FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 22, 2014 | USCIRF
Washington, D.C. – The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) joins the U.S. State Department in condemning in the strongest terms the actions of the terrorist group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). These actions include the recent ultimatum the group issued against Christians in Mosul demanding that they either convert, leave, pay a tax, or face death. The Christian community has lived in Mosul for more than 1,700 years, with an estimated 30,000 living there before the ISIL offensive.
“ISIL’s persecution of Mosul’s Christian communities, as well as the Shi’a and Yazidi communities and any Sunnis who reject ISIL’s extremist ideology, is deeply troubling and repugnant,” said USCIRF’s Chair Katrina Lantos Swett.
After ISIL overtook Mosul on June 10th, more than half a million people fled. Those who remained have experienced killings, rape, torture, and kidnappings. Women have been beaten when venturing outside their homes or viewed as dressing inappropriately, and Shi’a shrines and Christian churches have been destroyed.
“ISIL’s depravity has been evident from the beginning. Among the atrocities it has committed, ISIL murdered 12 dissenting Sunni clerics, kidnapped Christian priests and nuns, killed scores of civilians, destroyed ancient houses of worship, and marked non-Sunni houses and businesses for destruction. And now it has issued this shocking ultimatum,” said Lantos Swett.
“ISIL’s actions represent the total rejection of one of the most important, internationally recognized human rights – namely the right of freedom of religion, conscience and belief. It is vital that the United States and other like-minded governments act to defend this fundamental freedom against the onslaught of those who seek to impose their dark vision of total religious repression on the peaceful Christian, Yazidi, and Muslim communities of Iraq and Syria,” Lantos Swett added.
USCIRF also is concerned about the overall religious freedom situation throughout Iraq. USCIRF’s 2014 Annual Report detailed significant violations of religious freedom including the government’s increasing sectarian actions and failure to stem egregious and mounting violence which non-state actors have committed against Iraqi civilians, including attacks targeting religious pilgrims and worshippers, religious sites, leaders, and individuals for their actual or assumed religious identity.
For more information on religious freedom condition in Iraq see USCIRF’s 2014 Annual Report.
To interview a USCIRF Commissioner, please contact USCIRF at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-786-0613.