Secretary of State John Kerry stated this week that that ISIS has been committing genocide against religious minorities in the Middle. This is only the second time the executive branch has used the term in relation to an ongoing conflict. The formal designation comes days after the House passed a nonbinding resolution regarding genocide in the Middle East.
President Obama remains silent on the matter of genocide against Christians and other minorities by Islamic State.
US House votes unanimously to declare Islamic Stste atrocities against Christians and Yazidis constitute genocide
The U.S. House of Representatives has unanimously passed a bipartisan resolution declaring that systemic violence committed by Islamic State (IS) against minorities in Iraq and Syria – Christians, Yazidis, Sunni Kurds, Shiite Muslims and other ethnic groups – constitutes genocide. The resolution was sponsored by Republican Rep. Jeff Fortenberry of Nebraska and Democratic Rep. Anna Eshoo of California, and had 200 co-sponsors from both parties. Addressing the House floor, Fortenberry said the measure rises above partisan politics because Islamic State’s killing of civilians and destruction of churches, temples and monasteries is a threat to civilization itself.
House Speaker Paul Ryan said in a statement:“What is happening in Iraq and Syria is a deliberate, systematic targeting of religious and ethnic minorities. Today, the House unanimously voted to call ISIS’s atrocities what they are: a genocide. We also will continue to offer our prayers for the persecuted.”
The resolution is more than just symbolic – it calls on all governments, including the United States, to “call ISIL [IS] atrocities by their rightful names: war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.” Fortenberry said “A genocide designation will raise international consciousness and compel the international community of responsible nations to act, setting the preconditions for the reintegration of ancient ethnic groups and faith traditions into their ancestral homelands”.
Governments, church leaders and groups all over the world have declared Islamic State’s behaviour towards religious minorities should be considered genocide. These include Pope Francis, the European Parliament, Syrian and Iraqi archbishops, the International Association of Genocide Scholars, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, the Iraqi government and US presidential candidates.
However, President Obama and the US government have remained silent and still not spoken officially on this issue. The declaration by the House puts pressure on Obama at a critical time. His administration has dragged its heels regarding the genocide declaration and the State Department may even miss a congressionally mandated deadline to decide whether to call ISIS atrocities against Christians and other religious minorities a genocide. The March 17 deadline was set as part of the 2015 omnibus government spending bill.
“It is my sincere hope that this trans-partisan resolution will further compel the State Department to join the building international consensus in calling the horrific ISIS violence against Christians, Yazidis and others by its proper name: ‘genocide’,” declared Jeff Fortenberry who introduced the measure.