Threats to Religious and Ethnic Minorities Under the Islamic State

July 28, 2016

In March 2016, the U.S. House of Representatives and Secretary of State John Kerry declared that the Islamic State (also referred to as ISIS, ISIL, and Daesh in this report) is committing genocide against Christians, Yazidis, Shi'a Muslims, and other religious and ethnic minority groups in Syria and Iraq. ISIS is also committing crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing against Kurds and Sunni Muslims. Unfortunately, months later, ISIS and other violent extremist groups continue to target and terrorize their victims through rape, enslavement, and murder, while religious and cultural sites are systematically looted and destroyed.  

To inform policymakers about the continuing travail of religious and ethnic minorities threatened by ISIS, and to galvanize long-term thinking about addressing this crisis, the Religious Freedom Project hosted a daylong conference at Georgetown University.

During the conference representatives of the targeted communities shared their personal experiences of religious persecution and their recommendations for policy makers. Among the questions they engaged were: What are the immediate security challenges posed by ISIS? What can we do now to ensure the viability of vulnerable religious and ethnic communities in Iraq and Syria? What steps need to be taken to ensure religious freedom, and how is religious freedom a possible antidote to future violence? Community representatives were joined by distinguished policymakers, activists, and scholars.

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