Tomorrow, August 3rd, the Yazidis will commemorate the sixth anniversary of the genocide committed by the so-called Islamic State, ISIS, that took place in Sinjar, located in northern Iraq. Yazidis will not have the chance to consider how to protect themselves from a future one. Instead, they will be haunted and reminded by the genocide they still endure. However, Yazidis should not be the only ones commemorating their tragedy, we all must.
For years, Deacon Jang Moon Seok ministered to North Koreans living in Changbai, China until he was kidnapped by North Korean agents in November 2014. The agents snuck across the border, abducted the deacon, and formally arrested him once he was on North Korean soil. Deacon Jang was sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment. He was tortured for information about Han Chung-Ryeol, a high-profile pastor also working in Changbai whom North Korean agents assassinated in 2016.
Several airlines offer direct flights from Burma to Malaysia, but many Rohingya Muslims like Sharifah Shakira can only make the journey by using human traffickers. At the age of five, Shakira’s mother had her smuggled out of Burma to protect her from the military’s ongoing genocidal campaign against Rohingya Muslims. In the trunk of a car, trekking through jungles, and at the bottom of a boat, Shakira made the journey for her life to the shores of Malaysia.
As the world passively watches, Turkey is currently amassing troops on its border in preparation of once again invading and adding to its disastrous occupation of northeast Syria. It is imperative that the U.S. and the international community consider the consequences of Turkey’s actions on religious freedom in Syria—particularly on Yazidis, Christians, and Kurds—and take action before it is too late.
In Iraq, the 50th Brigade of the Popular Mobilization Forces has been involved in extortion, illegal arrests, kidnappings, and detention of individuals without warrants, often targeting Christians, Yazidis, and other religious minorities returning to the Nineveh Plains and Sinjar. Rayan al-Kildani, the ruthless leader of this militia who operates under the guidance of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, was videotaped brutally cutting off the ear of a detainee.
For many years, Uzbekistan presented a bleak picture in a region notorious for poor human rights conditions. Under the country’s late authoritarian leader, Islam Karimov, the government relentlessly repressed all independent religious activity that it did not expressly sanction. In one particularly infamous incident documented in 2002, the bodies of two religious prisoners held at Jasliq Prison—also called the “House of Torture”—were returned to their families with evidence of torture indicating that at least one of them had been boiled alive. A decade later, a popular imam who had fled Uzbekistan and received asylum in Sweden barely survived an assassination attempt that many believed was orchestrated by the government.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated his desire to convert Hagia Sophia from a museum into a mosque in late May, a possibility he had first raised in March 2019. Should he go forward with his plans, he will not only endanger the future of this world heritage site dear to Christians and Muslims alike, but also undermine interfaith relations in the Middle East and beyond. It must not happen.
Human rights activists don’t often think first of countries like France, Germany, Belgium, Montenegro, Bulgaria, and the Netherlands when they worry about religious freedom violations. This is a mistake.
The government of Turkmenistan is one of the most repressive regimes in the world, and it deserves no special treatment from the United States. Instead, the U.S. government should hold Turkmenistan accountable for its many violations of human rights and religious freedom by lifting its national security waiver.
For most people, traveling abroad can lead to exciting opportunities and exposure to new cultures. For Muslims from China, traveling abroad can put friends and family at home at risk. In December 2015, Abduhaliq Aziz, a young Muslim from the ancient city of Kashgar, moved to Cairo to study at the renowned Al-Azhar University. Shortly thereafter, Chinese authorities retaliated by detaining Aziz’s parents. Several years after Ablikim Yusuf, a Uyghur Muslim, moved to Pakistan for work, he received a message over WeChat: his brother was in a reeducation camp. Last summer, Qatari authorities nearly deported Yusuf to China while he was transiting through Doha airport; only public outrage and U.S. diplomacy allowed him to settle in Virginia.