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Is President Obama Getting Ready to Say Genocide? (Opinion)

Updated: Jul 15, 2021

By Taniel Koushakjian (@Taniel_Shant)

November 13, 2015

No, I’m not talking about the 1915 Armenian Genocide. I’m talking about the genocide taking place today against Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East by the Islamic State, Al-Nusra, and their affiliates.

Yesterday, Yahoo News’ Michael Isikoff reported that President Obama is preparing to label the Islamic State’s attacks on the Yezidi population of Iraq as genocide. The move appears to be a calculated effort by the White House to “ratchet up international pressure against the terror organization.” According to Yahoo News, “The action, which sources say could be announced by Secretary of State John Kerry in the next few weeks, has been pushed by top officials at the human rights and religious freedom offices at the State Department.”

Indeed, the very same day the Yahoo News story broke, the United States Holocaust Museum and Memorial (USHMM) released a report entitled “The Horror in Northern Iraq,” which investigates the fate of Iraq’s Yezidi community following the IS assault on Mount Sinjar in 2014.

“Based upon the public record and private eyewitness accounts, we believe the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS) perpetrated crimes against humanity (right), war crimes, and ethnic cleansing against Christian, Yezidi, Turkmen, Shabak, Sabaean-Mandaean, and Kaka’i people in Ninewa province between June and August 2014,” the USHMM report states.

It further concludes that “Our findings also suggest there is sufficient reason to assert that in addition to committing crimes against humanity and war crimes, IS perpetrated genocide against the Yezidi population living in Ninewa in August 2014. The determination of genocide against the Yezidi population is based on a preponderance of the evidence, and does not reflect the standard necessary for individual criminal responsibility.”

It appears that President Obama has been gearing up for this announcement for some time.

On November 4, the House Foreign Affairs Committee held a hearing on “U.S. Policy After Russia’s Escalation in Syria,” which included testimony from Anne Patterson, Assistant Secretary of State, Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs. Congressman Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE), Co-Chair of the House Religious Minorities in the Middle East Caucus, and co-author of H. Con. Res. 75, a bill that would label as genocide IS actions against the Yezidi and other religious minorities, was invited to participate (he no longer sits on the committee).

“One of the more dramatic parts of this crisis that seems to come and go in regards to our attention is this deliberate, systematic attack on Christians and other faith traditions including Yezidis and other religious minorities. Is this genocide?” Fortenberry asked.

“I think there will be some announcements on that very shortly,” Patterson replied.

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