U.S. Holocaust Museum Report: Islamic State Targeting of Yezidis is ‘Genocide’

By Lauretta Brown | November 12, 2015 | 3:28pm EST

Cover of new report issued by the U.S. 

Holocaust Memorial Museum. 

(CNSNews.com) – A new report released by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum finds that the Islamic State terror group “has been and is perpetrating genocide” against the Yezidi religious minority in Northern Iraq.

The report, “Our Generation Is Gone: The Islamic State's Targeting of Iraqi Minorities in Ninewa,”  also finds that the terror group “perpetrated crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing, and war crimes against Christian, Yezidi, Turkmen, Shabak, Sabaean-Mandaen, and Kaka’I in Ninewa province from June-August 2014.”

The report, released on Wednesday, was primarily written by Naomi Kikoler, deputy director of the museum’s Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide. Kikoler traveled to northern Iraq in September 2015, where she spoke with dozens of members of Iraq’s ethnic and religious minorities who were displaced during the summer of 2014 as the Islamic State seized their cities and towns.

“Today is in many ways a sad and solemn day -- thankfully genocide and the commission of mass atrocities and crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing is rare. This is not something that we want to have to say on many occasions,” Kikoler said of the report’s findings at a press conference on Thursday.

“In the summer of 2014, the self-proclaimed Islamic State carried out a violent campaign against civilians in Ninewa province in northern Iraq, home to many of Iraq’s ethnic and religious minorities,” the report says, “they forced more than 800,000 people from their homes and deliberately destroyed shrines, temples, and churches.”

“They also kidnapped thousands and killed hundreds, likely thousands, of people,” states the report. “In less than three months, IS decimated millennia-old communities and irrevocably tore the social fabric of the once-diverse region. Now almost no members of the minority groups IS attacked live in Ninewa province.”

Young displaced Iraqis wait for food

distribution at a camp on the outskirts of Erbil. 

(Photo: Mackenzie Knowles-Coursin for the

US Holocaust Memorial Museum)

"Men, women, and children who were kidnapped and are still being held by Islamic State continue to be the victims of atrocity crimes,” reads the report.  “Their release must be a priority.”

Kikoler emphasized that “this is a moment where we need to ensure that the voices of those who’ve experienced these crimes are heard, that this report helps to compel action to assist those at risk and those who remain in need to also ensure that the American public and the world public understands what happened to the people in Northern Iraq.”

Kikoler shared the stories of several survivors of the onslaught of the Islamic State in Iraq, including Elias, a survivor of the August 2014 massacre of Yazidis in the Iraq village of Kojo.

 “He shared with me that he did not know where his sons were save for one, he did not know where his mother was, he did not know where his wife was, he did not know where his sisters were,” Kikoler said, “They were all missing, they’ve all either been killed or kidnapped by the Islamic State.”

Kikoler said that listening to Elias’s story, “I thought of my own family’s experiences and I thought of seventy years ago when my grandfather lost his entire family in the Holocaust.”        

Margit Meissner, an Austrian Holocaust survivor in her nineties and long-time Museum volunteer, shared her thoughts on the targeting of minorities in Iraq.

“I am appalled to hear that in 2014 genocide was perpetrated against the Yezidi people in Iraq and that Christians and other minority communities were the victims of ethnic and religious cleansing,” Meissner said, “Over seventy years ago the world vowed never again, yet today the world is again faced with a group, the self-proclaimed Islamic State, that is intent on destroying people based on their religion or their ethnicity.”

(Photo: US Holocaust Memorial Museum)

“I am proud that the museum is speaking out on behalf of Iraqi minorities. In doing so we are doing what was not done on behalf of the Jews during the Holocaust, serving as a voice, calling for action, urging us all to transcend politics and to nurture compassion,” Meissner concluded.   

 “As this report vividly documents there is an alignment between the mass atrocities and the acts of terrorism committed by those who are adherents to the radical ideology of the Islamic State,” Michael Chertoff, former Homeland Security Secretary and chairman of the Museum’s Committee on Conscience said at the press conference.

“Last August, a U.S. military operation to protect Yezidi civilians targeted by the Islamic State reminded us that preventing genocide and mass atrocities is a core security interest for the United States Government,” Chertoff emphasized.

The release of the report coincides with a new, U.S.-coalition backed, Kurdish offensive, against the Islamic State in Sinjar, a town that fell to Islamic State militants in August 2014, causing thousands of Yezidis to flee to Mount Sinjar, where they became trapped.


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