(CNSNews.com) - Secretary of State John Kerry declared this morning that in his view the Islamic State--which he called DAESH--is committing genocide against Yazidis, Christians and Shia Muslims.
Language included in the omnibus spending bill passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama in December required Kerry to declare by today whether the Islamic State was committing genocide against Christians, Yazidis and other religious minorities in the areas it controls.
On Monday, the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed their own resolution declaring that the Islamic State was in fact committing genocide.
The Knights of Columbus and In Defense of Christians had sent a petition to Kerry asking him to make the declaration and presenting him with a report laying out the evidence that the Islamic State was committing genocide.
“My purpose in appearing before you today is to assert that in my judgement DAESH is responsible for genocide against groups in areas under its control, including Yazidis, Christians and Shia Muslims," said Kerry. "DAESH is genocidal by self-proclamation, by ideology, and in what it says and what it believes and what it does.
"DAESH is also responsible for crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing directed against these same groups and in some cases also against Sunni Muslims, Kurds and other minorities,” he said.
Later in his statement, Kerry outlined the adminstration's strategy for stopping DAESH's genocide and allowing the groups it target to live in their ancestral lands.
"We are preparing for future efforts to liberate occupied territory with an eye to the protection of minority communities," said Kerry. "In particular the liberation Mosul, of Nineveh Province in Iraq and parts of Syria that are currently occupied by DAESH and that will decide if there is still a future for minority communities in this part of the Middle East.
"For those communities the stakes in this campaign are utterly existential," Kerry said. "This is the fight that DAESH has defined. DAESH has created this. DAESH has targeted their victims. DAESH has self-defined itself as genocidal.
"So we must bear in mind, after all, that the best response to genocide is the reassertion of the fundamental right to survive of every group targeted for destruction," he said.
"What DAESH wants to erase, we must preserve," Kerry said. "That requires defeating DAESH, but it also demands the rejection of bigotry and discrimination—those things that facilitated its rise in the first place.
"This means that as more areas are liberated residents will need help not only to repair infrastructure, but also to insure that minorities can return in safety, that they are integrated into local security forces, and that they receive equal protection under the law," he said. "Our goal after all is not just to defeat DAESH only to find that in a few years some new terrorist group with a different acronym has taken its place. Our purpose it to marginalize and defeat violent extremists once and for all.
"Now, that is not easy. We know that," Kerry said. "As President Obama and I have consistently said, it won’t happen overnight. But today I say to all our fellow citizens and to the international community: We must recognize what DAESH is doing to its victims. We must hold the perpetrators accountable. And we must find the resources to help those harmed by these atrocities be able to survive on their ancestral land.
“Naming these crimes is important, but what is essential is to stop them,” he said.
After Kerry made his statement Knights of Columbus CEO Carl Anderson and the Simon Weisentahl Center made statements applauding the move.
“Today's announcement by Secretary of State John Kerry is correct and truly historic,” said Anderson.
“For one of the few times in our history, the United States has designated an ongoing situation as genocide, and the State Department is to be commended for having the courage to say so,” Anderson said. “By joining its voice to that of the House of Representatives, the American people, and the international community, the United States today makes clear to ISIS that its attempt to stamp out religious minorities must cease. The United States and the world are united on this, and simply will not look the other way.”
“The Simon Wiesenthal Center applauds Secretary Kerry's acknowledgement that Christians and Yazidis are targets of Genocide," said a statement from the center. "We reiterate our call that the U.S put these two groups at the front of the line for consideration for immigration to our country and to redouble our efforts to destroy ISIS.”