Secretary of State John Kerry declared on Thursday that the Islamic State is committing genocide against Christians, Yazidis and Shiite Muslims who have fallen under its control in Syria and Iraq.

The militants, who have also targeted Kurds and other Sunni Muslims, have tried to slaughter whole communities, enslaved captive women and girls for sex, and sought to erase thousands of years of cultural heritage by destroying churches, monasteries and ancient monuments, Mr. Kerry said.

The Islamic State’s “entire worldview is based on eliminating those who do not subscribe to its perverse ideology,” he said.

The statement by Mr. Kerry, made in response to a deadline set last year by Congress for the Obama administration to determine whether the targeting of minority religious and ethnic groups by the Islamic State could be defined as genocide, is unlikely to change American policy. The United States is already leading a coalition that is fighting the militants, and American aircraft have been bombing Islamic State leaders and fighters, its oil-smuggling operations and even warehouses where the group has stockpiled millions of dollars in cash.

Even if the practical impact of Mr. Kerry’s declaration is negligible, it carries important symbolic weight, and the Obama administration has been under growing pressure from some Christian groups and Republican and Democratic lawmakers to label the actions of the Islamic State as genocidal. On Monday, in fact, the House of Representatives approved a unanimous resolution condemning the militants for trying to eradicate minority communities in the territories it has conquered.

Mr. Kerry echoed that sentiment in his remarks on Thursday, saying there were “vast” amounts of information about what was happening, and that he had concluded genocide was being committed, and that crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing were also taking place.

“Daesh is genocidal by self-proclamation, by ideology, and by actions — in what it says, what it believes, and what it does,” Mr. Kerry told reporters in Washington, using the Arabic name by which many in the Middle East derisively refer to the Islamic State

The Islamic State “castigates Yazidis as, quote, ‘pagans’ and ‘devil-worshipers,’ and we know that Daesh has threatened Christians by saying that it will, quote, ‘conquer your Rome, break your crosses, and enslave your women,’” he said. “Shia Muslims, meanwhile, are referred to by Daesh as, quote, ‘disbelievers and apostates,’ and subjected to frequent and vicious attacks.”

Matthew Rosenberg
New York Times

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