Holding a bloody shirt he carries with him to remember the Islamic State’s crimes against Iraqi Christians, Douglas Bazi described for a Washington audience Thursday how he’s suffered at ISIS’ hands: He was kidnapped, had his teeth bashed in with a hammer and watched as his church was bombed.
“There is not ‘life’ in Iraq,” Bazi said, noting his congregation has been targeted so often it is called the “church of the martyrs, or the church of the blood.”
Bazi joined Middle Eastern Christian leaders and human rights advocates from the Knights of Columbus on Thursday as the group, along with In Defense of Christians (IDC), released a powerful and comprehensive report they say makes the case that the terror campaign against Christians and other minorities in Syria, Iraq and other parts of the Middle East can only be called one thing: genocide.
The report, along with the personal accounts conveyed at the National Press Club in Washington on Thursday, put even more pressure on the Obama administration to officially label the atrocities as genocide.
The State Department and White House so far have not done so, but are facing a congressionally mandated March 17 deadline to make a decision.
“We are forgotten, and we are alone,” Bazi, a former ISIS hostage and now a priest at an Irbil refugee camp, lamented.
Bazi was joined by Irbil-based Dankha Joola, who pointed out that of the 2 million Christians who lived in Iraq before the war, fewer than 300,000 reside there today — many victims of killings and kidnappings, others forced to leave their homes by radicals, Al Qaeda, and now ISIS.
Carl Anderson, head of the Knights of Columbus, which produced the 278-page document with IDC, hopes this report will help advance their cause.
“The evidence contained in this report as well as the evidence relied upon by the European Parliament fully support — I would suggest compel — the conclusion that reasonable grounds exist to believe the crime of genocide has been committed,” Anderson said.
The report lists 1,131 Iraqi Christians killed between 2003 and June 9, 2014, including where they were killed and when. It also incorporates 24 pages of witness statements collected between February and March of this year, and nearly 200 documented attacks — including destruction of property, sexual assaults, enslavement, torture, imprisonment and killing — in Iraq, Syria and North Africa. Also included is a documenting of attacks on 125 Iraqi churches from 2003 to 2014.
The report also features a legal brief arguing that the crimes committed rise to the level of the Genocide Convention Implementation Act of 1987, and the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
The European Parliament in February already declared that genocide is taking place in the Middle East against Christians, Yazidis and other ethnic and religious minorities at the hands of the Islamic State.
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SOURCE: Fox News, Kelley Beaucar Vlahos