Genocide related to ISIS violence and funding gaps were the focus during the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations hearing on Dec. 9, 2015.
The subcommittee received testimony regarding why the plight faced by persecuted religious minorities, specifically Christians and Yezidis, in Syria and Iraq by ISIS should be defined as genocide by the U.S. State Department.
The U.S. has not formally declared the violence towards Christians and Yezidis as genocide. As a result Christians, Yezidis and other religious minorities have not been given priority when filing as refugees for resettlement with the U.S.
“The term genocide makes members of such groups more likely to receive the preferential treatment as bonafide refugees that they should receive under the U.N. Convention and protocols on the status of refugees,” Genocide Watch’s President Gregory H. Stanton said. “To which the U.S. is a state-party, and also under the refugee laws of the U.S.”
The inabilities to ensure humanitarian resources get to those in need as well as funding gaps in the 2015 Syria Regional Refugee & Resilience Plan were attributed to ISIS’s successful perpetration of violence against religious minorities in the region.
Yezidi Human Rights Organization-International Founder and Chairman Mirza Ismail testified that the humanitarian aid is necessary, but not sufficient.
“Much humanitarian aid distributed by the Kurdish Regional authorities and the Iraqi government never gets into the hands of those who need it, those for whom it was intended — due to skimming, corruption, and politics,” Ismail said.
Ismail stated that there are more than 40,000 impoverished Yezidi refugees suffering in Turkey and Syria, some of whom have been denied food, medicine and have been abused by the authorities in charge. Ismail also testified that there are Yezidi refugees who cannot get into U.N. refugee camps, and as a result are not certified as refugees.
Chairman Christopher Smith recalled testimony from Shelly Pitterman of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on Oct. 20, 2015 where the main trigger of flight from refugee camps or shelter was the humanitarian funding shortfall.
“In support of the Syrian Response Plan (SRP) and the Regional Refugee Resilience Plan (3RP) international donors pledged $3.68 billion,” Smith said. “However, according to the financial tracking service at the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Human Affairs only $1.17 billion of the $2.89 billion has been received by Dec. 7, 2015. That constitutes only about 41 percent of what was considered necessary by that agency.”
The most recent report from the UNHCR shows that the Syrian Response Plan has been funded $132 million or 43 percent, leaving a gap of $176 million from their requirement of $309 million; the Regional Refugee Resilience Plan has been funded $778 million or 58 percent, leaving a gap of $566 million from their requirement of $1.34 billion.
Stanton commended the members of congress that supported H.Con.Res 75, which recognizes the collective persecution of religious minorities as genocide. He also commended members of Congress that introduced House Resolution 447 (supporting the establishment of a Syrian war crimes tribunal to try ISIS, especially for its mass rape of women and girls) and Congressman Rohrabacher for introducing House Resolution 2014, which proposed that Christians and Yezidi’s should have priority when filing for refugee status with the U.S.
– Summer Jackson
Sources: Foreign Affairs, House.gov 1, House.gov 2, UNHCR