US State Department recognizes ISIS genocide in religious freedom report

Carla Harmon
August 16, 2017

"As we make progress in defeating ISIS and denying them their caliphate, their terrorist members have and continue to target multiple religions and ethnic groups for rape, kidnapping, enslavement, and even death", Secretary of State Rex Tillerson stated at the August 15 release of the 2016 International Religious Freedom report.

The jihadist terror group Islamic State is engaged in a policy of genocide against Christians and other religious minorities in the areas it controls in the Middle East, according the State Department's latest annual assessment of the state of religious freedom around the world.

Tillerson said he was making the pronouncement to "remove any ambiguity" about previous genocide assertions made by his predecessor, John Kerry, who in March 2016, determined that genocide was occurring in Islamic State-held areas but was criticized by lawmakers and religious groups for not declaring genocide was taking place earlier.

Religious freedom advocates applauded the Trump administration's selection earlier this summer of an Ambassador at-Large for International Religious Freedom, who is charged with monitoring abuses of freedom of religion overseas and promoting religious freedom as part of USA foreign policy. "ISIS is clearly responsible for genocide against Yazidis, Christians and Shia Muslims", as well as ethnic cleansing.

"Where religious freedom is not protected, instability, human rights abuses and violent extremism have a greater opportunity to take root", the former Exxon CEO said.

As the 2016 report indicates, many governments around the world use discriminatory laws to deny their citizens freedom of religion or belief.
A section on Israel notes relations between Jews, Muslims and others remains "strained", and notes the Israeli government's failure to open the Western Wall plaza to non-Orthodox groups.

Tillerson called out some important partners, such as Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Bahrain and Pakistan, in brief remarks introducing the annual report, which has been mandated by Congress since 1998.

Since the 1998 International Religious Freedom Act, the State Department documents the state of religious freedom in almost 200 countries around the world, reporting to Congress the "violations and abuses committed by governments, terrorist groups, and individuals".

The report noted some improvements, including a change in law in Vietnam to speed recognition of religious minorities and efforts by Oman and the United Arab Emirates to allow the construction of churches.

"We can not ignore these conditions", he said.

"There is a growing consensus on the need to act, the genocidal acts of ISIS awakened the global community to the threats facing religious minorities", Kozak said.

On China, Tillerson said the report documents how China "imprisons thousands for practicing their religious beliefs".

Ten countries "of particular concern" in the report include Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. The administration has appealed challenges to the suspension of those admissions to the Supreme Court.

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