Beirut: Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II of Antioch and All East- Primate of the Universal Syriac Orthodox Church has send a formal Letter to Her Excellency Navi Pillai – UN High Commissioner for Human Rights regarding the persecution and ethnic cleaning of Christians and other minorities in Mousl – Iraq.
Read the letter below:
Dear Ms. Pillay,
I am writing concerning the current situation in Iraq and the Middle East, especially the incidences that have been taking place since Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) took control of a dear region of Iraq which is the cradle of humanity and the birthplace of our civilization.
First of all, I would like to thank your excellency for the press release, issued on 25 July 2014, mentioning the grave human rights violations committed by ISIS against religious and ethnic minorities in Iraq.
ISIS systematically forced Christians, Shia, Shabaks, Turkmen, Yazidis and other religious minorities out of the city of Mosul, labelling them with racist signs and symbols, humiliating and luting them. The last Christians have left Mosul after ISIS gave them a choice between conversion to Islam, ruinous taxation, exile, or death. Many have since fled their homes, and for the first time since nearly 2,000 years there is no longer a Christian population in Mosul, the city that used to be the largest Christian city in Iraq and was considered the nucleus of Christian presence for many centuries.
Today, widespread violence and aggression against Christians and minority groups in both Iraq and Syria is intensifying; ISIS is threatening similar Christian and Muslim communities in different parts of Syria, especially in the east and north-east of Syria, yet the response to this threat by the international community has been totally inadequate and unacceptable.
The forced displacement and continuous threat that religious minorities in Iraq and Syria are facing, the taking over of our churches, the destruction of our sacred shrines, and the stealing of the properties and of the future of our people is all against the heavenly and human laws. We believe these actions constitute a flagrant violation of fundamental freedoms and human rights as guaranteed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the international human rights instruments. We insist that what has been inflicted on our people in Mosul is mass cleansing against religious and ethnic minorities, which may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity, that require punishment.
As the preamble of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states, inherent dignity and the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family are the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world, we, therefore, call on the international community to stand together against those who continue to supply weapons and finance ISIS and similar organizations.
We urge the United Nations to take responsibility in protecting the lives and dignity of the persecuted and displaced minorities in Iraq and other parts of the regions where extremist religious groups inflict daily horror on peaceful population.
The displaced people of Mosul took refuge in the Kurdistan region and nearby Christian villages. They are still in dire need of humanitarian assistance and protection. As two UN human rights experts stated on Friday, if protection measures are not taken urgently the impact could be devastating and irreversible.
Having full confidence in the work of the United Nations for the respect, protection and promotion of human rights around the world, we urge you, your Excellency, to use your good offices to ensure the protection of the human rights of religious minorities in Iraq and Syria, and the protection of their rights to remain in their land and live with dignity.
We expect the High Commissioner to ask the Special Rapporteur on the freedom of religion or belief, the Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues, and the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons undertake an emergency visit to afflicted communities and to write a report in order to present it to the upcoming 27th session of the Human Right Council. Furthermore, we request to designate an annual day or a panel discussion on the persecution of religious and ethnic minorities by ISIS and affiliated groups during the up-coming Human Rights Council.
The heads of churches in the Middle East are planning to convene an urgent meeting to discuss and take decisions for joint action regarding what is happening to the Christians of the Middle East. We will form a high level delegation to carry this issue to the United Nations and other international fora, and we are looking forward for this delegation to meet with you in Geneva before the upcoming Human Rights Council session.
We expect you to be involved with us during this crisis and to follow up and give moral support and technical assistance throughout this crisis.
Ignatius Aphrem II
Patriarch of Antioch and All East