Welcome to USCIRF

USCIRF Welcomes Genocide Determination; Urges Focus as well on al-Assad Regime

MArch 18, 2016


Washington, D.C. – The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) welcomes the State Department’s decision proclaiming that groups including Yazidis, Christians, and Shi’a Muslims in Iraq and Syria are victims of genocide by ISIL, the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, also referred to as Daesh.  In his statement, Secretary of State John Kerry rightly observed that: “Daesh is responsible for genocide against groups in areas under its control,” is “genocidal by self-proclamation, by ideology, and by actions,” and that it “kills Christians because they are Christians; Yezidis because they are Yezidis; Shia because they are Shia.”

“Secretary of State Kerry’s statement today shines an essential light on ISIL’s horrific actions and its extremist ideology, and correctly calls ISIL what it is:  genocidal,”  said USCIRF’s Chairman, Robert P. George.  “We must all stand against ISIL, which seeks to destroy minority religious communities and members of the majority community who do not subscribe to its barbaric interpretation of Islam.  But we must do more.  The U.S. government should seek a referral by the U.N. Security Council to the International Criminal Court to investigate ISIL’s atrocities in Iraq and Syria; work with our international partners to develop measures to protect and assist the region’s most vulnerable, including by increasing immediate humanitarian aid; and increase the number of Syrian refugees resettled to the United States, allocating sufficient resources to the Department of Homeland Security and other agencies to conduct the necessary vetting so that U.S. national security is not compromised.”

USCIRF called for the U.S. government to designate the Christian, Yazidi, Shi’a, Turkmen, and Shabak communities of Iraq and Syria as victims of genocide by ISIL on December 7, 2015.  USCIRF also has urged that the U.S. government and international community condemn the al-Assad regime for its indiscriminate targeting of primarily Sunni Muslims and for using rape, extrajudicial killings, starvation, sniper attacks, and torture in its attempt to maintain power, and make additional designations of international crimes as warranted.    

“USCIRF continues to urge the Administration to condemn the al-Assad regime in Syria for its brutal persecution and crimes against humanity committed against Sunni Muslims and others,” said Chairman George. “USCIRF also urges the U.S. government to seek a UN referral for an International Criminal Court investigation into crimes the al-Assad regime has committed, following the models used in Sudan and Libya.”

For more information, please see USCIRF chapters in the 2015 Annual report on Iraq and Syria and its press releases on:  USCIRF Statement on the Designation of Victims of Genocide, persecution, and Crimes Against Humanity in Syria and Iraq; and  Syria:  Five Years of Suffering Must End.

To interview a USCIRF Commissioners, please contact USCIRF at media@uscirf.gov or 202-786-0615.