Date: March 17, 2021
Washington, DC – The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) today joins religious communities in Iraq and Syria—including Yazidis, Christians, and Shi’a Muslims—in remembering the tens of thousands of lives lost to Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) atrocities, five years after the U.S. Department of State and Congress declared those crimes genocide.
“We commemorate with heavy hearts the fifth anniversary of this genocide recognition, given the devastating losses that Yazidis, Christians, Shabak, Turkmen, Kaka’is, and others suffered at the hands of ISIS in 2014 and beyond,” USCIRF Vice Chair Anurima Bhargava said. “USCIRF continues to call on the United States and its international partners to spare no effort in continuing to provide humanitarian aid and other forms of assistance to these communities, even as we recognize the irreplaceability of the lives ISIS destroyed through execution, enslavement, sexual assault, and other atrocities.”
USCIRF Commissioner Nadine Maenza added, “Five long years after the U.S. government recognized this genocide, the world must do better in supporting the vulnerable religious and ethnic minority communities for whom this tragedy remains a present and painful reality.” She explained, “For many Yazidis in Iraq, the internally displaced person—or IDP—camps that have served as a crucial refuge since 2014 have also become a purgatory of despair, as suicide rates climb and their Sinjar homeland remains largely in ruins and caught up in territorial and security disputes. Meanwhile, displaced Yazidis continue to face religious persecution, marginalization, and daily violence in neighboring Syria. The United States and its partners cannot stand by while they and other minorities in Iraq and Syria continue to suffer under such existential threats. It is also vital that perpetrators of the violence are prosecuted and held accountable.”
In its 2020 Annual Report, USCIRF recommended that the U.S. State Department place raq on its Special Watch List (SWL) for ongoing and systematic religious freedom violations. It recommended Syria for designation as a “country of particular concern,” or CPC, under the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) for engaging in or tolerating systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) is an independent, bipartisan federal government entity established by the U.S. Congress to monitor, analyze, and report on religious freedom abroad. USCIRF makes foreign policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State, and Congress intended to deter religious persecution and promote freedom of religion and belief. To interview a Commissioner, please contact USCIRF at