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Religion Today Blog Christian Blog and Commentary

U.S. State Department Debates Labeling ISIS's Atrocities as Genocide

  • Veronica Neffinger
    Religious persecution, missions, Christianity around the world
  • 2016 Mar 09
  • Comments
The U.S. State Department is in the process of debating whether the atrocities ISIS is committing against religious minorities in the Middle East should be designated as genocide. reports that last week, the House Foreign Affairs Committe passed a bipartisan resolution declaring that the atrocities perpetrated by ISIS terrorists “against Christians, Yezidis, and other religious and ethnic minorities in Iraq and Syria constitute war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide.”

The State Department now has till March 17 to decide if the atrocities committed by ISIS in the Middle East should be designated as genocide.

In a column for, Brent Bozell notes that labeling ISIS’ persecution of minorities as genocide is important for action to be taken to stop the atrocities. Bozell says a designation of genocide would put “ further pressure on the United Nations Security Council to issue a similar declaration. That could lead to trying perpetrators in the International Criminal Court.”

Although many such as presidential candidates Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and Hillary Clinton support the effort to address the genocide Christians and other minorities are facing, others are more reluctant

When asked if what was happening to Christians in the Middle East should be classified as genocide, presidential candidate Bernie Sanders said, "I don't know that we have to put a word on it."

The Obama administration has also been reluctant to classify ISIS’ atrocities as genocide. White House spokesman Josh Earnest seemed to dance around the issue during a press conference on Monday, saying that such a designation “requires...a rather precise interpretation of the law.”

A group of four humanitarian and advocacy organizations have joined together to compose a detailed letter to the State Department and Secretary of State John Kerry before the March 17 deadline.

The letter details the atrocities ISIS is committing against Christians and other minorities and seeks to present evidence as to why ISIS’ actions should be labeled as genocide.

“Publicly available information strongly suggests that ISIS is subjecting Assyrian and other Iraqi and Syrian Christians living in areas under the control of ISIS to genocidal conditions,” the letter states. “ISIS purportedly offers the Assyrian Christians three options: (1) convert to Islam, (2) assume dhimmi status and pay an associated jizya tax, or (3) leave the territory. The facts suggest that, in reality, there is no choice. Those who refuse or are otherwise unable to comply are executed, and in many instances the option of paying the jizya tax is not made available. The evidence therefore suggests that the jizya tax is not a real option and may be just a pretext to justify ISIS’s atrocities.”

The letter concludes by stating, “Numerous other governments and world leaders have concluded that the Assyrian Christians are suffering a genocide. Interested Organizations urge the State Department to reach the same conclusion and join the chorus calling for an end to ISIS’s crimes against humanity.”

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Publication date: March 9, 2016