to provide the agency unhindered access in Rakhine to assess the situation and monitor the return and reintegration of refugees if and when they voluntarily return.

Acknowledging the mistrust and fear of the Rohingya of Myanmar, Win Myat Aye told the group of refugees on Wednesday to set aside the past and to prepare to go back, promising new villages would be built with hospitals and schools.

But some refugees have said they are worried about going back, fearing persecution.

(Reporting by Serajul Quadir; Writing by Euan Rocha; Editing by Nick Macfie)

Gunman kills seven outside Coptic church in Cairo suburb: ministry

People look at the Mar Mina Church after a blast, in Helwan district on the outskirts of Cairo, Egypt December 29, 2017.

CAIRO (Reuters) – A gunman opened fire on worshipers and Egyptian security forces stationed outside a Coptic church in a Cairo suburb on Friday and killed at least seven people before he was wounded and arrested, the Interior Ministry said.

Earlier reports by security sources and state media said at least two attackers were involved, and that one was shot dead and another fled the scene. The Interior Ministry did not explain the reason for the different accounts.

It said the attacker had first fired at a shop 4 km (3 miles) away, killing two people, before proceeding to the Mar Mina church in the southern suburb of Helwan, where he opened fire and tried to throw an explosive device.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack. Islamist militants have claimed several attacks on Egypt’s large Christian minority in recent years, including two bombings on Palm Sunday in April and a blast at Cairo’s largest Coptic cathedral in December 2016 that killed 28 people.

Nine were killed in total, including one policeman at the church, the ministry said. Several security sources and local media earlier reported three policemen had been killed.

People stand behind police tape cordon at the site of attack on a church in the Helwan district south of Cairo, Egypt December 29, 2017.

People stand behind police tape cordon at the site of attack on a church in the Helwan district south of Cairo, Egypt December 29, 2017. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

The ministry said forces had “immediately dealt with the (attacker) and arrested him after he was wounded.” It added,

“Legal measures have been taken,” without elaborating.

The general prosecutor said in a statement that an investigation has been launched into the incident.

“The shooting began at 10:30 a.m. and carried on for more than 15 minutes … there was more than one attacker,” Mohammed Hussein Abdelhadi, who lives close to the church, told Reuters.

A witness who did not want to give his name said a policeman was killed while he was closing the church gate to stop the gunman getting in.

The church was being guarded by police in the run-up to Orthodox Christmas celebrations next week.

The Health Ministry said in an earlier statement that nine people had been killed on Friday in addition to the gunman, and five wounded, including two women in serious condition.

People are seen outside the Mar Mina Church after a blast, in Helwan district on the outskirts of Cairo, Egypt after a blast December 29, 2017.

People are seen outside the Mar Mina Church after a blast, in Helwan district on the outskirts of Cairo, Egypt after a blast December 29, 2017. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

Police have stepped up security measures around churches ahead of Coptic Christmas celebrations on Jan. 7, deploying officers outside Christian places of worship and setting up metal detectors at some of the bigger churches.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi offered his condolences to the families and ordered security forces to increase safety measures at sensitive sites, his office said in a statement.

(Reporting by Ahmed Mohamed Hassan and Amr Abdallah; writing by John Davison; editing by Mark Heinrich)

Indonesia passes law to ban organizations deemed against its ideology

Indonesia passes law to ban organizations deemed against its ideology

By Agustinus Beo Da Costa

JAKARTA (Reuters) – Around 1,000 Indonesians, led by hardline Islamist groups, protested outside parliament on Tuesday as lawmakers approved a presidential decree banning any civil organizations deemed to go against the country’s secular state ideology.

Tuesday’s approval puts into law a policy President Joko Widodo set in a decree in July. The policy was aimed at containing hardline groups who have cast a shadow over the long-standing reputation for religious tolerance in the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation.

“We have seen mass organizations that are against the Pancasila (state ideology) and have created social conflict,” said Arya Bima, a lawmaker in favour of the policy. “This law doesn’t impede freedom of organization or assembly, it strengthens it.”

