Date: March 18, 2016
By Dan Wooding, Founder of the ASSIST News Service
WASHINGTON, DC (March 18, 2016) -- After a long wait, the United States has finally said that the Islamic State (IS) terror group has committed “genocide” against Yazidis, Christians and Shia Muslims.
This was announced on Thursday, March 17, 2016, by US Secretary of State, John Kerry, who said that IS, also called ISIS, was “genocidal by self-proclamation, by ideology and by actions”.
This was good news to many human rights workers who had previously accused the Obama administration of not speaking out forcefully enough about the treatment of minority groups by IS.
Kerry’s statement came on the same day that a US congressional deadline urging the Obama administration to make its own judgement was set to expire. Earlier this week, the House overwhelmingly approved a resolution 393-0 that actions taken by ISIS against Christians and other religious and ethnic minorities in Iraq and Syria constitute “genocide”.
“My purpose in appearing before you today is to assert that, in my judgement, Dae'sh is responsible for genocide against groups in areas under its control including Yazidis, Christians and Shia Muslims,” Kerry said from the State Department briefing room, using a local moniker to describe IS (ISIS). “Da'esh is genocidal by self-proclamation, by ideology and by actions in what it says, what it believes and what it does.”
The U.S. military returned to Iraq in August of 2014 to halt the ISIS massacre of the Yazidis, an ancient ethnic minority living in the Sinjar area. That intervention led to an anti-ISIS coalition and the ongoing military effort. ISIS, comprised mostly of Sunni Muslims, has targeted Shia Muslims, a group it labels as “disbelievers”.
However, Kerry did not say whether his declaration would lead to a change of US policy in the Middle East, but he did call for an independent international investigation and criminal charges for those thought to be responsible for the atrocities.
“Naming these crimes is important,” Mr. Kerry said, “but what is essential is to stop them.”
According to the BBC, Kerry said that his conclusions had been based on a “wealth of evidence provided by the US state department, intelligence teams and other sources.”
They include well-documented accounts of IS attacks on the Yazidi community in Iraq, which led to the deaths of hundreds of men and boys and the abduction of thousands of women.
Tens of thousands of Yazidis became stranded on an exposed mountain, and Mr. Kerry said “without our intervention, it is clear those people would have been slaughtered”.
He also highlighted the killings of Christians in northern Iraq and Libya, and of Shia Turkmen in Iraq.
“The fact is that Dae'sh [IS] kills Christians because they are Christians, Yazidis because they are Yazidis, Shia because they are Shia,” he said, using an Arabic acronym for the group.
“This is the message it conveys to children under its control. Its entire world view is based on eliminating those who do not subscribe to its perverse ideology.”
Mr. Kerry admitted that a lack of access to IS areas meant the US did not have a “complete picture” of the atrocities that had been carried out, and said he was “neither judge, nor prosecutor, nor jury”.
But he said he hoped its victims would take comfort in the fact that “the United States recognizes and confirms the despicable nature of the crimes committed against them”.
Why Christians have been targeted?
The BBC said that Christians are considered “People of the Book” under Islamic law, a classification that grants them a certain protection in comparison with other religious groups.
But IS says Christians should not be accorded protection because they are part of a “Jewish- and Crusader-led conspiracy” against Islam. It has forced Christians living in territory it captures to choose between conversion, payment of a protection tax known as jizyah, or death.
In February 2015, IS released a video showing the beheading on a beach in Libya of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christian migrant workers who had been kidnapped in the city of Sirte.
But in the latest edition of its English-language magazine Dabiq, the group listed Christians among IS's main enemies.
It said IS advocated jihad against “the Jews, the Christians, the Rafida [Shia] and the proponents of democracy”.
How the UN defines genocide (BBC)
Article II of the 1948 UN Genocide Convention says genocide means any of the following acts committed “with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such”. They are:
* Killing members of the group.
* Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group.
* Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.
* Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group.
* Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
This was the only the second time the US administration has declared a “genocide” during a conflict. The previous time was in 2004 when then-Secretary of State Colin Powell used it to describe the killings in Darfur.
“Such a declaration is a powerful signal”, says the BBC's diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus, who added: “Mr. Kerry may hope that it bolsters the fight against the IS and possibly opens the way to action at the UN Security Council.
“But in every other sense its practical impact will be limited, our correspondent adds, as the US and its allies are already engaged in a war against IS and the struggle is likely to continue for months and probably years yet.”
Photo captions: 1) Another video from IS shows their barbarity and cruelty against their hostages. 2) John Kerry condemns IS. 3) IS hangs a group of Christians as a crowd looks on. 4) Yazidis fleeing from IS. 5) Dan Wooding reporting for ANS outside the Kurdistan Parliament in Erbil, Northern Iraq.
About the writer: Dan Wooding, 75, is an award-winning winning author, broadcaster and journalist who was born in Nigeria of British missionary parents, and is now living in Southern California with his wife Norma, to whom he has been married for more than 52 years. They have two sons, Andrew and Peter, and six grandchildren who all live in the UK. Dan is the founder and international director of ASSIST (Aid to Special Saints in Strategic Times) and the ASSIST News Service (ANS), and is also the author of some 45 books. He has reported widely from the Middle East including from Northern Iraq.