The Trump administration denounced the Islamic State group on Tuesday for carrying out “genocide” against Christians and other religious minorities in areas under its control.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the group is “clearly responsible for genocide” against Christians and Yazidis in Iraq and Shiite Muslims in Syria and elsewhere. His comments were made as the State Department released its annual report on international religious freedom, and Tillerson said he was making the pronouncement to “remove any ambiguity” about previous genocide assertions made by his predecessor, John Kerry. In March 2016, Kerry determined that genocide was occurring in Islamic State-held areas but was criticized by lawmakers and religious groups for not making the finding earlier.
“ISIS has and continues to target members of multiple religions and ethnicities for rape, kidnapping, enslavement and death,” Tillerson told reporters. “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. The protection of these groups – and others who are targets of violent extremism – remains a human-rights priority for the Trump administration.”
The religious freedom report, which is mandated by Congress, covers 2016 and does not address the Trump administration’s decision to temporarily halt the admission of all refugees, many of whom are fleeing religious persecution. An appendix to the report covering refugees said more than 70 percent of the nearly 85,000 admitted to the U.S. in 2016 came from five nations – Congo, Syria, Burma, Iraq and Somalia – where the report itself said that freedom to worship is under threat. Syria and Somalia are among the six mainly Muslim nations included in President Donald Trump’s visa ban.
In addition to the Islamic State, Tillerson also 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.
Source: Associated Press