Hatune Dogan is an outspoken Syrian Orthodox nun travelling the world visiting refugee camps and war zones. She has criticized the destructive European immigration policy and is not afraid to be "politically incorrect". She has condemned radical Islamism and thinks Russia's involvement in Syria is a good thing. She has also dared to condemn the US for its policy of divide and conquer in order to seize the region's resources. Reporter Sanna Hill followed Hatune Dogan on a journey through the war-torn Iraq and Turkey.
Sister Hatune Dogan is a busy woman, dedicated to her cause in support of those in need. She travels the world extensively to help the most vulnerable, focusing on conflict-ridden countries in the Middle East, frequently visiting Syria, Iraq and Jordan. She speaks 13 languages fluently and is currently studying a fourteenth language because of a planned trip to South America, where she will deliver one of her many speeches about her work and her Hatune Foundation. She has devoted her spare time to writing and has produced 14 books, some about religion, but also educational ones. In 2010, Hatune received the German honorary award, the Bundesverdienstkreuz for her hard work, the highest civilian award in the country. When she was younger, she worked as a psychotherapist and a teacher of history and religion in Germany.
Born in a small Christian village in Eastern Turkey, Hatune fled to Germany with her parents and siblings at the age of 14 after Muslim neighbors threatened to kill her father for religious reasons.
A few years later, after joining a Syrian Orthodox monastery, and training to be a nurse as well as a school teacher, the Turkish nun began her 25 years of toil to help the most persecuted and helpless people in Muslim countries. In her home village Zaz in Tubardeen, there are still many ancient buildings and remains. During her childhood, over 400 Christian families lived there. Today, the whole area lies in ruins. Many houses were destroyed because the families refused to convert to Islam. Hatune herself was the victim of several rape attempts when she was a girl, and says that the persecution came from both the Turks as well as the Kurds. Hatune and her family fled to Germany in 1985, together with other families. Some of them went to Sweden where they still live today.
Hatune’s main work is in the Middle East. She specializes in aiding Christian minorities, but also the Yazidi people in northern Iraq. For the Yazidis, Hatune is close to a superhero, recognized everywhere as the “brave woman on TV”. Like other minority religions of the region, such as the Druze and the Alawis, it is not possible to convert to Yazidism, only to be born into it. Since Hatune is a trained nurse, she spends a lot of time in the many refugee camps that Europe does not want to support since they would rather aid migrants already in their countries. To the people most in need, she brings money and medicine, all the way from Germany.
Sister Hatune Dogan with children from a Christian refugee camp in Erbil, Iraq.
Sister Hatune Dogan is not afraid to proclaim her “politically incorrect” views. She criticizes radical Islamism, castigating European leaders for “horrible priorities” of their immigration policy. She characterizes future Turkish membership of the European Union as a “disaster”, and strongly believes that a Russian presence in the Middle East is a positive development, after hearing stories from both refugees and soldiers in Syria and Iraq. Hatune points out too that minorities have not had any problem with persecution from Shia Muslims, but warns that radical Sunni-beliefs and the Islamic State often go hand in hand. Under president Bashar al-Assad, the Christian minority in Syria enjoyed a peaceful existence.
After a day close to the conflict-ravaged city of Cizre near the Syria border in Turkey, Swedish reporter Sanna Hill did an interview with the outspoken nun after she accompanied her for eight days.
Can you tell the readers about Hatune Foundation – how many countries do you work in and what is your main purpose?
For 26 years I have worked with the people most in need, now mainly through Hatune Foundation currently established in 37 countries. We have many sponsors and donors, and also many volunteers who make the work possible. We reach around six million people, and the main purpose is to help the people that do not receive any help at all, in many cases Christian minorities, and especially women. We want to teach the poor to help themselves, to educate them. Right now we have over 5000 volunteers working for us, and most of them work for free.
What is your opinion on Europe’s immigration politics?
It is a disaster. There is nothing wrong to open your door for the needy and poor, but Europe has an open-border policy for the wrong people. It is not the ones risking persecution that we allow in. No widows, and very few women and children. Europe’s policy has resulted in the real refugees saying “Oh no, there are now more dangerous people in Europe than in our own countries”. They are afraid of going to Europe, because it is known that we basically let the Islamic State in and we have very little control over our own borders.
