Members of various ethno-religious minority groups in the Middle East – including Assyrian Christians, Yezidis, and Shiite Turkmen – told Breitbart News that the Obama administration’s declaration recognizing and condemning genocide at the hands of the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) has been inconsequential and has failed to accomplish much.
Secretary of State John Kerry finally acknowledged the ISIS genocide against minorities in March.
In its 2015 International Religious Freedom (IRF) Report released last week, the U.S. State Department once again condemned the genocide crimes committed by ISIS.
Breitbart News asked the minority group representatives whether the genocide declaration has changed or accomplished anything for their respective communities.
In an email statement to Breitbart News, Fr. Behnam Benoka, a Syriac Catholic priest from Iraq, said the declaration means the U.S. must commit to protecting minorities “starting from NOW and not from TOMORROW.”
Since the US declaration of ‘Genocide,’ we are still waiting for a determined act in order to help Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq and protecting them before they flee thoroughly from the country.
There is no more time to lose, because entire ethnic-religious communities of the most ancient Iraqi populations are facing the danger of extermination, the alternative will be a big loss for the humanitarian heritage.
Khalid Sulaiman Haider, a Yezidi activist from the Iraqi border town of Sinjar who now lives in the U.S. because of threats against him, also commented on the genocide declaration.
So far everything is nothing but a show, or shall I call it political game that Mr. President Obama has played. In other words, he’s shaping and moving everything towards the end of his tour…
Honestly, the religious minorities have been living in far worse conditions since the genocide declaration. Because the Kurds are using the method of slow genocide, by burning trash around the refugees camps, not allowing food, and other necessities to flow to the Sinjar mountain region in northern Iraq, not even a simple NGO. Please be advised that the genocide will happen again if this keeps going the way it is.
The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq did not respond to Breitbart News’ requests for comment.
Dr. Ali Akram Al Bayati, chief of the Shiite Turkmen Rescue Foundation (TRF), said, “all of us are still waiting for the US and all of the international community to implement more practical steps” following the declaration.
The best way to protect the minorities and prevent such genocides in the future is to establish a ‘Safe haven’ in all the lands where minorities reside in northern Iraq…
Dr. Ali went on to say that the United States needs to take more action to liberate the thousands of minority group members being held captive by ISIS, including nearly 600 abducted Turkmen women.
Emmanuel Khoshaba Youkhana, commander of the Christian Assyrian Army known as Dwekh Nawsha, said his community in Iraq feels like the Obama administration has “abandoned” them, adding that the genocide declaration amounted to “all talk and no action.”
The declaration “hasn’t changed or improved” anything for minorities, he said. Cmdr. Youkhana noted that the declaration without action is “not enough.”
A reporter asked David Saperstein, the State Department’s IRF ambassador-at-large, during an August 10 briefing on the release of the report:
[A] few months ago, when the secretary [of State] declared that Daesh [ISIS] had committed genocide, can you point to a single thing that has changed or anything that designation has accomplished?
In responding, Saperstein noted that the Obama administration is providing displaced ethno-religious minority groups the option of returning home or migrating elsewhere, adding that is also arming and training some local force of the groups to be integrated with the Iraqi Kurdistan Peshmerga troops and the Iraqi military forces.
Reacting to those comments, Mona Malik of the Assyrian Aid Society of America told Breitbart News:
The change if any has been slow in terms of training the security forces, specifically the [independent Assyrian Christian] Nineveh Plain Protection Unit (NPU)…
If the US and the international community are sincere about their claim to rescue, restore and return the indigenous Assyrians and Yazidis to their homes/lands, they need include the Assyrians and Yazidis into the plan, to listen to the needs of the civil society (not just listen to the clergy and political figures who have a more self-centered and government leaning agenda).
Malik, echoing other representatives, said the minority groups need their own area where they can live in peace.
Retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. Sargis Sangari, an Assyrian Christian who served in Iraq and is currently the chief of the Near East Center for Strategic Engagement, said:
Not only has Americas condemnation of the genocide not changed Assyrian standing in the region but it has become worse for our refugees, the Assyrian Army, Assyrians forced to fight under other military structures in Iraq and Syria, the Assyrian standing in their historical homeland of Assyria Nineveh Plain, and the aspirations of all other minorities dying and suffering on a daily bases given U.S. has no long term policy for the Middle East except for cutting and running out of the Region as we turn it to over to Iran, Russia, and others.