U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., weighed in on Thursday after the State Department determined that ISIS has been committing genocide against religious minorities in the Middle East:
I am heartened by the Obama’s administration’s genocide determination — a determination which has been a long time in the making — regarding the atrocities committed by ISIS against religious minorities, specifically Christians and Yezidis, in Iraq and Syria. That it took so long for the administration to arrive at this conclusion, in the face of unspeakable human suffering, defies explanation.
ISIS has been engaged in a systematic effort to destroy ancient faith communities, including Christians and Yezidis, in Iraq and Syria.
Yezidi men have been slaughtered, while women and children have been taken captive and subjected to unspeakable sexual violence. Already, mass graves, believed to be filled with Yezidi victims, have been unearthed. The Yezidis are hardly alone in their suffering, as Christians have also been targeted by ISIS. We will never forget the haunting image of the red letter “N" for “Nazarene” smattered across the homes and businesses of the Christians in the Nineveh Plain.
Clergy have been kidnapped and assassinated; entire villages have been taken hostage; men have been executed for refusing to convert; ancient houses of worship have been decimated or repurposed into places of torture or weapons storage facilities; children have been ripped from their parents’ arms; and women have been raped. The human toll is vast, and so is ISIS’ historical and cultural assault on the people of these lands. ISIS has engaged in a systematic and thorough campaign intended to annihilate any vestige of Christian presence from the lands they now occupy.
Determinations of genocide should be reserved for only the most grievous crimes against a people, and this is without question such a time. At long last the United States is no longer silent in the face of this evil, but it would be travesty if we were to mistakenly take solace in this designation, if the designation did not then yield some sort of action.
It is time for U.S. assistance to be better targeted to help these persecuted communities and to ensure that they are not lost in the human chaos left in the wake of Syria’s devastation and Iraq’s instability. We also need to redouble our efforts to end Assad’s brutal assault on the Syrian people of all religious backgrounds and sects.
Only once Bashar al-Assad has been removed will we be able to make real progress in eliminating the scourge that is ISIS and ensuring that the sort of genocidal policies the administration finally recognized today are a thing of the past.
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., was elected to the Senate in 2010 and sits on the Foreign Affairs Committee.