Book Review by Mark Durie: Kidnapped in Iraq: A Christian Humanitarian Tells His Story

Book Review by Mark Durie: Kidnapped in Iraq: A Christian Humanitarian Tells His Story

Manchester, N.H.: Sophia Institute Press, 2021. 336 pp. $21.95. Published in the Middle East Quarterly, Summer 2023.

Iranian-French humanitarian worker Goodarzy recounts his experiences in Syria and Iraq in Kidnapped in Iraq. He weaves together three strands.

The first tells about Goodarzy’s kidnapping in Iraq by a Shiite militia and how four captives found comfort in their Catholic faith while being shuffled from one place of imprisonment to another. Remarkably, the Covid-19 pandemic brought their release.

The second, which makes a majority of the book, recounts Goodarzy’s work in 2014-19 for the humanitarian organization SOS Chrétiens d’Orient. He travelled extensively for it throughout Syria and gives eyewitness testimony of a story rarely told: the struggle of Syria’s Christians to survive. He stresses that most of the parties involved attacked or betrayed Christians. While Sunni groups—ISIS, Jabhat al-Nusra (al-Qaeda in Syria), Turkish forces, and the Free Syrian Army—did the greatest damage, Kurds were also no friends to Christians. As one old man said, “The Sunnites slit our throats for the caliphate. The Kurds hand us over to the same swine for their Kurdistan.” The only party which protected Christians was Assad’s Syrian Army, supported by Russian, Iranian, and Hezbollah allies.

The third strand contains a lament for France, which Goodarzy believes has become rootless, “incoherent,” “stagnant,” and a country “suited more and more to its retirees than to its rising generations.” When Goodarzy received news of the Bataclan nightclub massacre in Paris, he recalled the words of Syrian Christians, “What is affecting us here at home today will strike you tomorrow!” He found the French response deeply disappointing:

There was no anger [but] … only a limpid response, as if our whole country were too tired and close to extinction … to rouse the aggression that allows for survival.

He pondered how to explain this response to Syrians fighting for their survival.

Goodarzy also found it incredible that the international media did not cover the Syrian conflict from the perspective of suffering civilians. His book aims to fill that gap. That this was necessary—and it is—is an indictment of Western ignorance, indifference, and culpability in the face of Islamist aggression.

No Comments

Post A Comment