WASHINGTON DC (Kurdistan24) – On Tuesday, US President Donald Trump signed into law the Iraq and Syria Genocide Relief and Accountability Act of 2018.
The new legislation aims at providing effective support to Christian and Yezidi (Ezidi) victims of Islamic State (IS) in Iraq and Syria, who faced genocide at the hands of the terrorist group, and with it, the real threat of the demise of their millennial-old communities in their ancestral homelands.
The law addresses their two most important concerns: 1) securing justice for the heinous acts IS committed; and 2) helping them rebuild their communities.
Indeed, Nadia Murad, a Ezidi woman who suffered as a sex slave at the hands of IS, overcame the horrific trauma and became an eloquent spokesperson for her community, as well as the first Iraqi ever to win a Nobel Peace Prize.
Murad received that prize earlier this week and in accepting it, lamented “nothing of what [IS] destroyed” in her homeland “has been rebuilt,” while “the perpetrators of the crimes” of this genocide “have not been brought to justice.”
Addressing such concerns, Trump said, as he signed it into law, “This bill continues my administration’s efforts to direct US assistance toward persecuted communities, through faith-based programs,” and it “also authorizes US government efforts” to help bring the “perpetrators of these heinous crimes to justice” and to do so “very swiftly.”
So, too, was the Chaldean Archbishop of Erbil, Bashar Warda, who has led efforts to care for over 100,000 Christians displaced by IS’ depravities. He stood at Trump’s side during the signing ceremony.
Murad Ismael, Executive Director of Yazda, an international Ezidi organization, stood on the President’s other side, and issued a statement, welcoming “President Trump’s direct support for [Ezidi] and Christian minorities” through funding “to restore the lives of hundreds of thousands of people.”
Nina Shea, a lawyer and scholar at the Hudson Institute, where she directs the Center for Religious Freedom, and who has long been a forceful advocate on the issue, was also present.
“We need this law,” Shea told Kurdistan 24. “It legislates the humanitarian aid policy of the Trump-Pence administration and cannot be reversed by a future administration.”
Shea explained the background to the passage of the legislation: bureaucracies which were “hostile” to the churches providing crucial assistance to these religious minorities.
“Four years passed before essential US aid reached the [IS] genocide survivors—the Christians and [Ezidis] of Iraq.” It was “shameful” and the result of a “perverse policy” that was changed only after Vice-President Pence intervened, Shea said.
The Kurdistan Region has been a haven for those persecuted by IS and even now, after some Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and refugees have begun to return home, the Kurdistan Region still hosts over 1.3 million people who fled IS.
“The Kurds have been particularly good about protecting people of minority faiths” and “supportive of basic religious freedom,” Amb Brownback earlier told Kurdistan 24.
Editing by Nadia Riva