Yesterday – the day on which the United States and Israel observe Holocaust Remembrance Day – we sent a legal letter to the newly appointed Secretary-General of the United Nations to remind him that genocide is still a very real and ongoing issue and one the international community must stand against.
It is indisputable that ISIS (the Islamic State) is targeting Christians and other religious minorities in Syria and Iraq because of their faith – with an intent to exterminate them – and these horrific acts of violence are spreading around the world.
In our letter we urge the United Nations to "declare that the ongoing atrocities committed by the Islamic State and associated groups constitute genocide and that those victimised by the genocide include Christians.” We also urge the Secretary-General “to communicate with all appropriate offices of the United Nations accordingly and to mobilise the international community to take swift and decisive action.”
In Iraq, Syria, and increasingly around the world, ISIS jihadists target Christians. Our letter details some of the horrific acts that ISIS has committed. The Islamic State’s barbarity knows no bounds. For instance:
In Syria, the Islamic State has beheaded and stoned men, women, and children for blasphemy, heresy, and apostasy. One Christian Syrian woman described “‘Christians being killed and tortured, and . . . children being beheaded in front of their parents’”. She spoke of “250 children [who] were put in the dough mixer, they were kneaded. The oldest one of them was four-years-old”. . . .
In February 2015, the Islamic Stated took approximately 230 Assyrian Christians hostage “after overrunning several communities on the southern bank of the Khabur River in northeastern Hassakeh province” in Syria. During the attacks, thousands fled. One year later, the last of the living hostages were released after the Islamic State receiv[ed] millions of dollars in ransom”. The fate of at least five of the hostages is unknown. According to other reports, between 9 and 15 Christians were killed, and 373 were taken hostage.
In August 2015, twelve Syrian Christians (including men, women, and children) were brutally and publicly tortured and executed in a village near Aleppo, Syria, because they refused to convert to Islam. Islamic State members cut off a young boy’s fingertips and beat him as they demanded that his father and two other men renounce Christianity, before executing all four by crucifixion. Eight women were also publically raped and beheaded after they refused to renounce Christianity. Islamic State fighters destroyed Iraq’s oldest Christian monastery, St. Elijah’s. Father Paul Thabit Habib, a Catholic priest “who now lives in Kurdish-administered Irbil” said that Iraq’s “Christian history was ‘being barbarically leveled’”. He added, “‘[W]e see it as an attempt to expel us from Iraq, eliminating and finishing our existence in this land’”. Such savagery has been punctuated by recent evidence that the Islamic State is burning Christians alive in locked caskets.
And, in Iraq,
Islamic State members in Mosul, Iraq, burned a twelve-year-old Christian girl to death: The “[j]ihadi fighters had come to claim a religious tax from the girl’s mother . . . but when the mother delayed in paying, they burned down the family home” while the mother her and daughter were still inside. “Mother and child were able to escape the burning building, but the girl had suffered such severe burns that she later died in the hospital”.
In June 2016, an Iraqi Christian woman was able to escape from an Islamic State stronghold in Mosul. She described the horrific ways in which Islamic State members use captured Christian women as sex-slaves. She “narrate[d] how Islamic State terrorists ‘married and divorced’ her as many as nine times a night to rape her with ‘justification’”. “Another woman was victimized so often that she resorted to defecating on herself to make herself less desirable, and had to be trained to use the bathroom again after she escaped”.
We reminded the new Secretary-General that the rest of the world is not immune from ISIS’s attacks and that ISIS is expanding its genocidal attacks against Christians outside of Iraq and Syria.
In June 2016, “[e]ight suicide bombers launched two waves of attacks on the Christian town of Al Qaa in northeastern Lebanon”. The New York Times reported that “[f]our attackers blew themselves up in the town before dawn, killing five people and wounding a dozen others, according to local officials. Four more attacks took place at night as residents prepared for funerals to be held on Tuesday morning, wounding 11 more people”. “‘People are stuck in their houses, not daring to go out and fearing more suicide bombers,’ the Rev. Elian Nasrallah, the priest of the town’s Mar Elias Church,” told reporters. “He had been in his home at night, preparing his message for the funerals of those killed that morning, when he heard an explosion and saw a ball of fire erupt outside the church. ‘We’re living in terror in this town,’ he said”. According to reports, “nearly all experts believe it was carried out by ISIS fighters who infiltrated al-Qaa from nearby Syria”. “Make no mistake, the[y] targeted [the] village for one reason: it is Christian”.
