By Camilla Shearman, Blog Writer

The following is an excerpt from STAND Canada’s Roundtable Discussion on Iraq and Syria held on September 10th, 2015. Contributing to the conversation were STAND Canada’s Policy Co-Director Priya Ramesh and UBC Chapter Vice President Julian D’Souza, moderated by Chapter Co-Director Adi Burton. A link to the full discussion can be found at the bottom of this excerpt.

Adi Burton – Are there any warning signs that genocide may still be taking place or is about to take place in ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant/Syria)-controlled territory, and what exactly are observers looking for?

Priya Ramesh – I think that this is one of the harder questions just because I think people’s definition of genocide varies. […] The way STAND has looked at it is that we tend to look at genocide historically and we also look at the stages in which genocide can emerge. When you look at Iraq and Syria, two countries which are submerged in strife, with a common enemy which has publicly stated its purpose and action plan, we have to evaluate the kind of message that ISIS is putting forth in this region and also the ways in which they have been carrying out their ideology. So, it is evident that in both Iraq and Syria ISIS has followed through with some key stages of genocide: from classification to discrimination and then persecution and extermination – and these are different stages[…] Specifically in Iraq, I would say it would be against the minority Yazidi population. The group proceeded with killings, with torture, rape, sexual slavery, and even the use of child soldiers. They essentially tried to eradicate the Yazidi people from Iraq, and so since ISIS has spread and really gained footing in Iraq, over 5,000 Yazidis have been killed, 7,000 Yazidi women have been abducted, and so as you can see, it has been a brutal campaign against a specific minority group. Now it has led to the mass exile of Yazidis to areas outside of Iraq like the Sinjah Mountains, so I would say that it’s pretty clear that the way they’ve acted in the region shows clear signs of genocide, and their ideology,  which has fueled these acts, has not suddenly ended. ISIS is an entity whose agenda is based around ethnic cleansing, religious cleansing. Their targets are Shia Muslims, Christians and other minorities. With each mile or territory that ISIS gains in Iraq or Syria, the persecution of these religious enemies I think, will only increase.

Julian D’Souza – […]When I was doing some research for this question, it was hard to find clear-cut instances currently where there was a threat of genocide that had been observed. I think a lot of the genocide that has happened in the past few years has occurred when ISIS has made rapid land gains to the point that people can’t flee fast enough. I think that’s what happened with the Yazidis. I think in the future, if they make any other land gains, despite the air coalition’s presence, say if they took Baghdad or something like that, and they took a region that had a significant Christian, Shia or some other minority presence, then there would definitely be a significant threat of genocide there. But I think currently in ISIS controlled territory, it might be less accurately classified as genocide – maybe other war crimes might be more fitting.

Watch the rest of our Iraq & Syria Roundtable discussion here.

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