Since we live in a democratic society and have no laws that set any real example, our system is easy to abuse. Therefore we have people committing crimes, not afraid of going to prison or receiving any of the other mild punishments. Our countries are so different in that way. In our prisons you get to watch TV, you can study for free, you can exercise and get nutritious food for committing a crime.
We saw a terrifying example of our immigration policy in Cologne on New Years Eve. How could the politicians let it go this far? We can also see that there are a majority of young, Muslim men coming to our counties. Where are the women? No, the people in charge truly have blood on their hands. They see what is going on, and yet they change nothing.
During my many trips I spend a lot of time with refugees, and they agree with me. They think Europe got it all wrong. Frankly speaking, they think that we are morons…
Visiting Yezidi warriors in the war-torn city Sinjar in north of Iraq.
You were born and raised in Turkey. What do you have to say about the situation today? Do you think Turkey joining the European Union is a good idea?
You yourself saw the situation when we visited a suburb to Cizre, where many Kurds have died over the last months in Turkish attacks. We talked to Kurdish men who all said that ISIS has been fighting alongside the Turks for some time now. Their aim is to crush the Kurds. After dark, it is impossible for any Kurd to walk outside in the worst areas. They will simply get shot at. The Kurds certainly are very vulnerable in Turkey. They want their own piece of land, but Turkey will have none of that. Many Kurds have no rights. Though, the Kurds are not as vulnerable as for example the Christians. The Christians get caught in-between the Kurds and the Sunni Muslims, and in neither of the two [groups] do they have an ally.
Hatune Dogan and reporter Sanna Hill visited a suburb to Cizre in Turkey. The Kurds clamied that ISIS is fighting alongside the Turks in the area.
The Turkish government is terror itself. Turkey alone can cause a Third World War. But like I said, the leaders of Europe are all crazy, believing Erdogan and his lies. He laughs at them, of course.
I really don’t want Turkey joining the European Union. That would surely mean the end of Europe, with over 70 million Turks getting free access to Europe, a majority of them being Sunni-Muslims. They would destroy us if they had the chance. Around 90 percent of the Turks are believed to be Sunni’s, and a total open-border-policy would be disastrous.
Aiding the poor. This woman was held captive by ISIS and had brutal stories to tell. Hatune Dogan visited her in a refugee camp in Erbil.
You travel to countries where the Islamic State has a hold on many areas. Rumor has it that ISIS is getting funded by Western states like the US. What do you have to say about that?
Yes, that is the truth. When it comes down to it, it is all about the oil. While travelling, I met several persons all saying that they had witnessed the US helping the Islamic State in different ways. One thing stood out because there have been so many people who had remarked on it: When the US dropped aid and weapons over the Iraqi city of Mosul that had been in the hands on ISIS since 2014. They simply said that they had made a mistake. The people I have spoken to, soldiers fighting ISIS in that area, told me that they had witnesses similar things around 8 times.
Hatune Dogan and Swedish reporter Sanna Hill in the war-torn Sinjar in north Iraq.
That the minorities that get attacked like they do in Iraq, are of course partly because of religions differences. But mostly it is because there are substantial amounts of oil in the areas where they live. Therefore it is very important for the US to divide as much as possible, making the areas unstable in order for them to come in and “rescue” the situation. This we saw in Libya, and we see it all over again in Syria. The US would like to tell us that they only want the “bad Bashar al-Assad” out, but it is not about that. Everything is about who controls the oil.
I spoke to a Turkish truck driver from north Iraq who said that he and four other drivers drove trucks full of weapons from Europe to the Islamists in Mosul. The weapons he told me was from Germany, but whether the German government has any knowledge of that I don’t know. But it is worrying when you hear such things over and over again.
What do you think about Russia’s involvement in Syria?
The refugees and the civilians I speak to in both Iraq and Syria are very grateful for the help provided by Russia. That our media tells us that Russia is targeting civilians is simply not true.
You and me both just talked to Yazidi-warriors fighting ISIS in north Iraq, and they all say that since the Russians started to get involved, ISIS has faced some real opposition. Sure, the US has bombed, but not where most needed. They like to paint a picture of how they fight ISIS, but it is not the reality.