Genocidal Attacks Against Christian and Other Religious Minorities in Syria and Iraq
Joint Subcommittee Hearing
Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa
September 10th 2014-Washington DC
Testimony by Pascale Warda
President of Hammurabi Human Rights Organization, Iraq Former Iraqi Minister of Migration and Displacement
I am writing to provide you an update on the ongoing crisis impacting Iraq's Christian and other minority communities. Our organization and others have been working diligently to assist the displaced communities. We are in daily contact with our religious and political leaders in Northern Iraq. They are providing updates on the displaced communities which are primarily in Erbil and Dohuk. Currently, more than 500 families are living in streets and parks and we have been working to find shelter for these families. The Detroit community has raised more than $800,000 and has sent much of that money to northern Iraq for immediate humanitarian aid, primarily to find shelter for those on the streets. The United Nations have stepped up their efforts and are providing food, water and basic necessities that are needed and our friends at the US State Department have provided us with contacts on the ground in Iraq that our people can call if they need immediate humanitarian aid.
Senator Carl Levin visited Erbil on September 3 and had the opportunity to meet with Assyrian/Chaldean and Yazidi religious leaders in which they provided a summary which is consistent to the recent statement issued by Patriarch Sako of what their immediate requests and needs are. They are primarily:
- The international community must immediately intervene to provide direct humanitarian aid to the displaced Christians and other minorities in the regions of Erbil and Dohuk.
- Christian and other minority villages in the Nineveh Plains must immediately be liberated and the community must have safe passage to return.
- The Christian and other minority villages in the Nineveh Plains must be protected by an international force under the supervision of the United Nations.
During the conversation, they also stressed the importance of a coalition to defeat ISIS, and that they are a threat not only to the minority communities but to all Iraqis and all of the people in the region and the United States. Furthermore, they asked the Senator specifically if there is a future for minorities in Iraq and if the minorities (specifically Christians and Yazidis) are a part of the overall plan for Iraq because they are feeling hopelessness. They specifically requested immediate support and if it is not going to come, as many meetings such as this have taken place with other dignitaries throughout the world, that they be allowed to leave with dignity so they are not just waiting around and hoping for the best while they continue to be eroded. I have attached a photo I want you to review which was sent to me by Bishop Nicodemus Matti, the Syriac Orthodox Bishop of Mosul. He took this photo while in Erbil last week as one of the government processing centers opened up for people requesting Visas/passports. As you can see, most people would like to leave based on the current horrific conditions they are living in.
This week, you are probably aware of the In Defense of Christians conference taking place. Many people throughout the world, including several of the Middle Eastern Patriarchs are in town trying to raise awareness of the plight of the Christians in the Middle East, specifically those in Iraq and Syria. Although they are a minority community, a Middle East without Christianity will become radicalized. As Christians leave the area, it will become much more turbulent. Although they are a minority, Christians are a disproportionate number to the population of educators, physicians, lawyers, engineers and entrepreneurs.
We are anxiously awaiting to hear what President Obama will say in his remarks tonight. We continue to appreciate all of the efforts you are providing our community and the guidance and direction you are providing our leaders. There are a few pending bills that have been brought up recently to try to increase the number of Visas to come to the United States specifically for the Christians of Iraq, as well as other minority communities that have been impacted by ISIS. The visas are for those displaced in Syria, Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon.
I would also like to add that Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, Brett McGurk tweeted the following remarks yesterday which we are in full support of, "Iraq's National Program, adopted last night, calls for formation of National Guards "from sons of each province" to secure local areas." We think the long lasting solution for minorities in the Middle East, specifically the Christians of Iraq, is for them to have their own safe haven that is protected initially by international forces and subsequently by their own members in which they can secure an area and be part of the greater Iraq but have some sort of self-governance.
Thank you for your time, I look forward to seeing you and speaking with you in the near future.