Christian Genocide: Evidence for Its Designation and Saving Christianity in Iraq

Christian Genocide: Evidence for Its Designation and Saving Christianity in Iraq
(Andrew Doran, April 20, 2016)

Transcript available below

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About the speaker

Andrew Doran is co-founder of In Defense of Christians (IDC), a nonprofit organization that advocates for the protection and preservation of Christians in the Middle East.

He will present IDC’s new, nearly-300 page report on the ongoing genocide in the Middle East, which was presented to Secretary of State John Kerry (read the full report here), and the next steps necessary to preserve at-risk Christian communities in Iraq.

The Syrian conflict has cost as many as 470,000 lives with Christian and Yazidi communities nearly wiped out in ISIS-controlled territory. The Christians who remain in Iraq and Syria are in a desperate plight. The State Department has recognized the genocidal intent of the Islamic State but the UK government and the United Nations continue to deny recognition.

Doran has published dozens of articles about U.S. foreign policy and human rights, with a focus on the Middle East. He previously served at the U.S. Department of State in the Bureau of International Organizations (IO) on the executive secretariat of the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO. He is an attorney, armed forces veteran, and lives in the Washington, DC area.


Robert R. Reilly:

I found it very interesting that in the Wall Street Journal a week ago Monday there was an Op-ed by a former U.S. Ambassador whose son-in-law was killed in the Brussels bombing. So, all condolences to the Ambassador for that loss, but it was interesting in the rallying cry he issued about the forces of civilization gathering to defeat the forces of barbarism. He wants to identify the enemy and what they’re against.

And so he says, “Let’s be clear. This fight is not only against America and Europe and it is not against Christianity.” Well, were that true, there would be no need for such an organization as In Defense of Christianity, which they’re emphatically is. And we’re very privileged to have our speaker here tonight. And we’re also very pleased to have the co-founder of this group and its president, Toufic Baaklini, with us in the back of the room. Thank you for coming, and other members of the staff, Louay Mikhael from Iraq was an advisor to IDC is with us this evening. We’re very happy to have you here.

Now, Andrew Doran is as I mentioned the co-founder of In Defense of Christians and he remains a senior advisor to the group. IDC is a nonprofit organization that advocates for the protection and preservation of Christians in the Middle East.

As you know, this organization – or if you don’t know, I know Andrew will tell you tonight – played an absolutely essential and key role in bringing attention to the issue so that when Congressman Fortenberry introduced the bill in the House of Representatives declaring a sense of the House that there is a genocide in the Middle East, it was introduced at the IDC conference at which I was privileged to be present at the time last year.

And as you know, an extraordinarily unique event happened fairly recently when the House of Representatives passed that resolution unanimously. In addition to which Secretary Kerry of the State Department subsequently declared genocide or designated what is happening there a genocide however, only after the evidence of that genocide was presented by IDC to the State Department in a nearly 300 page report, which IDC did in concert with the Knights of Columbus and that I know is what Andrew is going to address this evening. I just want to point out being a Knight of Columbus in their recent magazine they point to a poll which they commissioned in which the majority of Americans say Christians face genocide in the Middle East. So that message has gotten out and it has gotten out in large part because of this wonderful organization, In Defense of Christians.

Just a few more words about Andrew. He’s published dozens of articles about U.S. foreign policy and human rights with a focus on the Middle East. He previously served at the U.S. Department of State and the Bureau of International Organizations – for which [he has] my condolences – on the Executive Secretariat of the U.S. International Commission for UNESCO. He’ll be talking to us tonight about, “Christian Genocide: the Evidence for its Designation and Saving Christianity in Iraq.” Please join me in welcoming Andrew Doran.

Andrew Doran:

Thank you very much and thank you for having me and for that kind introduction, Bob, it’s a pleasure to be here at the Westminster Institute. And, you know, looking around the room and seeing a friend and a victim of genocide, his family is a victim of genocide, here in the room with us, Louay Mikhael, who was a friend and comrade on the ground, steering me around some on several trips and some dangerous places. And now he’s here in our home and his family is here, seeking asylum if I may.

And, you know, I suppose we’ll come to this a little bit later but this is the greatest evil I think on the planet unleashed now before us with ISIL and the victims are not only our brother and sister Christians but our brother and sister human beings, Sunni and Shia, Muslims, Yazidis, all of those people who lay in the path of ISIL defenseless and unfortunately, I’m afraid this Caliphate’s not going away any time soon.

It is something of an injustice I think to – hopefully a small one – but an injustice to be credited with so much, whereas I feel as though we have been sitting back, watching so many people do so many remarkable things, and of course, great credit to Secretary Kerry, Ambassador Rabbi David Saperstein, a friend and hero who has led the way on this, Knox Thames at the State Department, and of course, Congressman Jeff Fortenbarry and Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, with their legislation dropped September 9th, 2015, which as you mentioned, Congressman Fortenbarry announced at the National Press Club the day we launched our second event, six months to the day.

We were honored to have the report published with the Knights of Columbus, who I think are kind of the cavalry coming to the rescue in this story. I think it was their effort. They were told by State we just simply do not have the evidence to declare genocide, [so] go get it. At that [point] most people would have said, well, I suppose that is the end of it. Well, they went and got it, and they came back. And it was so persuasive and as they successfully drove home, the standard was probable cause, I am sure you all know, for genocide, which essentially means establishing reasonable grounds, a reasonable basis. And if you read the upwards of three hundred pages of the report, and I hasten to add that many other NGOs did heroic and wonderful work, gathering and documenting these atrocities on the ground, and that was also adopted and incorporated by reference in this report.

