The report notes that "the
KRI remains far more welcoming and tolerant to minorities than its
regional neighbors" and expresses hope that special effort will be taken
to "preserve [the] freedoms and rights" of minorities.
Chair Thomas J. Reese, S.J. stated: "Since the Islamic State of Iraq and
Syria came to power in 2014, it has committed genocide and threatened
the very existence of the region's religious minority communities. These
communities, including Yezidis, Christians, Shabaks, and Turkmen, have
now fled to the KRI. We praise the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG)
for sheltering and protecting these oppressed groups and urge it to
continue to take steps to ensure that these communities realize their
rights and fully participate in society."
This optimism, however,
is tempered by research indicating that "troubling issues related to
discrimination and even violence targeting ethnic and religious
minorities exist, exacerbated by the KRI's strained resources and
security situations." The deteriorating political and economic condition
in the KRI and Iraq, combined with poorly enforced protections for the
KRG's internally-displaced persons (IDPs) communities in the KRI, could
put minorities increasingly at risk.
Based on interviews with
numerous relevant actors and detailed research, including trips to the
region, the authors also found that:
authorities are accused of attempting to "Kurdify" more ethnically
diverse parts of the disputed territories. In some instances, groups
have reported the destruction of properties and IDPs have been prevented
from returning home.
- The Yezidis face discrimination from authorities in Sinjar and report pressure to identify as Kurds.
- Christians have complained of land appropriation by Kurdish landowners and have been prevented from protesting such measures.
U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom is an independent,
bipartisan U.S. federal government commission, the first of its kind in
the world. USCIRF reviews the facts and circumstances of religious
freedom violations and makes policy recommendations to the President,
the Secretary of State, and Congress. USCIRF Commissioners are appointed
by the President and the Congressional leadership of both political