Secretary Kerry Declares ISIS / Da’esh Attacks on Christians, Yezidis and Shiite Muslims Genocide

Statement follows Unanimous House Vote; Intense Pressure from Faith-based and Civic Groups, including ANCA

March 17, 2016

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry clearly and unequivocally characterized the ongoing ISIL / Da’esh attacks and killings of the Christians, Yezidis, and Shiite Muslims in the Middle East as genocide, with specific mention of the destruction of Armenian churches as part of the cultural destruction of these historic communities, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).

“Today’s genocide designation by our State Department represents a positive step – first and foremost in terms of bringing focus, clarity and urgency to the U.S. effort to stop the ongoing genocide in Syria and Iraq, but also, in a broader sense, elevating the American response to genocide from a political choice to a moral imperative,” said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. “We are working to ensure that today’s action will serve as a wake-up call – for both Congress and the White House – that we must, as Americans, finally reject Ankara’s gag-rule against open, honest official discourse concerning the Armenian Genocide.”

In a March 17th televised State Department press conference, Secretary Kerry explained “my purpose in appearing before you today is to assert that, in my judgment, Daesh is responsible for genocide against groups in areas under its control, including Yezidis, Christians, and Shia Muslims. Da’esh is genocidal by self-proclamation, by ideology, and by actions — in what it says, what it believes, and what it does.”

Secretary Kerry went on to note, “we know that in areas under its control, Da’esh has made a systematic effort to destroy the cultural heritage of ancient communities — destroying Armenian, Syrian Orthodox, and Roman Catholic churches; blowing up monasteries and the tombs of prophets; desecrating cemeteries; and in Palmyra, even beheading the 83-year-old scholar who had spent a lifetime preserving antiquities there.”

Noting that “we must hold the perpetrators accountable,” Secretary Kerry concluded his statement, calling for international unity to stop Da’esh and its destruction.

Secretary Kerry’s statement came just days after the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously condemned as genocide the ongoing ISIL/Da’esh crimes against Christians – including Armenians and Assyrians – as well as Yezidis and other religious minorities in the Middle East by adopting H.Con.Res.75 with a vote of 393-0.

H.Con.Res.75 was spearheaded by the Co-Chairs of the House Caucus for Religious Minorities in the Middle East, Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) and Anna Eshoo (D-CA) – both of whom offered powerful remarks following passage of the measure. Rep. Eshoo made specific reference to her Armenian and Assyrian ancestry, noting the importance of House reaffirmation of the Armenian Genocide.

Both Representatives Fortenberry and Eshoo welcomed Secretary Kerry’s statement.

“I commend Secretary Kerry and the State Department for making this important designation,” said Rep. Fortenberry. “The genocide against Christians, Yezidis and others is not only a grave injustice to theses ancient faith communities — it is an assault on human dignity and an attack on civilization itself. The United States has now spoken with clarity and moral authority.”

Rep. Eshoo noted, “Today, the United States has taken decisive and historic action by asserting that the persecution of Christians, Yezidis, and Shiite Muslims by ISIS is genocide. This determination will elevate the incredible suffering of so many in Iraq and Syria and unite the entire international community to end this genocide, a crime which strikes people, cultures, societies and civilization itself.”

The Administration had been under increasing pressure from U.S. religious leaders, human rights and civic groups — led by In Defense of Christians (IDC), the Knights of Columbus, the International Religious Freedom Roundtable and supported by the Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church, the ANCA and over 100 organizations — to properly characterize the attacks against Christians in Syria and Iraq ‘genocide.’

Earlier this week, Armenian Americans stressed the importance of the genocide designation with Congressional offices during the ANCA fly-in advocacy days on Capitol Hill, as part of a broader call for justice, which includes support and passage for the Armenian Genocide Truth and Justice Resolution (H.Res.154). On April 24, 2016, President Obama will have an opportunity to clearly and unequivocally condemn the Armenian Genocide – as he pledged to do in 2008 – in his annual presidential statement commemorating that crime.


For Immediate Release
Media Contact: Elizabeth S. Chouldjian
Email / Tel: (202) 775-1918
Armenian National Committee of America
1711 N Street NW Washington, DC 20036 | | @anca_dc
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