Sons of Liberty International (SOLI) is not your typical security contracting firm. Run as a non-profit, SOLI recruits U.S. military veterans to provide free training, advising and supplies to help local Iraqi forces fight back against ISIS.
Two summers ago, when ISIS would threaten Christians and Assyrians in Northern Iraq, the western response was little more than a petrified, guilty stare.
ISIS had come to Sinjar, Iraq in the early hours of August 3. Strengthened by weaponry abandoned by the Iraqi army, the jihadist forces would force the local Kurdish Pershmerga into retreat, leaving the local civilians unprotected. There has been speculation regarding how much knowledge the fleeing Peshmerga had about the ISIS attack, with many believing the Kurds simply did not want to bother protecting non-Kurds.
ISIS slaughtered entire villages, killing at least 5,000 Yazidi men and boys and abducting as many as 7,000 women and girls as sex slaves.
Matthew VanDyke, SOLI’s American founder, had already lost his close friend and famed journalist James Foley to ISIS extremism. The Yazidi genocide attempt would be the final push needed for the former POW to give up his American life and savings in pursuit of protecting the forgotton victims of Islamic extremism.
SOLI formed in the absence of international response to acts like those in Sinjar, aiming to assist besieged minorities in their fight against genocidal forces – when no government seemed interested in taking action. By providing unprotected Iraqis with the skills and abilities to fight against their oppressors, a countless number of killings and rapes have been prevented.
Regardless of past success, Iraq’s Christian and Yazidi populations are still facing the threat of extermination. ISIS might be in the process of collapse, but the resulting instability has caused a literal land-grab in the region.
The disparate forces due to manifest in the power vacuum of chaos will be attempting various degrees of ethnic cleansing throughout the Islamic State’s fall. With a series of upcoming referendums expected to reshape Iraq, literal fortunes ride on the demographics of specific regions.
SOLI trained forces have offered increased security and stability since 2014, and are expected to continue their work throughout the rebuilding of Iraq. It is important to remember, though ISIS is close to defeat, the story of Iraq’s Christian militia is only beginning.