In July 2016, Islamic State “soldiers” slit the throat of an 85 year old Catholic priest in a church near Normandy, France, during Mass. Reuters reported that according to the Islamic State’s news agency, Amaq, the Islamic State claimed the two attackers as its “soldiers”. According to French officials, “[o]ne of the two suspects in the attack was known to anti-terror authorities after attempting a trip to Syria”. The spread of Islamic State genocide against Christians — and its direct link to Syria — should come as no surprise: “For two years, the black-clad jihadist army has called for attacks on Christians in Rome, throughout Europe and across the world. It has even called for the assassination of Pope Francis”.
In February 2017, ISIS released a video making reference to its December 2016 bombing of a Christian church in Egypt, and described Christians as its “favorite prey”. Just weeks later, ISIS claimed responsibility for the bombing of two churches on Palm Sunday in Egypt that killed 49 and injured more than one hundred people. Most recently, the Islamic State claimed responsibility for the failed attack on Saint Catherine’s Monastery in Sinai. While the attack failed, the Islamic State “has vowed more attacks against Christians in Egypt”.
These instances are just a few examples of why it is imperative that the international community mobilizes and stops ISIS. Truly, as evidenced by history, evil triumphs when good men fail to act.
The ACLJ remains committed in its efforts to stop the genocide and protect Christians and other religious minority victims. Today’s letter is just one of the many actions we have taken to draw awareness to and stop the ISIS genocide. Previously, we sent key legal letters to the former U.N. Secretary-General, Ban ki-Moon, the U.N. Office of the Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, the former U.S. Permanent Representative to the U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power, and more recently, a letter to the current Permanent Representative of the United States to the United Nations, Ambassador Nikki Haley. We also submitted letters to the 47 Member States of the U.N. Human Rights Council. In addition, we sent two letters to then-Secretary of State John Kerry and followed those letters with a letter to current-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. We’ve submitted key legal documents and made two oral interventions at the U.N. Human Rights Council.
We also filed written observations regarding ISIS atrocities against Iraqi Christians in a case before the European Court of Human Rights. Our continuous efforts are not in vain, and we’ve seen results as Congress, the European Parliament, and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe have passed genocide resolutions. Former-Secretary of State John Kerry recognized the “genocide against . . . Christians,” a representative of the U.N. Secretary-General’s office raised the issue at the U.N. Security Council, and numerous countries called for action to protect religious minorities from ISIS genocide at the U.N. Human Rights Council. The ACLJ has repeatedly called for in-region safe zones, and recently Secretary of State Rex Tillerson stated that “the United States would set up ‘interim zones of stability’ to help refugees return home in the next phase of the fight against Islamic State and al-Qaida in Syria and Iraq.”
We have even taken the State Department to federal court over the prior Administration’s failure to take meaningful action against the ISIS genocide. We are pressing for a meaningful change in U.S. policy.
As we stated in our letter, “The Holocaust stands as a stark and poignant reminder of immense and inexcusable loss of human lives that occurs when nations fail to act quickly — fail to timely intervene and prevent further barbaric acts of genocide. With each day that passes, more and more lives are lost in this genocide. The International Community cannot again fail to act quickly; rather it must learn from history and act swiftly and decisively.”
Join us. Sign our petition today, and help us stand against and end the ISIS genocide against Christians.
UPDATE 05.01.2017 We've just delivered another legal letter - our most extensive yet - to the incoming President of the U.N. Security Council, the Permanent Representative of Uruguay. It outlines the same critical evidence of genocide against Christians and urges the U.N. Security Council to act on that evidence to recongize the genocide and protect Christians and other religious minorities.
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In the strongest showing to date of progress being made to defend Christians facing genocide, the U.N. has responded to our recent letter, agreeing with our assessment regarding the growing body of evidence that the Islamic State (ISIS) is in fact committing genocide against religious minorities.
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