Interfaith Human Rights Leaders Call on President Biden to Keep an American Presence in Iraq
August 31, 2021
NEW YORK—Joined by the Iraqi Christian Relief Council, Yazda Organization, and interfaith human rights leaders, Simon Wiesenthal Center today made an official plea to President Biden to keep an American presence in Iraq.
Today’s panel featured Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center; Juliana Taimoorazy of the Iraqi Christian Relief Council; live from Iraq- Jameel Chomer of Yazda Organization and Reverend Johnnie Moore, human rights activist and President of the Congress of Christian Leaders.
The emotion-laden meeting in New York, which connected an international audience, painted a dire picture of the consequences of an American pullout from Iraq.
“We beseech you on behalf of two historic and endangered peoples, Assyrian Christians and Yazidis, to continue the presence of American troops in Iraq,” reads an open letter to President Biden from the Iraqi Christian Relief Council and Yazda Organization. “Mr. President, we urge you to resist pressure to withdraw all troops from Iraq. Recent blood-soaked history has shown that without such a presence, the history of Assyrians and Yazidis on their ancient lands would end.”
Miss Taimoorazy announced that she would seek an early meeting with US Secretary of State Blinken to secure American assurances that the Biden Administration will not abandon them at this pivotal time in history.
Watch a recording of the press conference here, sign the petition to President Biden here, and read the full letter to President Biden below.
| August 31, 2021
Dear President Biden,
We beseech you on behalf of two historic and endangered peoples, Assyrian Christians and Yazidis, to continue the presence of American troops in Iraq.
In the last few days your administration has seen that the United States cannot rely on the Taliban or ISIS to act in good faith without the real deterrent of an opposing military force. Well-meaning hopes to relieve the US of the Afghan war by brokering with the Taliban as if with a civilized nation-state have led to unspeakable tragedy.
ISIS has claimed responsibility for the savage suicide bombing just outside the Kabul airport on August 26, in which dozens of Afghans died and the United States lost thirteen service members, the largest American death toll in ten years.
The family members of massacred American marines share the grief of Afghan families who have lost loved ones in this barbarity. We join them in grief and in praying for healing of the survivors.
The painful events that transpired in Afghanistan have resurrected memories of all that happened to the Christian and Yazidi communities in Iraq in 2011. In that year, the U.S. decided to withdraw its military. Three years later it had to rush back to combat the most dangerous terrorist organization in the world, ISIS.
ISIS set out to obliterate Iraq’s indigenous peoples, the Assyrian Christians (also known as Chaldean and Syriac) and the Yazidis who have lived peacefully side by side for most of their existence in this land. The Assyrians have a 6,700-year history going all the way back to Nineveh, the ancient city to which God summoned the prophet Jonah. In the first century A.D. Saint Thomas, the Apostle, brought Christianity to the Assyrians, making them one of the oldest Christian communities in the world. Yazidis are another ethnic and religious minority with ancient roots in the Middle East. Yazidism includes elements of ancient Mesopotamian and Iranian religions as well as elements of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
Today, however, after the double devastation caused by the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the 3-year ISIS takeover of this region, the survival of the Iraqi Christians and Yazidi peoples hangs by a slender thread.
Mr. President, we urge you to resist pressure to withdraw all troops from Iraq. Recent blood-soaked history has shown that without such a presence, the history of Assyrians and Yazidis on their ancient lands would end. These would become victims of targeted genocide and ethnic cleansing. We know for a fact what awaits our people: Our remnants would be savaged by the brutal and merciless ISIS, Al Qaeda, Iranian-backed militias, and other extremists bent on the establishment of a Caliphate across the Middle East and Central Asia.
Mr. President, as you know from your many years as a US Senator and eight years as Vice President of the United States, these terrorists and extremists view the West as contaminated by contagious decadence. Their vision of the future seeks a rebirth of a theocratic empire, like those established by the Umayyads, Abbasids, Fatimids, Seljuk Turks, and Ottomans over the course of 1,400 years of Islamic history. Christians and Yazidis, therefore, are always among their first targets, marked for the most heinous forms of religious and ethnic persecution, including mass murder, torture, and slavery.
When these terrorists capture our cities and towns, they give Christians four choices. We can convert to their form of Islam, which means renouncing Jesus Christ. We can stay and pay the jizya, the onerous dhimmi tax, which marks us as third-class citizens minus any guarantee of our safety. We can leave and become refugees and displaced people. The last option is death.
The Yazidi innocent men, women, and children were not given even these options. They were immediately murdered as the Yazidi people are not considered “people of the Book.” In 2016, during your tenure as vice president, Secretary of State John Kerry determined that ISIS had committed genocide against the Yazidis, Christians and other minority groups in Iraq and Syria. Secretary of State Kerry condemned the killing and enslavement of Yazidi women and girls and the executions of Christians “solely for their faith.”
Twenty years ago, there were 1,500,000 Iraqi Christians and 600,000 Yazidis in our ancestral land, Iraq. Today no more than 150,000 Christians and 400,000 Yazidis are left. This loss of over one and a half million indigenous people of Iraq portends the even worse ethnic cleansing that will surely overtake us without the presence of US troops. Even a modest contingent of Americans brings a significant degree of deterrence. It makes the extremists think twice before overrunning our communities and unleashing murder and mayhem on innocents.
The end of an American presence would also create a vacuum that the nearby Islamic Republic of Iran is ready and eager to fill. Iran has many material, technological, and military resources at its disposal, and the Iranian regime has promised to use them for the spread of their catastrophic brand of Islamic extremism. This would imperil not only Iran’s neighbors, but also the United States and Israel whom the Iranians have vowed to obliterate.
Mr. President, if the tragic situation in Afghanistan has taught us anything, it is that we must do everything in our power to avoid the repetition of such a humanitarian catastrophe.
In the humanitarian spirit, we appeal to your commitment to bring relief to suffering people wherever possible. We please with you not to withdraw 100% of US forces from Iraq, as your administration has indicated it is considering. Mr. President, if you maintain even a small number of American troops to stay in strategic locations in Iraq, you can foster among the Iraqi Christian and Yazidi communities some hope. We then can see a real future for all of Iraqis, especially the ancient peoples of the land. The removal of the entire US military presence runs the real risk of a complete takeover of the region at the hands of ISIS, the Iranian extremists and their proxies. If, God forbid, a takeover like that occurred, the last remnants of the historic Eastern Christians and Yazidis would surely be lost forever.
Founder and President,
Iraqi Christian Relief Council