In late 2016 and early this year, groups such as Hizb-ut Tahrir Indonesia (HTI) and the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), which call for Islamic law to be imposed in Indonesia, led mass street rallies attacking Jakarta’s governor, a Christian, whom they accused of insulting Islam.

Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, who in April lost an election to get a new term, was jailed one month later after being convicted of blasphemy, in a court ruling widely criticized in Indonesia and overseas as unjust.

The presidential decree Widodo signed in July ordered the disbanding of all organizations deemed to be in conflict with the secular state ideology. HTI, which seeks to establish an Islamic caliphate, was the first organization to be disbanded under the policy.

Pancasila or ‘five principles’ is Indonesia’s state ideology, which includes belief in god, the unity of the country, social justice and democracy, and which enshrines religious diversity in an officially secular system.

VIOLATION OF RIGHTS?

Under the new law, anyone who “embraces, develops of spreads ideology that is in conflict with the (state ideology) Pancasila” can face imprisonment of six months to life, according to a copy of the draft law reviewed by Reuters.

Rights activists and civil organizations have decried the move, saying it harks back to the era of authoritarian ruler Suharto, who demanded loyalty to Pancasila and took repressive measures against some opponents.

Opposition lawmaker Al Muzamil Yusuf said the new law could “violate democratic rights and remove checks and balances on the government”.

During the protest outside parliament on Tuesday, around 5,200 police and military personnel stood guard around the complex in central Jakarta.

A hashtag supporting Widodo’s policy was a top trending topic on Indonesian Twitter.

“This policy is not about (Widodo) or any political party, it’s about safeguarding the unity of the country,” said user @Senopati.

(Writing by Kanupriya Kapoor; Editing by Richard Borsuk)

Texas churches sue FEMA for disaster relief after Harvey

FILE PHOTO: A Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) employee waits for the arrival of U.S. President Donald Trump during a visit at FEMA headquarters in Washington, U.S., August 4, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria/File Photo

By Jonathan Stempel

(Reuters) – The Federal Emergency Management Agency has been sued by three Texas churches severely damaged in Hurricane Harvey, over what they called its policy of refusing to provide disaster relief to houses of worship because of their religious status.

In a complaint filed on Monday in federal court in Houston, the churches said they would like to apply for aid but it would be “futile” because FEMA’s public assistance program “categorically” excludes their claims, violating their constitutional right to freely exercise their religion.

They said FEMA’s ban on providing relief where at least half a building’s space is used for religious purposes, a policy also enforced after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and Hurricane Sandy in 2012, contradicts a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision making it easier for religious groups to get public aid.

That June 26 decision, Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia Inc v. Comer, said U.S. states must sometimes provide such aid even if their constitutions explicitly ban such funding.

Becket, a nonprofit that advocates for religious freedoms and represents the churches, said the same principle should apply to federal FEMA relief for Harvey victims.

“States and the federal government are different, but the First Amendment applies the same to both,” Daniel Blomberg, a lawyer for Becket, said in a phone interview. “The principle is that governments can’t discriminate on the basis of religious status, and that is unapologetically what FEMA is doing here.”

The three churches, he added, “need emergency repair, now.”

A FEMA spokeswoman said in an email it would be inappropriate to discuss pending litigation.

The Texas churches that sued are the Rockport First Assembly of God in Rockport, which lost its roof and steeple and suffered other structural damage, and the Harvest Family Church in Cypress and Hi-Way Tabernacle in Cleveland, which were flooded.

“This may be the first case this court will hear regarding Hurricane Harvey disaster relief, but it is surely not the last,” the complaint said.

The case is Harvest Family Church et al v Federal Emergency Management Agency et al, U.S, District Court, Southern District of Texas, No. 17-02662.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

Christians caught up in Philippines’ urban battle with Islamists

A view of a fire caused by continued fighting between the government soldiers and the Maute group, in Marawi City in southern Philippines May 28, 2017.

