Christians claim having 12 seats stolen from them in the latest Iraqi parliamentary elections. What do you have to say to that, and what is your statement on the results of these elections; what is their impact on Christians in Iraq?
We have consistently warned Iraqi Christians of the dangers of working with or supporting parties backed by Iran. Iran has no interest in protecting religious minorities in the region and is instead focused solely on its own interests. IDC urges the Iraqi central government to reassess what it means to be a Christian party and ensure that real Christian legislators are allowed to participate in the democratic process in order to represent their peoples who are embattled and lacking any representation.
IDC and the Washington D.C. Scene
You've had many supporters echoe your demands in D.C., but have you also had to deal with any sort of road blocks?
There are dedicated Members of Congress, State Department Officials, and Policy Experts throughout D.C. that work incredibly hard every day to be a voice for religious minorities in the Middle East. Leaders like Senator Chris Coons and Senator Thom Tillis who co-chair the Senate Human Rights Caucus and are demanding we hold Turkey accountable for their actions, or Congressman Dave Trott and Brad Sherman who’ve relentlessly called on Egypt to stop the violence against Coptic Christians and end the second class treatment, and of course Ambassador Brownback and former Ambassador Saperstein who have both been so dedicated to protecting and advancing religious freedom. Of course we are constantly encouraging more members of Congress to take a stand with persecuted religious minorities in the Middle East.
Very few if any have disagreed with our mission to help minorities who suffer violence for their faith, but times there are disagreements about the best way to achieve this goal. This is of course what you would expect when working in an intensely complex region such as the Middle East, where ethnicity, religion, and political lines crisscross in a dizzying maze. One such example is Senator Rand Paul, who is currently blocking the Iraq and Syrian Genocide Relief Act, HR390. We are working closely with his office and a host of partners to find a solution so he will release this incredibly important piece of legislation before it is too late for Christian refugees in Iraq.
Syria's Law 10, Lebanon's 2 Mil refugees.
In your last week's press release, you mention that "Many host countries have been highly burdened by the Syrian refugees they host and cannot persist in supporting them. Lebanon, for instance, hosts the highest number of refugees per capita in the world, but it’s a small country that cannot even sustain the needs of its own citizens.” The Lebanese government has loudly voiced its concern over this crisis, and just this week the Syrian government answered back by claiming they want the return of their refugees to rebuild their country. Can you unpackage this for us?
Lebanon is hosting almost two million Syrian refugees, mostly Sunni, who have fled a combination of Syrian government forces, ISIS, or rebel groups. Due to Bashar Al Assad’s war crimes being committed against mostly Sunni population and the vast swaths of the country under the control of Russian, Iranian, or Hezbollah forces hostile to Syria’s Sunnis, the likelihood of the refugees returning is slim. Unfortunately, Lebanon and Jordan are suffering the consequences of Assad’s barbarity, and the indifference European powers and the United States has had in addressing the future of Syria without Assad over the past seven years. In addition, Law 10, recently passed in Syria, potentially takes the homes and private property of millions of Syrian refugees unless they return home to claim them. But if they return, they face arrest, detention, torture, or worse. In short, the Syrian regime does not want them back, but they have the absolute right to return so we need to work on a political settlement, or even some sort of general amnesty, to allow these people to return without fear of persecution.