WASHINGTON - A Christian activist group called on the Trump administration Thursday to grant Yazidis and Christians fleeing Islamic State-held territories special designation as victims of genocide and allow them to enter the United States.
“All of these Yazidis, all of these Christians, all of these Armenian people that are fleeing genocide should be given priority entry in the United States,” said Philippe Nassif, executive director of In Defense of Christians (IDC), a Washington-based nonprofit group.
“Not because we favor them more,” he said, “but because they are at risk of being wiped out completely.”
Nassif, his supporters and members of a broader anti-genocide coalition issued their call in person, descending on the U.S. Capitol to mark the first anniversary of the United States’ official recognition of acts of genocide by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria.
One year ago, then-Secretary of State John Kerry declared Islamic State ideologically, actively genocidal in its treatment of Yazidis, Christians and Shia Muslims. The statement came shortly after the House of Representatives voted 393-0, recognizing acts of genocide.
Yazidi children held in Syria
According to genocide survivors, official recognition and military operations against Islamic State are the first steps in a much longer process.
“About 1,000 Yazidi kids are still being held by ISIS,” Yazidi genocide survivor Nadia Murad told VOA’s Armenian service, using an acronym for the Islamic State, which is also known as IS, ISIL and Daesh.
“Most of them are in Syria, and they have been trained and brainwashed to commit suicide,” she added. “These kids will be used to blow themselves up in the future if they have not been saved.”
Representative Anna Eshoo, a California Democrat who supports the IDC’s work, stressed the importance of continuous efforts.
“We can’t take our foot off the pedal,” she said. “We have to stay on it because, listening to Nadia, it reminds us that we still have a great deal of work to do.”
'Safe zones' will help
And it's not only hosting refugees but also securing territories for them in Syria and Iraq. “Safe zones” proposed by President Donald Trump will help, said Representative Jeff Fortenberry, a Nebraska Republican.
“Once these areas are resecuritized, people can potentially return home and potentially have expanded rights and their own governments,” he said.
U.S. lawmakers stressed that American responses to atrocities, and efforts to stop them, are what history will record.
The IDC on Thursday issued an open letter to Trump urging him to ensure the survival of vulnerable ethnic communities on the ground in Iraq and Syria.
This report was produced in collaboration with VOA’s Armenian service.
Correction: An earlier version of this article said the event at the Capitol was held Friday. VOA regrets the error.