By Tom Allard

ILIGAN CITY, Philippines (Reuters) – Bishop Edwin Dela Pena was sipping coffee after dinner in a southern Philippines coastal town last Tuesday when he received a phone call: it was from one of his diocese priests, who sounded panicky and distressed.

Father Teresito “Chito” Sugarno, the vicar general of Marawi City, had been taken hostage by Islamist militants along with about a dozen of his parishioners.

“He was only given a few lines to deliver, and it was simply echoing the demands of the kidnappers – for the troops to withdraw,” said Dela Pena. If the demand was not met, he was told, “something bad would happen”.

There has been no further word from the group of Christians since they were caught up in a ferocious battle that has raged between Islamist insurgents and Philippines soldiers in Marawi for the past week.

As many as 180,000 people, about 90 percent of the population, have fled the usually bustling lakeside town nestled in lush tropical hills that, almost overnight last week, became a theater of urban warfare.

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law across Mindanao – the country’s southernmost island and an area the size of South Korea – as troops outside Marawi closed in on¬† Isnilon Hapilon, who was proclaimed “emir” of Southeast Asia last year after he pledged allegiance to Islamic State.

Mindanao has long been a hotbed of local insurgencies and separatist movements: but now, Islamist fighters from Malaysia, Indonesia and other countries have converged in Mindanao, stoking fears that it could become a regional stronghold of Islamic State.

More than 90 percent of the Philippines’ 100 million people are Christian, but here Muslims are in the majority. In 1980 Marawi proclaimed itself an “Islamic City” and it is the only city in the country with that designation.

For the small Christian community of Marawi, however, life in the city had until recently been peaceful and prosperous.

“We don’t consider ourselves Muslims or Christians, we are just friends,” said Dela Pena, who has lived for 17 years in Marawi but was out of town when the violence broke out.

That peace was shattered some months ago, he said, after the army bombed an encampment of Islamist groups some 50 km (30 miles) away.

“They said they pulverized the whole camp, but these people simply transferred their base of operation from the jungle to the urban center, to the city, Marawi,” he told Reuters in an interview from Iligan City, 37 km (23 miles) from Marawi.

“They came in trickles, a few people at a time. They have relatives there. They lived, they recruited,” he said, adding that authorities appear to have missed the looming threat.

Members of Philippine Marines walk next to an armoured fighting vehicle (AFV) as they advance their position in Marawi City, Philippines May 28

Members of Philippine Marines walk next to an armoured fighting vehicle (AFV) as they advance their position in Marawi City, Philippines May 28, 2017. REUTERS/Erik De Castro

CATHEDRAL ATTACKED AND TORCHED

Chaos was unleashed upon Marawi when troops searching for Hapilon were ambushed by heavily armed militants.

More than 200 local and foreign fighters from the Maute group and others allied to Islamic State fanned out across the city, seizing the main hospital and prison before attacking the Cathedral of Maria Auxiliadora.

Inside, nearby residents told Dela Pena, Father Teresito and a group of worshippers were decorating the church for a holy day to celebrate the life of Mary, a sacred figure in both Christianity and Islam.

Dela Pena said they ran to the nearby bishop’s house, hoping they would be safe there, but the militants burst in after them. That evening, after bundling their captives into vehicles, they torched the church, according to the residents.

Photos showing the priest, a young man and a woman slumped against a wall have circulated on the internet. Dela Pena believes they are being used as human shields by the militants.

“I cannot imagine. I have no words to describe it,” he said.

Still, he remains hopeful that the city can unite again. The vast majority of Marawi’s citizens, whatever their faith, are appalled by the violence and disruption, he said.

“I think we can begin something more effective in terms of working together, in terms of dialogue, in terms of peaceful coexistence,” he said. “After all, we have shared the same predicament.”

