Saturday, December 23, 2006

THE PERSECUTION OF IRAQ'S RELIGIOUS MINORITIES has now (at last) been the subject of testimony to Congress:
Nina Shea Testifies Before Congress on Behalf of Iraq's Assyrians and Other Minorities
Posted GMT 12-22-2006 21:56:15

(AINA) -- The following testimony of Nina Shea, Director Center For Religious Freedom, was delivered on December 21 Before The US Congressional Committee On International Relations, Subcommittee On Africa, Global Human Rights, And International Operations.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee, for allowing me to testify today on behalf of the Center for Religious Freedom.

Chairman Chris Smith has been a dedicated and passionate leader on human rights for many years, and I wish to commend him for all the important hearings held under his chairmanship in this subcommittee. They have held governments around the world accountable, including our own, and given hope and relief to millions of the world's oppressed. This hearing today is no exception.

Egregious religious persecution occurs in North Korea, Saudi Arabia, China, Vietnam, Eritrea, Iran, Sudan and several other countries officially designated by the State Department as "Countries of Particular Concern," and is being addressed by the other witnesses today. There is an additional country where religious groups of various faiths face some of the bloodiest persecution in the world today, a country that is not listed among the CPC's. It is Iraq, and it is on this country, and particularly on the persecution faced by Iraq's smallest, most vulnerable minorities, that I will direct my testimony.

We should view Iraq's smallest religious minorities -- the Christians, Yizidis, Mandeans, Baha'is, Kaka'i and Jews -- as we once did Soviet Jews. The persecution these small minorities face stands out against even the horrific violence now wracking the rest of the population. This is demonstrated by the stark statistic that an estimated half of the members of the small minorities have been driven from their homes in the past two or three years, either to other parts of the country or abroad. Their very survival as communities within Iraq is now threatened by what amounts to ethnic, or rather cultural, cleansing. The State Department's Religious Freedom Reports accurately depicts a defenseless non-Muslim population that is being pounded by all other factions. Al Qaeda terrorists, Sunni insurgents, Shiite militias, Kurdish militants, and criminal gangs all persecute and prey on these small religious minorities.

Read it all.

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