The political climate in the U.S. lately has been defined by back-biting partisanship. However, if there is one thing politicians on both sides of the aisle can agree on, it’s that we need to help the Christians in Iraq and Syria facing genocide before there is no one left to help.
On June 6, 2017, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the bipartisan bill H.R. 390, also known as the Iraq and Syria Genocide Emergency Relief and Accountability Act of 2017. The house had no qualms passing it unanimously.
The bill, spearheaded by Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Anna Eshoo (D-CA), is focused on helping Christians, Yezidi, Armenian, and other religious and ethnic minorities in Iraq and Syria. The Armenian Assembly of America “strongly” supported the bill. “Armenians, having been targeted for annihilation in the twentieth century, are deeply troubled that 100 years later descendants of genocide survivors in Iraq and Syria are facing similar genocidal atrocities,” Assembly Executive Director Bryan Ardouny told Public Radio of Armenia.
H.R. 390 will direct the supply of emergency relief to survivors of genocide in Iraq and Syria as well as accountability for the perpetrators of genocide (namely, ISIS). Practically, the bill directs the Secretary of State, working with the Attorney General, Secretary of Homeland Security, Director of National Intelligence and Director of the FBI, to identify and prosecute individuals guilty of war crimes and genocide, as well as encourage foreign governments to do the same.
As far as aid to survivors is concerned, the bill authorizes the Secretary of State and Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development to provide assistance to NGOs and the like as they address the needs of the people facing genocide.
The bill acknowledged Secretary of State John Kerry’s declaration in 2016, when he called the atrocities committed by the Islamic State genocide. “Religious and ethnic minorities in Iraq and Syria are persecuted groups, and the Secretary of State of State declared on March 17, 2016, that Daesh, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), was responsible for genocide, crimes against humanity and other atrocity crimes against several of these groups, including Christians and Yezidis.”
Moving forward, the bill has been received by the Senate and awaits a vote. If passed in the Senate, it will move on to the White House, where it can be signed into law if President Trump approves. One thing is certain: The genocide in Iraq and Syria is so evident no one is questioning the need to do something about it.