Religious minorities under Islamic State eye prospects after ‘genocide’ declaration

Alienation among the younger generation from their homelands and dealing with trauma among survivors of kidnapping and sex trafficking are only two of the issues facing religious minorities in their struggle against the Islamic State (IS), according to activists and foreign affairs specialists speaking at a recent conference. The May conference at Fordham University in New York, attended by RW, sought to address the prospects for religious minorities in Iraq and Syria, particularly after the U.S. State Department recently declared the Islamic State as genocidal. The March declaration was the first political statement to include all the “stakeholders” in the conflict—Christians, Muslims, and Yazidis, a syncretistic and mystical religion. The speakers stressed the growing generation gap among these groups about their future in their homelands. Haider Elias, president of Yazda, an international Yazidi advocacy group, said that younger Yazidis “don’t want to go back [to Iraq and Syria]. Most want to go to Europe or the U.S., because they say this is not the first time and it won’t be the last [time that they have faced persecution]. It’s not just ISIS; they’ve lost trust in the government and the surrounding community.” The Yazidi population, already less than one million throughout the world, has declined sharply in their home countries of Iraq and Syria, and 20 percent of them are in refugee camps.