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USCIRF’s Concerns Deepen After ISIL Targets Iraq’s Yazidis and Other Religious Minorities


August 6, 2014 | USCIRF

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) condemns in the strongest terms the actions that the terrorist group ISIL, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, has taken against Yazidis and other religious minority communities in Sinjar and Tal Afar districts of Ninewa Province in northern Iraq.  Reports indicate that ISIL has killed Yazidis, Assyrian Christians, Shi’a and others, and destroyed religious sites.  According to the UN, 200,000 civilians, most of them Yazidis, have fled Sinjar.  Yazidis, whose ancestral homeland is Sinjar, are adherents of an ancient religion with links to Zoroastrianism.

“ISIL’s offensive against Yazidis and other religious minorities in Sinjar, coupled with its attack against Mosul’s Christians and others two weeks ago, underscore its fanaticism, barbarism and agenda to destroy Iraq’s diversity and its ancient communities,” stated Katrina Lantos Swett, USCIRF Chair.

The State Department’s recently released International Religious Freedom Report notes that 500,000 Yazidis reside in northern Iraq, with most concentrated in Sinjar and some in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region.

“USCIRF urges the United States, the Iraqi government, the Kurdistan regional government, and like-minded nations to redouble efforts to work together to defend Iraq’s peaceful religious communities against ISIL’s violent religious repression and provide humanitarian assistance to the many thousands of civilians who now are displaced,” Lantos Swett added.

For more information on religious freedom conditions in Iraq see USCIRF’s 2014 Annual Report.

To interview a USCIRF Commissioner, please contact USCIRF at media@uscirf.gov or 202-786-0613.