Coalition Urges Obama to Designate ISIS Actions As Genocide for All Groups

The St. Odisho Assyrian Church in Tel Tal, Syria, was bombed by ISIS on April 28, 2015.

The St. Odisho Assyrian Church in Tel Tal, Syria, was bombed by ISIS on April 28, 2015.


(AINA) — A coalition of 110 organizations and individuals has sent a letter to President Obama urging him to recognize the crimes committed by ISIS against minorities in the Middle East as genocide. The letter was spearheaded by the International Religious Freedom Roundtable.

The Obama administration and the U.S. State Department have signalled that only the crimes committed by ISIS against Yazidis will be designated as genocide (AINA 2015-11-13). The letter urges President Obama to designate the actions of ISIS as genocide for all groups, not only Yazidis, saying “Mr. President, we urge you to designate the actions perpetrated by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria against Christians — Assyrians/Chaldeans/Syriacs, Copts, etc. — Yazidis, Shia Muslims, Turkmen (Shia), Shabak and other religious minorities as genocide.”

Related: Timeline of ISIS in Iraq
Related: Attacks on Assyrians in Syria

ISIS has relentlessly attacked many religious and ethnic minorities in Iraq and Syria, with the brunt of their attacks falling on Assyrians and Yazidis. Hundreds of Assyrians have been killed in Syria and Iraq, 200,000 Assyrians were driven from their homes in the Nineveh Plains of north Iraq. Yazidis have been killed, driven from their homes and their women captured and sold into sexual slavery.

Here is the text of the letter:

February 17, 2016President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President,

We write as an informal and diverse group of non-governmental organizations and individuals who are scholars, religious leaders, and human rights advocates to urge you to declare the Islamic State’s systematic destruction of the ancient religious minority communities in Iraq and Syria including Christians–Assyrians/Chaldeans/Syriacs, Copts, etc.–Yazidis, Shia Muslims, Turkmen (Shia), Shabak and others to be genocide. Last October the International Religious Freedom Roundtable wrote to you regarding the genocide that is taking place and since that time the Islamic State has continued its reign of terror and destruction.

There is a growing chorus of political and faith leaders, genocide scholars, human rights experts and numerous Iraqi and Syrian, Christian and Yazidi firsthand testimonies recognizing that the most accurate description for the atrocities unfolding at the initiative of the Islamic State is genocide. On December 29, 2015, former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, stated, “I am now sure we have enough evidence, what is happening is genocide deliberately aimed at destroying lives and wiping out the existence of Christians and other religious minorities.” We believe that without a formal declaration the U.S. Government has abdicated its duty and vow to confront the most heinous of human rights violations, namely genocide.

As you are aware, the Omnibus bill that you signed into law on December 18, 2015, contains a provision requiring Secretary Kerry to provide an evaluation to Congress of “the persecution of, including attacks against, Christians and people of other religions in the Middle East” and determine whether such attacks constitute genocide. This report is required within 90 days from the passage of the bill. Between now and March 16, 2016, your Administration has a tremendous opportunity to extend American leadership at a crucial time on behalf of the ancient religious and ethnic minority communities who are experiencing the most brutal reality imaginable — genocide.

In their most recent report, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq — Human Rights Office stated clearly that “ISIL continue to target members of different ethnic and religious communities,” expounding further “[t]hese acts appear to form part of a systematic and widespread policy that aims to suppress, permanently expel, or destroy many of these communities within ISIL areas of control.”

On February 4, 2016, the European Parliament adopted a resolution designating the crimes the Islamic State has committed against ethnic and religious minorities as genocide. In the declaration, they remind other signatories of the 1948 U.N. Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide to acknowledge the crimes of the Islamic State and to coordinate with the larger international community. At this critical juncture, a designation of genocide by the United States would strengthen the actions of the international community and further extend American leadership.

Given the growing preponderance of evidence, it is now possible to categorically affirm that the Islamic State clearly demonstrates intent as well as acts based upon that intent to commit genocide against Christians–Assyrians/Chaldeans/Syriacs, Copts, etc.–Yazidis, Shia Muslims, Turkmen (Shia), Shabak and other religious minorities in Iraq and Syria.

Illustrating this intent, for example, in October 2014 in the fourth issue of Dabiq, the Islamic State’s propaganda magazine, they featured a cover photo showing a black Islamic State flag flying over the Vatican and wrote:

And so we promise you [O crusaders] by Allah’s permission that this campaign will be your final campaign. It will be broken and defeated, just as all your previous campaigns were broken and defeated, except that this time we will raid you thereafter, and you will never raid us. We will conquer your Rome, break your crosses, and enslave your women, by the permission of Allah, the Exalted. This is His promise to us; He is glorified and He does not fail in His promise. If we do not reach that time, then our children and grandchildren will reach it, and they will sell your sons as slaves at the slave market” [Indeed Your Lord Is Ever Watchful].

