Religious Freedom Activist: U.S. Aid Policies in Iraq Are Hurting Christians and Helping Iran

In the Christian town of Teleskof, the U.N. brandishes its name outside a girls’ school as a sign that it is reconstructing within. But photos of the interior reveal abandoned, unlit classrooms strewn with rubble and possibly booby traps.  (Courtesy of the author)
In the Christian town of Teleskof, the U.N. brandishes its name outside a girls’ school as a sign that it is reconstructing within. But photos of the interior reveal abandoned, unlit classrooms strewn with rubble and possibly booby traps. (Courtesy of the author)

by Nina Shea

Iraq’s Christian and Yazidi communities have survived beheadings, sexual slavery and bloody religious genocide by ISIS but they may not endure the grossly unfair and badly managed U.S. aid programs that are now meant to help them following ISIS’ defeat.  The ugly possibility is that U.S. assistance policies may finish the terrible work that the fanatics of ISIS started.

In fact, as Congress will learn Tuesday at a hearing on this issue, things are like they were in the Obama administration, only worse. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and USAID Director Mark Green continue to channel over $1 billion of aid for Iraqis through various United Nations agencies, which divert the money away from the smallest and most beleaguered minorities, who suffered most grievously under the Islamic State.

For all of the past three years, U.S. humanitarian aid has bypassed the Christians and short-changed the Yazidis.  The Chaldean Archdiocese of Erbil, which has been the sole guarantor of care for most Christian survivors of ISIS genocide, has received exactly zero of the $1.4 billion of U.S. humanitarian aid to Iraq since 2014.  It chronicles a dozen times when its specific requests for aid were rejected by USAID and the State Department.

Unbelievably, to get U.S. assistance, Yazidis, another genocide-targeted minority in Iraq, and Christians were both expected to go to U.N. refugee camps that are infiltrated by ISIS sympathizers.  The deeply traumatized minorities rejected this aid offer and sought private help instead.

Now, both groups are at an historic crossroads.  Either Iraq’s non-Muslim minorities get help to leave their displacement shelters in Kurdistan and rebuild their shattered towns or, in despair, they must emigrate and see the extinction of their ancient communities, along with Iraq’s religious pluralism.  The exodus is already occurring. Iraq’s Christian community has plummeted 80 percent, to less than 250,000 since 2003.

The outlook is grim. These minorities are now facing the same U.S. policy regarding reconstruction aid as they have for food aid.  The Trump administration has handed over all America’s reconstruction funding and decision-making to the United Nations. Moreover, the U.S. lacks direct oversight of the U.N.’s projects in the Christian Nineveh Plains of Iraq.

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SOURCE: Fox News

Nina Shea has worked as a lawyer specifically focusing on religious freedom in American foreign policy, for thirty years. Joining the Hudson Institute as a Senior Fellow in 2006, she has led the Center for Religious Freedom, which she founded in 1986, in its effort to defend religious freedom internationally.  She currently is a leader of a campaign for Christians threatened with genocide by ISIS.

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