Rep. Granger Applauds Passage of Bill to Help Persecuted Religious Minorities in Iraq and Syria

Jun 7, 2017

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Congresswoman Kay Granger (R-Texas) welcomed House passage of legislation to assist religious minorities in Iraq and Syria that have been victims of genocide by Islamic State forces.

The Iraq and Syria Genocide Emergency Relief and Accountability Act of 2017 (H.R. 390) passed the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday evening by unanimous consent. The bipartisan legislation was authored by Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), and Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA).

“The horrific slaughter of men, women, and children that has occurred in Iraq and Syria because they refused to convert to Islam is a crime against humanity,” said Rep. Granger, who is a cosponsor of the legislation. “We must make every effort to protect the tens of thousands of Christians and other minorities who remain in the region. The legislation approved by my colleagues in the House last night will help religious charities and other humanitarian groups that are providing badly needed aid to survivors and help hold those responsible for these crimes to justice.”

The bill directs the U.S. State Department to provide assistance to entities taking specified criminal and judicial actions against individuals who suspected of committing genocide, crimes against humanity, or war crimes in Iraq since January 2014 and in Syria since March 2011.

This legislation would help Christians, Yazidis, and other religious and ethnic minorities targeted by Islamic extremists. In 2000, there were nearly 1.5 million Christians living in Iraq. Today there are fewer than 250,000. Those who remain face constant persecution.

Among the provisions, the bill would direct the administration to:

  • Support entities that are effectively serving genocide survivors in-country, including faith-based entities;
  • Support entities that are conducting criminal investigations into perpetrators of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in Iraq and Syria;
  • Create a designation that Christians and other genocide survivors from religious and ethnic minority communities are of “special humanitarian concern to the United States” and therefore able to access an overseas application interview for the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program without needing a referral from the UN;
  • Vet refugee applicants like any other Iraqi or Syrian refugee applicant and not admit them to the U.S. unless they have cleared this vetting;
  • Assess and address the humanitarian vulnerabilities, needs, and triggers that might force survivors to flee their homes;
  • Identify warning signs of deadly violence and other forms of persecution against genocide survivors from vulnerable religious and ethnic minority communities, or against other members of these communities, in Iraq or Syria.

The legislation, which has the support of the Family Research Council, Aid to Church in Need USA, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, In Defense of Christians, International Christian Concern, Iraqi Christian Human Rights Council, and U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, now heads to the Senate. 

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For further information, please contact Robert Dillon at (202) 285 6783 or visit our website at kaygranger.house.gov.