USCIRF Statement on the Designation of Victims of Genocide, Persecution, and Crimes Against Humanity in Syria and Iraq

Dec 7, 2015


December 7, 2015

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) today issued the following statement:  

USCIRF calls on 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.  USCIRF also urges American and other world leaders to condemn the genocidal actions and crimes against humanity of ISIL that have been directed at these groups and other ethnic and religious groups. USCIRF further urges a firm condemnation of the brutal persecution of, and crimes against humanity committed against, Sunni Muslims by the Assad regime in Syria and by ISIL in the case of Sunni Muslims who refuse to embrace their extremist ideology.

USCIRF also encourages continued and robust efforts by the U.S. and international community to bear witness to these crimes and make additional designations of genocide and crimes against humanity, whether those are committed by ISIL, the Assad regime, or others, as appropriate.

USCIRF recommended in its 2015 Annual Report that the U.S. government should support a referral by the UN Security Council to the International Criminal Court to investigate ISIL’s atrocities against religious groups in both Iraq and Syria.  USCIRF also noted in its 2015 Report that the al-Assad regime systemically has targeted and massacred Sunni Muslims, thereby creating the environment in which ISIL could rise and spread, threatening the entire region and all religious communities that reject its violent religious ideology, with the smallest religious minority communities facing an existential threat. 

 “The hallmark of genocide is the intent to destroy a national, racial, ethnic, or religious group, in whole or in part.  ISIL’s intent to destroy religious groups that do not subscribe to its extremist ideology in the areas in Iraq and Syria that it controls, or seeks to control, is evident in, not only its barbarous acts, but also its own propaganda, said USCIRF Chairman Robert P. George. “The al-Assad regime also must be held to account for its targeting primarily of Sunni Muslims and the crimes against humanity that it is committing.” 

For more information, please see USCIRF’s chapters in the 2015 Annual Report on Iraq and Syria.

To interview a USCIRF Commissioner, please contact Travis Horne at or 202-786-0615.