FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 10, 2016
WASHINGTON, D.C. – As coalition forces begin the liberation of Mosul, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) notes that November 13 is the one-year anniversary of the liberation of Sinjar from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
ISIL’s two-week August 2014 assault on Sinjar and the Tal Afar districts of northern Iraq’s Nineveh Province resulted in the deaths of more than 5,000 Yazidi men, the rape and enslavement of 5,000 Yazidi women, and the displacement of at least 200,000 civilians. ISIL also destroyed Yazidi temples and shrines and looted and demolished Yazidi homes.
Likewise, ISIL’s occupation of Mosul resulted in thousands of victims and its liberation could result in hundreds of thousands of refugees.
“ISIL’s unspeakable crimes in northern Iraq have permanently altered the country’s religious landscape, including the decimation of the Yazidis, a minority religious community which was given only two options: convert or die,” said USCIRF Chair Thomas J. Reese, S.J. “The ongoingmilitary offensive against ISIL in Mosul will liberate the city, but it may also increase the number of refugees and further aggravate sectarian tensions in the region. ISIL’s crimes must not lead to massive retaliation against Sunni Muslims. USCIRF acknowledges the administration’s efforts to return people to their homes and secure vulnerable communities. USCIRF also urges the U.S. government and the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL to work to develop measures to protect freedom of religion or belief.”
ISIL’s violent religious and political ideology allows no religious diversity or freedom of thought or expression. USCIRF welcomed the State Department’s declaration in March 2016 that Yazidis, Christians, and Shi’a Muslims in Iraq and Syria are victims of genocide by ISIL. USCIRF continues to urge the U.S. government to call for a referral by the UN Security Council to the International Criminal Court to investigate ISIL’s violations in Iraq and Syria.
USCIRF urges the U.S. government to initiate an effort among relevant UN agencies, NGOs, and the Global Coalition to fund and develop programs that bolster religious tolerance, alleviate sectarian tensions, and promote respect for religious freedom and related rights for refugees in host countries.