State Dept.: Murdering, enslaving for religion most ‘egregious form of discrimination’

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( – Deputy Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said Wednesday while announcing the release of the latest international religious freedom report that “there is no more egregious form of discrimination” than targeting members of another religion with the intention of “murdering or enslaving” them.

“It used to be that our annual reports focused almost exclusively on the actions of states, but we’ve also seen certain non-state actors, including terrorist organizations like Daesh, al Qaeda, al Shabab, Boko Haram posing a major threat to religious freedom. There is after all no more egregious form of discrimination than separating out the followers of one religion from another whether in a village, on a bus, in a classroom, with the intent of murdering or enslaving the members of a particular group,” he said.

Blinken released the results Wednesday of the 2015 International Religious Freedom Report, which illustrates “a continuing trend of some governments enforcing strict laws against blasphemy, apostasy, and conversion from the majority religion, or restricting religious liberty under the guise of combatting violent extremism.”

“Many non-state actors, including terrorists, continued their assault on religious and ethnic minorities,” the State Department said on its website.

“This past March, Secretary Kerry made clear his judgment that Daesh is responsible for genocide against religious communities in areas under its control. Daesh kills Yazidis because they are Yazidis, Chrisitans because they are Christian, Shia Muslims because they are Shia,” Blinken said.

Daesh is the name that Arabic language acronym for the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL), also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

“Daesh is also responsible for crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing directed at these same groups and in some cases also against Sunni Muslims, Kurds, other minorities. They’ve not only killed, they’ve sought to erase the memory of those they’ve killed, destroying centuries-old religious cultural sites,” said Blinken.

“Naming these crimes is important, but our goal is to stop them. That’s why President Obama has mobilized a coalition of more than 65 partners all over the world to combat and ultimately defeat Daesh,” he said.

“Together, we’re systematically cutting off Daesh’s financing, destroying its sanctuaries, stemming the flow of foreign fighters, combatting its narrative on social media, liberating communities, allowing citizens to return home and gutting the twisted foundation on which Daesh’s global ambitions rest,” Blinken added.

Blinken said the U.S., and its coalition partners have “eliminated tens of thousands of fighters, hundreds of senior leaders.”

“We’ve destroyed thousands of pieces of equipment and weapons. We’ve deprived Daesh of 20 percent of the territory it once controlled in Syria and 50 percent in Iraq. Now, we know that the fight to defeat Daesh on the ground is far from over, but as the news closes around it, we’ve also seen Daesh try to adapt by encouraging indiscriminate attack in as many places as possible: a market in Baghdad, a nightclub in Orlando, a promenade in Nice, a café in Daqqa, a square in Istanbul,” Blinken said.

“One of the best ways to deny these murderers their victory is by ensuring that those they have sought to destroy not only survive but thrive. As the fight for the liberation of Mosul and the Anbar Province draws near, we must work to ensure a future in which all Iraqis – be they Sunni, Shia, Kurd, Christian, or other – feel represented and protected by the nation that they call home,” he said.

Blinken said the State Department convened over 30 delegations two weeks ago, challenging “the international community to do more to ensure ancient religious and ethnic communities can remain in their ancestral homelands, confident in their security and economic opportunity.”

— Written by Melanie Hunter