(Additional reporting by Karen Lema in MANILA; Editing by John Chalmers and Lincoln Feast)

Gunmen kill 26 in attack on Christians in Egypt

The Coptic Orthodox Virgin Mary church is seen during sunset ahead of Coptic Orthodox Easter in Cairo April 18, 2009. REUTERS/Tarek Mostafa

CAIRO (Reuters) – Gunmen attacked buses and a truck taking a group of Coptic Christians to a monastery in southern Egypt on Friday, killing 26 people and wounding 25 others, witnesses and the Health Ministry said.

An Interior Ministry spokesman said the unidentified gunmen had arrived in three four-wheel-drive vehicles.

Eyewitnesses said masked men stopped the two buses and a truck and opened fire on a road leading to the monastery of Saint Samuel the Confessor in Minya province, which is home to a sizeable Christian minority.

Security forces launched a hunt for the attackers, setting up dozens of checkpoints and patrols on the desert road.

The grand imam of al-Azhar, Egypt’s 1,000-year-old center of Islamic learning, said the attack was intended to destabilize the country.

“I call on Egyptians to unite in the face of this brutal terrorism,” Ahmed al-Tayeb said from Germany, where he was on a visit.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi called a meeting of security officials, the state news agency said. The Health Ministry put the toll at 26 dead and 25 wounded.

Coptic Christians, who make up about 10 percent of Egypt’s population of 92 million, have been the subject of a series of deadly attacks in recent months.

About 70 have been killed since December in bomb attacks on churches in the cities of Cairo, Alexandria and Tanta.

Those attacks were claimed by Islamic State. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Friday’s attack.

(Reporting by Ahmed Aboulenein, Omar Fahmy and Mohamed Abdellah; Writing by Giles Elgood; Editing by Louise Ireland and Gareth Jones)

Artist works to preserve Christian heritage in Hamas-run Gaza

Christian artist Naser in Gaza

By Nidal al-Mughrabi

GAZA (Reuters) – Only about 1,200 Christians remain in Gaza — only a tiny fraction of the population in a territory run by Hamas Islamists — but artist Naser Jeldha is doing what he can to preserve its Christian heritage through art.

In his studio in the heart of old Gaza, not far from a 5th century Orthodox church, Jeldha spends his days carving religious figurines, chiseling low-relief carvings of Biblical scenes and painting portraits of Jesus, Mary Magdalene and the saints.

“My message is about my religion,” said the gray-bearded 57-year-old, a member of the Greek Orthodox community.

“I want to make it visual, I want to make people see it, not only to be kept as texts in church.”

As he works, steel-rimmed spectacles perched on his nose, Jeldha listens to Byzantine prayer music that echoes softly around the studio, creating an atmosphere from another era.

The walls are covered in his pictures, with more laid out on the arms of chairs and sofas, and others propped on a 150-year-old Russian piano in the corner. As well as painting and sculpture, Jeldha plays the accordion, piano and guitar.

In the run up to Christmas – celebrated on Jan. 7 in the Orthodox church – Jeldha is busy making pieces as gifts for friends and relatives.

While he has been an artist for 35 years, he does not display his works or offer them for sale. Instead, he presents them as gifts at weddings or events on the Christian calendar. He does, however, have plans for a public showing soon.

In the next two weeks, he is also hoping he will be one of about 800 Christians granted a permit by Israel to leave Gaza and travel to Bethlehem, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, to attend prayer services in Jesus’s birthplace.

“We have applied for permits and if we get them I intend to travel with my family,” said Jeldha, who is determined to remain in Gaza despite the departure of many Christians over the last decade in the face of rising economic hardship.

While Gaza’s Christians generally enjoy good relations with their Muslim neighbors, there have been isolated attacks by hardline Salafist groups on Christian tombs and symbols.

Hamas, the Islamist movement that has ruled Gaza since 2006, is keen to ensure the Christian community feels safe and protected. Its leaders occasionally visit the heads of the three Gaza churches to build stronger relations.

Jeldha acknowledged that the economy was suffering, with the blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt, a move to pressure Hamas, limiting trade, driving up costs and causing despair.

Despite that, Jeldha, whose white front door is adorned with a small cross painted in blue, said he would never leave.

