US Secretary of State laments that some 80 percent of the world’s population lives “with persecution or limits on their ability to worship.”
The Trump administration denounced the Islamic State (ISIS) terror group on Tuesday for carrying out “genocide” against Christians and other religious minorities in areas under its control in the Middle East.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the group is “clearly responsible for genocide” against Christians and Yazidis in Iraq and Shiite Muslims in Syria. His comments were made as the State Department released its annual report on international religious freedom.
Tillerson said he was making the pronouncement to “remove any ambiguity” about previous genocide assertions made by his predecessor, John Kerry, who in March 2016, determined that genocide was occurring in ISIS-held areas but was criticized by lawmakers and religious groups for not declaring genocide was taking place earlier.
The administration’s genocide determination does not carry with it any legal obligation for the US or others.
“ISIS has and continues to target members of multiple religions and ethnicities for rape, kidnapping, enslavement and death,” Tillerson told reporters in presenting the report.
“ISIS is clearly responsible for genocide against Yazidis, Christians and Shia Muslims in areas it controlled. ISIS is also responsible for crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing directed at these same groups, and in some cases against Sunni Muslims, Kurds and other minorities,” Tillerson said. “The protection of these groups — and others who are targets of violent extremism — remains a human-rights priority for the Trump administration.”
Preserving Millennia-Old Communities
Michael Kozak, the acting Assistant Secretary of State for democracy, human rights and labor, said the administration is concentrating on trying to alleviate repressive conditions to reduce the need for people to flee their homes. He noted that many who have fled would prefer to return to their homes than move abroad. And, he noted that in Iraq and Syria specifically, it was preferable not to disturb millennia-old religious minorities.
“We don’t want to uproot communities that have been there for thousands of years and take them elsewhere,” he said.
In addition to the Islamic State, Tillerson and the report called out Bahrain, China, Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Turkey for persecuting, stigmatizing or otherwise restricting the rights of religious minorities.
“Religious persecution and intolerance remains far too prevalent,” Tillerson said, noting that some 80 percent of the world’s population live “with persecution or limits on their ability to worship.”
“We cannot ignore these conditions,” he said.