It is worth reading. It is not night-time reading. I was re-reading it again today and it is deeply unsettling, and I think anyone who has spent any time in that part of the world, you know for whom it is real, and we have, again, in our midst someone who fled his homeland, his ancestral homeland to be here with us. It is very real. I just met for the first time today Louay’s daughter, who is what, four years old, five years old? You know I walked away and I wondered, my god, I hope she does not have any memories of any of this.

There are some people not in the room who certainly deserve recognition, although if the camera was not rolling, I would skip over them. Bob Destro, the indefatigable professor who spent time working on the language, Dr. Stanton, the many Hill staffers who did such a wonderful job, putting in the overtime to see through so much of this, and of course, as I mentioned, the Knights, and IDC’s own staff, who are overworked, and in the interest of not revisiting salary negotiations I will not add underpaid, since they may be present. But we really have an amazing team.

I was talking to Marty in the hallway before coming in. One of the great things that I think that we have seen, certainly over the last six months is the various groups of advocates, those organizations and individuals who have given their voice to speak out on behalf of the Christians of the Middle East, working in much greater unity. I was looking over my notes and I was looking at something and I thought, wow, I was very pessimistic about that and it happened, I was very pessimistic about this and it happened. I was pessimistic about the genocide resolution. I was pessimistic that it would even get to the floor, and then it passed unanimously. And then I said, well, okay, well, we have to plan for the [fact that the] Secretary of State is never going to designate genocide for Christians, so we have to plan for this and move on accordingly, and then eight days later he does.

So, not that I am ceasing to be a pessimist, but increasingly I find myself thinking of myself as what the late Benedict Groeschel would call a ‘hopeful pessimist,’ and I think maybe hopeful pessimism is the attitude we should bring to the question of the Christians in the Middle East because now we have before us genocide declared, and the next question that everyone has been asking, of course, is what next, so now what? And as many have said, now we are just coming to the starting line. Now what do we do? And I will come to this.

I think the answer is very, very clearly a special autonomous zone, a protected zone, whatever – I do not want to get into semantics – whatever we want to call it, that is the concept that we are talking about and this haven in Iraq is key, not only to help save Christianity in Iraq, we need to have a model across the Middle East as these nation-states continue to disintegrate and to fall apart, falling back into sectarian violence.

The report as I mentioned – I have a copy here if you do not mind reading my mark-ups, and we have some, I think Kirsten has brought some, and the Knights, of course, have many, and it is available online at and on the Knights of Columbus website. I think [it is] 286 pages in a PDF, and at a minimum if you do not want to take the whole thing, I think it merits reading the executive summary, which is well-crafted and persuasive, and I think the standard clearly was met. And I say that because ISIL is an organization that is self-defined and self-proclaimed as a genocidal organization, so there is not a great deal of dispute.

One concern I have – and I think most in the room will remember 1994, the Rwandan genocide. There was a moment when, as heads were being lobbed off and people were being slaughtered almost in real time, this descent into a semantic debate, which had the effect of being thoroughly dehumanizing, and one of the fears, one of the things I was pessimistic about was that this was going to descend into that, and it was going to be this back-and-forth, ‘Well, is this genocide or is this mere crimes against humanity because crimes against humanity are, of course, tolerable?’ Well, of course, they are not.

What Assad has done in Syria certainly constitutes crimes against humanity. Now, by the legal definition does it meet the threshold of genocide? I think probably not, but let us just suppose that that is the case for the sake of argument. Mere crimes against humanity is certainly sufficient to command the outrage of the international community, and one would hope compel them to action.

What action precisely? I think we have models for faux nation-states being deconstructed, and the best model that we have is Richard Holbrook’s 1995 Dayton Peace Accords, which saw the international community mobilized to end a genocide in that case against Muslims in the former Yugoslavia, and to see the establishment of a zone of separation monitored by an international – not peacekeeping, but peace enforcing force led by NATO and the United States principally; the French, the British, and the Americans, twenty thousand Americans, effective January 1, 1996.

We do not see any sort of leadership on the part of the United States to mobilize the international community, and our so-called allies in the region to put this conflict to an end. On the contrary, we see where the Turks, who have played a very dangerous game since 2010, 2011 to rankle Bashar Assad, letting Al-Nusra move freely across that border, and now that violence is coming home to roost, and that was inevitable. And the Gulf states we see tremendous fear. I think I have used the analogy that Thomas Jefferson once used of holding the wolf by the ears. This is essentially the relationship between Wahhabism and the violent extremism that has come forth from the Sunni Gulf states. And I also hasten to add that our government’s response to this has been woefully inadequate for years.

We have known the funding and ideological sources of Al Qaeda, of Al Nusra, the Al Qaeda affiliates, and even the Islamic State. And we have done virtually nothing about it. Billions of dollars diverted from wealthy individuals, perhaps with the knowledge and consent of certain people in the government, but certainly it is known, and it is known that many of the transactions took place through Kuwaiti banks.

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