“I have lived in this neighborhood for 54 years. I have brotherly and wonderful relations with Muslims,” said the father of four. “Gaza is beautiful and I will not leave it…I do not feel I am a stranger here.”

(Writing by Nidal Almughrabi, Editing by Luke Baker and Angus MacSwan)

Fire destroys shelters for internally displaced Muslims in Myanmar

Boys stand among debris after fire destroyed shelters at a camp for internally displaced Rohingya Muslims in the western Rakhine State near Sittwe

YANGON (Reuters) – A fire broke out on Tuesday in a camp for internally displaced Muslims in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, destroying shelters where about 2,000 people had lived and injuring about 14 of them, the United Nations said.

Camps in the area largely house members of the marginalized Rohingya Muslim minority, who were displaced by fighting between Buddhists and Muslims in 2012.

The fire at the Baw Du Pha 2 camp near the state capital of Sittwe started in the morning. Authorities were investigating the cause but initial reports indicated it was an accident from a cooking fire, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in a statement.

“Based on the current information available, at least 14 people were injured by the fire. There are unconfirmed reports of fatalities but this has not been verified,” it said.

The fire destroyed about 44 “long houses” and damaged up to nine, affecting 440 households, or about 2,00 people, it said.

Authorities in the area were not immediately available for comment.

Myanmar’s Rohingya population is stateless and thousands of them have fled persecution and poverty, often by boat to other parts of Southeast Asia.

Some 125,000 Rohingya remain displaced and face severe travel restrictions while living in camps.

(Reporting by Timothy Mclaughlin; Editing by Robert Birsel)

Yazidi teenager escaped Islamic State, appeals for help for sex slaves

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – It was a “black morning” two years ago when Islamic State militants seized the Yazidi town of Sinjar in northwest Iraq, abducting thousands of civilians including a 15-year-old girl and 27 members of her family.

The teenager, Nihad Barakat Shamo Alawsi, was taken to Syria and then to the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul in northern Iraq, she told an event in London on Wednesday.

“They raped us, they killed our men, they took our babies away from us,” Alawsi, now 17, said at the event organized by the UK-based AMAR Foundation, a charity that provides education and healthcare in the Middle East.

“The worst thing was the torture in Mosul. We were beaten and raped continuously for two weeks,” she said, speaking through an interpreter. “Girls were taken from their families and raped constantly and then they were handed out to “emirs.””

The Sunni militants captured around 5,000 Yazidi men and women in summer 2014. Some 2,000 have managed to escape or have been smuggled out of Islamic State’s self-proclaimed caliphate in Iraq and Syria, activists say.

Islamic State considers the Yazidis to be devil-worshippers. The ancient Yazidi faith blends elements of Christianity, Zoroastrianism and Islam.

The United Nations says Islamic State still holds an estimated 3,500 people captive in Iraq, the majority of them women and girls from the Yazidi community.

Alawsi said a man who took her as a slave died a few weeks later, and she was sold to another man who already had a wife and another Yazidi sex-slave. He beat and raped her and a month later she became pregnant.

“I thought the child I was carrying was a member of Daesh and would become a Daesh criminal when he grew up,” Alawsi said quietly, using a pejorative Arabic name for Islamic State.

Alawsi gave birth to a baby boy, but three months later she managed to escape after the baby’s father decided to marry her to his cousin.

“I managed to make a phone call to my family with someone’s help, and I managed to escape, but I had to leave the baby behind,” she said.

Most of the Yazidi population, numbering around half a million, are displaced in camps in Iraq’s northern Kurdistan.

Alawsi now lives in one of the camps with her mother, father and siblings, and works with AMAR, volunteering to come to London to speak of her people’s plight. Two of her brothers and two sisters are still held by Islamic State.

“It’s not a life, we are not living a life until the rest of our people are released by Daesh,” Alawsi said.

“I beg you to help my people, to save them from Daesh, and to free especially the sex slaves, the young girls and children that have been taken.”

(Reporting by Magdalena Mis, editing by Tim Pearce)