U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom repeats call for self-governance and representational security for Syriacs and Yazidis in Nineveh Plains

WASHINGTON – The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) yesterday repeated its appeal and recommendations to the U.S. government to empower Iraqi religious and ethnic minorities in attaining self-governance and representational security in the Nineveh Plains region of norther Iraq.

In an interview with non-profit organization In Defence of Christians, which advocates protection and preservation of Middle East Christian communities, USCIRF Vice Chair Nadine Maenza repeated the USCIRF’s earlier recommendations that the U.S. government support and empower Yazidis and Chaldeans-Syriacs-Assyrians in their existential struggle for self-governance and representational security in Nineveh Plains and across the border in North and East Syria.

In its February 2020 policy update on religious freedom in Iraq, USCIRF recommended  U.S. policy toward Iraq shift in the coming months to assist:

“in the empowerment of Iraqi religious and ethnic minorities, through their political and civic representatives as well as religious leaders, to initiate and advocate for their own interests, including opening a broad discussion into governance and a representational security framework for the Nineveh Plains area.”

USCIRF noted significant and persisting challenges throughout 2019 to religious freedom in Iraq:

“Religious minorities in the Nineveh Plains and Sinjar (Shingal) continue to face serious barriers to their safe return in the short term and their secure, ongoing presence in the long term.”

The USCIRF report highlights the fragility of any improved stability in northern Iraq and the need for ongoing, intensive, and international support to allow for the full return of the tens-of-thousands of civilians from religious and ethnic minority communities who remain internally displaced.

Commissioner Maenza, who personally travelled to the areas in question on several occasions, emphasized to In Defence of Christians the fact that this might be one of the last opportunities to save Christianity in the Middle East. In the interview, Maenza referred to an Open Doors report which foresaw a dark future for the region’s Christian communities if nothing was done to assist them.

USCIRF is an independent government appointed body which gives non-binding advice and recommendations to the U.S. government on policies to advance international freedom of religion and belief. USCIRF Commissioners are appointed by the President of the United States.