Mideast’s religious minorities at risk of ‘genocide’

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Text by FRANCE 24
Christians, Yazidis and other religious minorities in the Middle East are being targeted and some are facing a possible “genocide” by Islamic State militants, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told the UN on Friday.

Speaking at a UN Security Council debate, Fabius said an “action charter” was needed to address the threat from the Islamic State group.

“We are witnessing a true genocide,” Fabius said. “The Islamic State group in particular kills, enslaves or exiles people who don’t think like them, especially Christians. It’s not enough to raise awareness – we need to implement concrete solutions to protect these vulnerable populations.”

The Islamic State militants active in Iraq, Syria and Libya have specifically targeted religious minorities. The UN has said that the Sunni group’s attacks on the Yazidis – which have included the sale or enslavement of Yazidi women and girls, and the forcible recruitment of child soldiers – may amount to genocide. The Islamic State group was also behind the beheadings of 20 Coptic Christians in Libya last month.

“The danger is that minorities will disappear entirely,” Fabius said. “The international community must not let that happen.”

Iraq was home to 1.4 million Christians in 1987, Fabius said, but only 400,000 remain.

The foreign minister called for more humanitarian aid to help minorities return to their homes and said US-led coalition forces battling the Islamic State group must make protecting religious groups a “primary goal”.

Vian Dakhil, a Yazidi member of the Iraqi parliament, asked the Security Council to adopt a resolution formally declaring the violence targeting her community a genocide.

More than 420,000 of Iraq’s 600,000 Yazidis have been forced from their homes and are now living in camps, Dakhil said.

Religious minorities have been on the “front line” in the fight against the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS or ISIL, which she said was now “the most dangerous terrorist organisation in the world”.

“More than 2,000 Yazidis have been slaughtered in cold blood by ISIL for no reason except that we are Yazidis and we profess a religion that is different from ISIL,” Dakhil said.

“Our women are being raped. Our girls are being sold. Our children are taken to places, we don’t know for what,” she said.

Fabius called for prosecutions before the International Criminal Court (ICC), a move that was blocked by Russia and China last year when the Security Council sought accountability for events in Syria.

UN rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein urged the 15-member council to overcome its differences and refer Iraq and Syria to the international court.

“The delicate mosaic is being shattered, and this Security Council must take action, unanimously and decisively, to end the conflicts and refer Iraq and Syria to the ICC,” said Hussein.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)