Joan Frawley Desmond, is the Register’s senior editor. She is an award-winning journalist widely published in Catholic, ecumenical and secular media. A graduate of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies of Marriage and Family, she lives with her family in California..
Last week, former Congressman Frank Wolf — the House's most courageous crusader on religious freedom — and the 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative asked President Obama and the Secretary General of the United Nations to fully declare that the Islamic State’s actions against religious and ethnic minority populations in the Middle East is genocide.
In his letter, Wolf told the president and the UN Secretary General:
Genocidal intent can clearly be seen in Islamic State’s ideology and mission which is directed towards the creation of a global caliphate that has been purged of every man, woman and child deemed to be an 'unbeliever' through either forced conversion or death. In Iraq, this has manifested most clearly in the insurgency’s actions against Christians and Yezidis. They have been killed, tortured, kidnapped, raped, sold into slavery, and forcibly removed from their homeland.
In January of this year, a team from the 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative spent five days in Iraq on a fact-finding mission. Their report, "Edge of Extinction: The Eradication of Religious and Ethnic Minorities in Iraq”, warns that Christians, Yezidis, Shabak, Turkmen and other religious and ethnic minority groups face genocide.
Wolf applauded some actions from the UN, with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights issuing a report in March on the situation in Iraq that stated: “It is reasonable to conclude that some of the incidents, considering overall information, may constitute genocide.” But he said the UN needed to make a formal declaration.
The 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative outlines specific ISIS acts of genocide:
- Christians and Yezidis have been systematically executed — sometimes as a terror tactic, and other times for refusing to convert to Islam.
- Christian and Yezidi children have been beheaded and crucified.
- Yezidis have been systematically targeted and have even been found in mass graves.
- As of April 2015, the current estimated ISIS civilian death toll is 15,000.
- ISIS regularly engages in organized sexual exploitation and torture of Yezidis and Christians that it kidnaps, causing extreme bodily and mental harm on a massive scale.
- A 2014 pamphlet released by the group entitled “Questions and Answers on Taking Captives and Slaves,” describes the ISIS’ calculated and prescribed ways of taking women and girls as young as nine years old into sex slavery.
- Once captured, the women and girls are forcibly converted and expected to raise the children resulting from their rapes under ISIS’ interpretation of “pure” Islam.
- Under ISIS’ rule, Christians are given the option to "convert, pay [a special tax], or die." Yezidis are not given this option.
- In the Middle East, ISIS has caused the worst refugee crisis since World War II, with four million internally displaced persons within Iraq alone.
- The refugee camps in northern Iraq are desperately in need of food, water, medicine and education, creating conditions of life that are not sustainable for long-term survival of these populations.
- ISIS has also refused medical treatment for women who do not convert to Islam.
- ISIS has taken children as young as seven months old from their families in order to be raised under its rule and ideology.
- These children are systematically intimidated, brainwashed and forcibly converted.
- Recent reports indicate that these “lion cubs” taken from Christian and Yezidi families are being raised to become the next generation of insurgency fighters.
These horrific facts are noted in the report and citations are provided for every charge. Now, let's call on the White House and the UN to take action before it is too late.