More recently, in November 2015, Dabiq again restated the intention of the Islamic State:

And nothing changes for the Islamic State, as it will continue to pronounce takfir upon the Jews, the Christians, the pagans, and the apostates from the Rafidah, the Nusayriyyah, the Sahwah, and the tawaghit. It will continue to wage war against the apostates until they repent from apostasy. It will continue to wage war against the pagans until they accept Islam. It will continue to wage war against the Jewish state until the Jews hide behind their gharqad trees. And it will continue to wage war against the Christians until the truce decreed sometime before the Malhamah. Thereafter, the slave markets will commence in Rome by Allah’s power and might.

These statements of intent are matched with well-documented acts of destruction based upon that intent. This includes kidnapping, raping and enslaving Christian and Yazidi women; beheading Christians who refuse conversion; mass Yazidi graves; pillaging and wiping out traditional Christian and Yazidi communities; and destroying places of Christian and Yazidi worship, some of which had been in operation for more than one thousand years.

Designating the crimes committed by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria as genocide against Christians–Assyrians/Chaldeans/Syriacs, Copts, etc.–Yazidis, Shia Muslims, Turkmen (Shia), Shabak and other religious minority communities would build upon your 2015 National Security Strategy which acknowledges, “We have a strong interest in leading an international response to genocide and mass atrocities when they arise, recognizing options are more extensive and less costly when we act preventively before situations reach crisis proportions.” And which further promises, “We will work with the international community to prevent and call to account those responsible for the worst human rights abuses, including through support to the International Criminal Court, consistent with U.S. law and our commitment to protecting our personnel. Moreover, we will continue to mobilize allies and partners to strengthen our collective efforts to prevent and respond to mass atrocities using all our instruments of national power.”

Such a designation would further support your December 23, 2015, “Statement on Persecuted Christians at Christmas” where you rightly noted, “In some areas of the Middle East where church bells have rung for centuries on Christmas Day, this year they will be silent; this silence bears tragic witness to the brutal atrocities committed against these communities by ISIL.”

Mr. President, we urge you to designate the actions perpetrated by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria against Christians–Assyrians/Chaldeans/Syriacs, Copts, etc.–Yazidis, Shia Muslims, Turkmen (Shia), Shabak and other religious minorities as genocide. Time and again the Islamic State has committed crimes with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, the ethnic and religious minority communities of Iraq and Syria. The world is watching and clear moral leadership by your Administration is needed to declare and subsequently stop such atrocities in order to preserve these ancient communities. It is our belief that officially declaring and subsequently halting this genocide is a matter of vital moral and strategic importance for the United States, the international community, and the overall state of religious freedom around the world.

Thank you for your consideration.


Chris Seiple
President Emeritus, Institute for Global Engagement
Co-Chair, International Religious Freedom Roundtable

Greg Mitchell
President, The Mitchell Firm
Co-Chair, International Religious Freedom Roundtable


  1. 21St Century Wilberforce Initiative
  2. American Mesopotamian Organization
  3. American Syriac Union
  4. Americans For Democracy And Human Rights In Bahrain
  5. Armenian National Committee Of America
  6. Assyrian American National Federation
  7. Assyrian Universal Alliance, Americas Chapter
  8. Beth Nahrain Organization For Women Iraq
  9. Bethnahrin Patriotic Union Iraq
  10. Boat People Sos
  11. Center For Inquiry
  12. Church Of Scientology National Affairs Office
  13. Coptic Solidarity
  14. Dwekh Nawsha Assyrian Army
  15. European Syriac Union
  16. Freemuslim Association
  17. Hindu American Foundation
  18. In Defense Of Christians (Idc)
  19. Institute For Global Engagement
  20. Institute On Religion And Democracy
  21. International Christian Concern
  22. International Institute For Religious Freedom
  23. Iraqi Christian Relief Council
  24. Jubilee Campaign Usa
  25. Nineveh Council Of America
  26. Patriot Voices
  27. Philos Project
  28. Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church Of America
  29. Shai Fund
  30. Shia Rights Watch
  31. Syriac National Council Of Syria
  32. Syriac Union Party Syria
  33. Syriac Women Union Syria
  34. Syriac Youth Union Syria
  35. United Macedonian Diaspora
  36. Universal Syriac Union Party Lebanon
  37. World Without Genocide At Mitchell Hamline School Of Law
  38. Zentrum Für Politische Schönheit

