Iraqi soldiers observe the evacuation of families from the recaptured town of Zangura, Iraq, March 9. CNS photo/Nawras Aamer, EPA

Protection for all

  • June 23, 2016

Give credit to the federal government for recently acknowledging that the systematic murder, rape and enslavement of the Yazidi people of Iraq and Syria constitutes genocide. But why stop there? 

Yazidis are just one of many religious minorities, including Christians, being targeted for extermination by ISIS jihadists. Canada should explicitly denounce the genocidal madness encircling all of them.

There is little if any difference between the wholesale massacre of Yazidis and the massacres of Christians, Shia Muslims and other religious and ethnic minorities. The mass killings have been well documented and often broadcast by ISIS radicals themselves. The killing squads boast of their evil intent to exterminate anyone who refuses to embrace their interpretation of Islam or to abandon homelands occupied, in some cases, since the days of the Apostles.

Ottawa finally acknowledged the Yazidi genocide on June 16, but only after release of a United Nations report that confirmed widespread accounts of methodical extermination. The report said Yazidis have been killed, tortured, raped, enslaved and subject to all types of degradation.

But the same sword has cut across communities of Chaldean, Assyrian, Syriac, Melkite and Armenian Christians. Yet just two days before recognizing the Yazidi cleansing as genocidal, the Liberal government refused to likewise condemn as genocide the broad religious cleansing in the region. If the barbarity against Yazidis is genocide, then the same is true for other religious minorities.

Foreign Minister Stephane Dion contends the difference is that the Yazidi horror has been documented by the United Nations. He concedes other massacres are occurring but slaughter alone is insufficient in his eyes to affix the genocide label. The government is reluctant to budge, he said, until there is a “credible” judicial process and investigation.

The official designation of genocide is significant because it creates, at minimum, a moral obligation to shield victim populations. Canada currently provides military training in the region, but has abandoned the coalition that defends these terrorized minorities from the air. 

A decade ago, there were about 2.5 million Christians living in Syria and Iraq. Now there might be 500,000. About two million people have fled or, in many thousands of cases, been killed. 

This orchestrated barbarism was referred to as genocide two years ago by Pope Francis. Since then the U.S. House of Representatives followed the British and European Parliaments in declaring that ISIS atrocities against all religious minorities constitute genocide. In all three legislative bodies, the vote was unanimous. To any informed observer, the organized destruction of these minority groups fits the moral understanding and legal definition of genocide. 

The Liberals made the right call in finally recognizing the Yazidi genocide but the government is wrong to tip-toe around a broader declaration in support of all persecuted people of the region.

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