Here's the executive summary of the newly released report by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, which expresses grave concern over the future of Iraq's religious minorities:
In view of the ongoing severe abuses of religious freedom and based on the Iraqi government's toleration of these abuses as described in this report, particularly abuses against all of Iraq's most vulnerable and smallest religious minorities, the Commission recommends that Iraq should be designated a "country of particular concern" (CPC) under the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA).
Although there has been a substantial reduction in violence in Iraq since the Commission reported last in May 2007, there has been continued targeted violence, as well as threats and intimidation against persons belonging to religious minorities, and other egregious religiously-motivated abuses are continuing and widespread. The lack of effective government action to protect these communities from abuses has established Iraq among the most dangerous places on earth for religious minorities. While there has been some reconciliation between Shi'a and Sunni Iraqis, there are still concerns regarding attacks and tense relations between these groups. Moreover, the situation is particularly dire for Iraq's smallest religious minorities, including ChaldoAssyrian Christians, other Christians, Sabean Mandaeans, and Yazidis. These groups do not have militia or tribal structures to protect them and do not receive adequate official protection. Their members continue to experience targeted violence and to flee to other areas within Iraq or other countries, where the aforementioned minorities represent a disproportionately high percentage among Iraqi refugees. These communities report that their numbers in Iraq have substantially diminished, and that their members who have left the country have not to date showed signs of returning in significant numbers. Legally, politically, and economically marginalized, these small minorities are caught in the middle of a struggle between the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the central Iraqi government for control of northern areas where their communities are concentrated. The combined effect of all of this has been to endanger these ancient communities' very existence in Iraq. The Commission unanimously recommends that the U.S. government should take a number of specific steps described on pages 32 - 39 of this report, that are designed to ensure:
- safe and fair provincial elections,
- security and safety for all Iraqis,
- the prevention of abuses against religious minorities is a high priority,
- the KRG upholds minority rights,
- U.S. financial assistance is refocused,
- religious extremism is countered and respect for human rights is promoted, and
- the situation of internally displaced persons and refugees is effectively addressed.