Individuals, with title and organization for identification purposes

  1. C Naseer Ahmad
  2. Sarah AK Ahmed
    Director of Operations
    The Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East
  3. Mustafa Akhwand
    Executive Director
    Shia Rights Watch
  4. Dr. Abid Thyab al Ajeeli
    Former Minister of Higher Education
  5. Nazar Alhaidar
    Vice President
    Iraqi Minorities Council
  6. George Allen
    Former Governor of Virginia & US Senator
  7. Ismael Alsodani
  8. Nahren Anweya
    Assyrian Christian Activist
  9. Sabri Atman
    Assyrian Genocide Research Center
  10. Father Behnam Benoka
    President Erbil-Iraq
    Humanitarian Nineveh Relief Organization
  11. Janet Saleem Benjamin
    Etana Woman Organization
  12. Peter BetBasoo
    Founder and Editor
    Assyrian International News Agency
  13. Mark Burr
    Basye, VA
  14. Dr. Amjad Chaudhry
    Ahmadiyya Muslim Community
  15. Lisa Curtis
    Senior Research Fellow
    Asian Studies Center
    The Heritage Foundation
  16. Robert A. Destro
    Professor of Law & Director, Interdisciplinary Program in Law & Religion
    Columbus School of Law
    The Catholic University of America
  17. Steven Emerson
    Founder and Executive Director
    The Investigative Project on Terrorism
  18. Ashur Sargon Eskrya
    AAS-Iraq President
    Organization in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council since 2011
  19. Will Estrada, Esq.
    Director of Federal Relations
    Home School Legal Defense Association
  20. Thomas Farr
    Director, Religious Freedom Project
    Georgetown University
  21. John P. Gallagher
    President & CEO
    Institute for Global Engagement
  22. Jeff Gardner
    The Picture Christians Project
  23. Chris Gersten
    Former Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary
    Department of Health and Human Services
  24. Khalid Haider
    Parkersburg, WV
  25. Omar Haider
    Parkersburg, WV
  26. Aram Hamparian
    Executive Director
    Armenian National Committee of America
  27. Allen D. Hertzke
    David Ross Boyd Professor
    University of Oklahoma
  28. Pete Hoekstra
    Shillman Senior Fellow
    The Investigative Project on Terrorism
    Former Chairman House Intelligence Committee
  29. Lauren B. Homer
    Attorney At Law
    Homer International Law
    Law and Liberty Trust
  30. Martha Hudson
    International Humanitarian
  31. Mirza Ismail
    Yezidi Human Rights Organization-International
  32. Farahnaz Ispahani
    Author, Purifying the Land of the Pure: Pakistan’s Religious Minorities
    Former Member, Parliament of Pakistan
  33. Dr. Sargoun Issa
    Restore Nineveh Now Foundation
  34. Jim Jacobson
    Christian Freedom International
  35. Byron Johnson, Ph.D.
    Distinguished Professor of the Social Sciences
    Director, Institute for Studies of Religion
    Director, Program on Prosocial Behavior
  36. Joseph T Kassab
    Founder and president
    The Iraqi Christians Advocacy and Empowerment Institute
  37. Ziyad Sh. Khalaf
    Yazidi Activist
    Yazidi Youth Union General Consul
  38. Magdi Khalil
    Executive Director
    Middle East Freedom Forum-Cairo-Washington DC
  39. Father Benedict Kiely
  40. David William Lazar
    American Mesopotamian Organization
  41. Nadine Maenza
    Executive Director
    Patriot Voices
  42. Idrees Maleel
    Assyrian Democratic Movement
    Erbil Iraq
  43. Paul Marshall
    Senior Fellow, Center for Religious Freedom
    The Hudson Institute
  44. Brent McBurney
    President & CEO
    Advocates International
  45. Faith J. H. McDonnell
    Director, Religious Liberty Program
    The Institute on Religion and Democracy
  46. Louay Mikhael
    Head of Foreign Relations Committee
    The Chaldean Syriac Assyrian Popular Council
  47. Sister Diana Momeka
    Dominican Sister of St. Catherine of Siena, Iraq
  48. Johnnie Moore
    Author of Defying ISIS
    Board Member: World Help, National Association of Evangelicals, and the World Evangelical Alliance
  49. Russell Moore
    Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission
  50. Scott Morgan
    Red Eagle Enterprises
  51. Brian C. Murphy
    Attorney at Law
  52. Douglas Napier
    Executive Director
    ADF International
  53. Robert Nicholson
    Executive Director
    The Philos Project
  54. Brian O’Connell
    President & CEO
    REACT Services
  55. Tony Perkins
    Family Research Council
  56. Professor Frank Ramaizel
    Visiting Scholar
    World Engagement Institute
  57. Tina Ramirez
    Founder & Executive Director
  58. Robert R. Reilly
    Westminster Institute
  59. Scott Rye
    American Foundation for Relief & Reconciliation in the Middle East
  60. Sargis Sangari
    Near East Center for Strategic Engagement
  61. Nina Shea
    Director, Center for Religious Freedom
    Hudson Institute
  62. Khaled Shingali
    Sinjar, Iraq
  63. Greg Stanton
    Genocide Watch
  64. Dr. Katrina Lantos Swett
    Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice
  65. William C. Walsh
    Human Rights Attorney
    Bisceglie & Walsh
  66. Pascale Warda
    Hammurabi Human Rights Organization (HHRO)
  67. William Warda
    Alliance of Iraqi Minorities (AIM)
  68. Olivia Warham
    Waging Peace
  69. Gene Yoho
    Compiled Technologies
    Davisville, WV
  70. Emanuel Khoshaba Youkhana
    Assyrian Patriotic Party
  71. William Youmaran
    Assyrian American National Federation
  72. Dr. Ali Akram Zainalabdeen
    Turkmen Rescue Foundation (T.R.F.)
    Baghdad, Iraq

© 2016 Assyrian International News Agency.