-- Elizabeth Vargas’ Report Airs on "20/20," Friday, December 18, 10 pm ET on ABC
Former US counter-terrorism officers Michele and Joe Assad are taking matters into their own hands, planning the evacuation of 560 Iraqi Christian refugees fleeing the atrocities of ISIS who have given them the devastating choice: convert to Islam or suffer penalties that can be as extreme as execution. For the past 14 months, these refugees - driven from their home town of Qaraqosh, have been camped out in the courtyard of St. Elia Church in Erbil, Iraq, sheltered there by renowned advocate for Iraqi Christians Father Douglas Bazi. In Erbil they are safe, clothed, and fed through the church's' charity, but they are not allowed to get jobs or attend local schools. Working with Father Douglas and building off their own professional expertise, the Assads have designed what they believe is a vetting/backgrounding process to determine that these refugees are not a security threat to any prospective new home country. After petitioning several nations to accept these refugees, the Assads have convinced the Republic of Slovakia to take them in. “20/20” is there as the first planeload with more than 125 refugees is evacuated from Erbil and arrives in Slovakia.
Elizabeth Vargas’ first-hand report on the Assad’s efforts to help these refugees airs on “20/20,” on FRIDAY, DECEMBER 18 (10:00-11:00 p.m., ET) on ABC.