Diaspora Iraqi Americans’ Advocacy Shapes a Fruitful Response
August 20, 2014
Prepared by Joseph T. Kassab
From August 13th to August 14th, a delegation of Iraqi Christian leaders from all over the United States, led by Bishop Sarhad Jammo and Bishop Francis and joined by members of Team “Save Christians of Iraq” (Auday Arabo, Joseph Kassab, Sam Yono, Mark Arabo, and Rabbi Avraham Berkowitz), traveled to the United Nations in New York to speak with UN officials and the international community on the plight of the minorities threatened by the ISIL extremists. The group spoke about providing quick humanitarian relief for the internally-displaced people (IDPs), immediate international protection, and suggested durable solutions, including repatriation/integration (if possible), and/or resettlement. Reparation (compensation) for annexed and looted property is another option that will be pursued.
The delegation met with the Deputy Secretary-General (DSG), as well as ambassadors and representatives of other UN Member States such as Australia, Austria, Belgium, Germany, Iraq, Netherlands, Turkey, and the United States, Denmark, Canada, and Sweden. The team pressed on the officials to declare the attacks against minorities “crimes against humanity.”
Immediately after the delegation’s meeting with the DSG Jan Eliasson, the UN released a statement recognizing the plight of the religious minorities of Iraq under ISIL, and also declared that Iraq was a “level 3 emergency”, the highest humanitarian priority for the UN and its partner agencies. The Secretary General himself also reiterated his concern over the persecution of religious minorities, including the Yezidis and the Christians, and restated that attacks on civilians based on their religious belief, faith, or ethnicity may constitute a crime against humanity.
The Delegation also met with various UN departments, such as the Department of Political Affairs, the Special Advisor on the Prevention of Genocide, and UNHCR.
The day after, the UN Security Council unanimously passed Resolution 2170, while the delegation was still present at the UN. The resolution simultaneously condemned “gross, widespread abuse of human rights by extremist groups in Iraq, Syria”, while also demanding that Member States sanction funding and shipment of arms from their citizens to ISIL. (See link A below)
The following is a summary of the UN Noon Briefing that was released immediately after the team’s meeting with the DSG. (See link B below)
SECRETARY-GENERAL CONTINUES TO EXPRESS DEEP CONCERN ABOUT PERSECUTION OF MINORITIES IN IRAQ
- The Secretary-General has repeatedly expressed his deep concern about the persecution of Yezidis, Christians and other religious minorities by the so-called Islamic State forces in Iraq.
- The Secretary-General has reiterated that any attack on the civilian population or segments of the civilian population because of their ethnic background, religious beliefs or faith may constitute a crime against humanity and those responsible must be held accountable.
- The Deputy Secretary-General today met with Bishop Sarhad Jammo and Bishop Francis of Iraq’s Chaldean American Community, leading a delegation of Iraqi Christian representatives and community leaders from throughout the United States.
- The Deputy Secretary-General recognized the serious plight of religious minorities in Iraq at the hands of so-called Islamic State forces. He expressed his deep compassion for the victims and affected communities.
- He assured the delegation that the United Nations is now taking urgent humanitarian action. He also underlined the need for global solidarity and support to address the needs of these afflicted communities.
- Council members have urged the Prime Minister-designate, Haider al-Abadi, to work swiftly to form an inclusive Government. They have also urged all political parties and their supporters to remain calm and respect the political process.
In addition to the work at the UN, on August 7th, some members of the team (Joseph Kassab, Sam Yono, and Dr. Labeed Nouri) met with Susan Rice, the National Security Advisor to the White House, in Washington DC, as they made inquiries to urge the US Administration to take action against the ISIS atrocities against minorities in Iraq.
ONGOING EFFORTS AND OUTREACH:
We will continue to engage with the UN System liaising and informing relevant departments and entities as appropriate. We also continue outreach and engagement with UN Member States on enhancing humanitarian and diplomatic strategies, as well as continuing our efforts with the US Administration, US Congress, the European Union, the Government of Iraq and the Regional Government of Kurdistan.
We are grateful to Afaf Konja and Avraham Berkowitz at the UN, and Dr. Jim Zogby in DC, for their great support and meeting arrangements.