Religious Freedom Commission Praises Resolution Focusing on Iraq

A recent U.S. Senate resolution calling for an evaluation on the situation of religious minorities in Iraq has received praise from the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).

Senate Resolution 322, which passed on August 5 and follows a companion House resolution (H. Res. 944), calls on Iraqi authorities to investigate and issue a report on human rights abuses made against religious minorities in the country and to make recommendations based on the report.

The resolutions further call on the U.S. government and the United Nations to push Iraq to amend its constitution to include protections for religious minorities.

The USCIRF said that the resolutions reflect many of the recommendations they have made to the U.S. government and is "critically timed" ahead of U.S. military withdrawal in Iraq.

"USCIRF applauds this resolution for shining a spotlight on the dire issues facing Iraq's smallest religious minorities, issues about which USCIRF for many years has expressed concern," said Leonard Leo, USCIRF Chair. "Their future is far from secure and there is much that needs to be done."

Iraq has been on the USCIRF's list of "countries of particular concern" – the most severe rating in a three tier classification system – for the past three years.

The country has been labeled for its inability to protect religious minorities -including Christians, Sabean Mandaeans, Yazidis, Baha'is, Kaka'is, Jews, and Shi'a Shabak- from harm and the fact that perpetrators of attacks are rarely identified or punished.

"The religious freedom situation in Iraq remains grave, particularly for the country's smallest, most vulnerable religious minorities," the USCIRF said in its 2010 report. "The violence, forced displacement, discrimination, marginalization, and neglect suffered by members of these groups threaten these ancient communities' very existence in Iraq."

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