Written by Don Byrd

The U.S.House of Representatives yesterday unanimously passed H.R. 390, which, among other things, provides humanitarian aid to organizations assisting the victims of religious persecution in Iraq and Syria. It also supports efforts to hold accountable the crimes of ISIS directed at religious minorities.

The US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) issued a statement in support of this action:

“I enthusiastically commend the U.S. Congress for taking this important step in support of those communities who have been the targets of genocide in Iraq and Syria,” said USCIRF Chair Tenzin Dorjee. “When I visited Iraq with Vice Chair Kristina Arriaga in March, we witnessed firsthand the immense suffering of Yazidis, Christians, and other religious minorities and listened to their stories of egregious violations of their fundamental rights. These communities desperately need all the help they can get to reconstruct their lives. This bill supports them and also ensures that those responsible for these horrible crimes face some measure of justice.”

Of the religious targets who managed to survive the genocidal efforts of ISIS, many fled their homes and remain displaced. H.R.390’s assistance strategy focuses on those refugees targeted for extinction who will need support to return home. As rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), a cosponsor of the legislation, said on the House floor prior to the vote: 

When genocide or other atrocity crimes are perpetrated, the United States should direct some of its humanitarian, stabilization and recovery aid to enable these groups to survive — especially when they are minorities whose existence as a people is at risk . . . . We should commit to such a response whether the victims are the Rohingya in Burma or Christians and Yezidis in Iraq and Syria.

Because the U.S. Senate has also unanimously passed this bill, it now goes to President Trump for his signature.