Protecting religious and ethnic minorities from Daesh atrocities

Violent extremist groups sometimes target members of religious and ethnic minorities, and Daesh has attempted to destroy minority communities that have existed for centuries.

On July 29, the Department of State will convene a meeting in Washington of delegations from more than 20 countries, as well as the United Nations and the European Union, to discuss ways to protect religious and ethnic minorities whose homelands are under the control of Daesh — the group also called Islamic State, ISIL or ISIS.

In addition, religious and civic leaders from the region will attend a civil society meeting co-sponsored by the Department of State on July 28 at Georgetown University. Government delegations have been invited to attend the meeting to hear the concerns and recommendations of civil society.

In March, Secretary of State John Kerry said, “Daesh is responsible for genocide against groups in areas under its control, including Yezidis, Christians  and Shia Muslims.” Kerry also stated Daesh is responsible for crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing directed at these groups, and in some cases, also against Sunni Muslims, Kurds and other minorities.

Daesh has targeted religious and ethnic minorities in Iraq and Syria with devastating consequences, threatening the very existence of some communities in their traditional homelands. Daesh has displaced hundreds of thousands; killed thousands of Yezidis, Turkmen, Sunni and Shia; executed and kidnapped Christians; and forced Yezidi, Turkmen and Christian women and children into sexual slavery.

“We have to be ready to think what we as an international community — as a community of values that supports human rights, diversity and pluralism — can do to help these groups go home,” said Knox Thames, a special adviser at the U.S. Department of State, “so they can continue to live where they’ve lived for thousands of years and feel confident they have a future in their ancestral homelands.”

“With our coalition against Daesh making headway in Iraq, we’re getting closer to the day when Mosul and the Nineveh Plains will be liberated,” Thames said. This area is the traditional homeland for the Yezidis, many Christian communities and Shia Turkmen, in addition to the majority Sunni Arab communities who also call the region home. “We’ve seen with Daesh-inspired attacks in France, Turkey and elsewhere that Daesh is seeking to spread and promote its ideology of hatred,” Thames said. “One way we defeat that ideology and Daesh itself is to protect what Daesh has tried to exterminate.”