For Immediate Release: March 17, 2016
Contact: Paul Fidalgo, Communications Director
firstname.lastname@example.org - (207) 358-9785
The Center for Inquiry (CFI) applauded the decision today by Secretary of State John Kerry to declare that the Islamic State is committing genocide against Yazidis, Christians, and Shiites in Iraq and Syria. Last month, the Center for Inquiry joined joined 37 organizations and more than 70 religious leaders and human rights advocates in urging President Obama to declare the Islamic State’s systematic destruction of ancient religious minority communities in Iraq and Syria to be genocide — the sole secular humanist organization to do so.
Sec. Kerry’s decision meets a deadline set out by Congress in the omnibus bill it approved in December, which called on the Secretary of State to announce by March 17, 2016, whether ongoing attacks on religious minorities in the Middle East constituted mass atrocities or genocide.
CFI, which holds special consultative status at the United Nations, works to advance science, secularism, and free expression, as well as the right of all people to believe in the faith of their choosing, including the choice to hold no religious faith at all.
“The rights to freedom of religion, belief, and expression are fundamental and universal, and must be protected for all individuals and groups — especially those facing threats or violence,” said CFI’s public policy director and representative to the United Nations, Michael De Dora, who is currently attending the UN Human Rights Council session in Geneva, Switzerland.
“Through persecution, enslavement, and outright extermination, the Islamic State is clearly engaged in the systematic destruction of ancient religious minority communities in Iraq and Syria — including Christians, Yazidis, Shia Muslims, Shia Turkmen, and Shabak. There is no doubt these crimes amount to genocide as defined by the United Nations.
“The international community must put aside theological differences and come together to strongly engage in efforts to defeat the Islamic State, and aid their victims. We applaud Secretary Kerry for doing the right thing, and hope his decision prompts greater collaboration and sincere endeavors to end the Islamic State’s genocide against religious minorities.”
In September, CFI signed a similar letter to President Obama and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, calling on them to declare the Islamic State’s crimes as genocide; and, in November, signed a letter to members of Congress in support of H. Con. Res. 75, which declares that “the atrocities committed against Christians and other ethnic and religious minorities targeted specifically for religious reasons are crimes against humanity and genocide.” Congress approved H. Con Res. 75 earlier this week, 393-0.