Lawyers at the United States State Department have removed the word "genocide" from speeches and official documents that describe the Islamic State's brutal treatment of Christians, Yazidis and other religious minorities in Iraq and Syria, human rights activists have warned.
A report published Tuesday by the Washington Free Beacon cites human rights activists and attorneys familiar with State Department policies who claim that top State Department lawyers "are systematically removing the word 'genocide' to describe the Islamic State's mass slaughter of Christians, Yazidis, and other ethnic minorities" from speeches before they are delivered and official State Department documents.
Nina Shea, a respected human rights activist and former commissioner on the congressionally-mandated U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, was quoted as telling the Beacon that Richard Visek, the State Department's Acting Legal Adviser, who was appointed by President Barack Obama, is behind the decision to remove the term "genocide" from official documents and speeches.
"I don't think for a minute it's a bureaucratic decision — it's ideological," Shea, who currently serves as the director of the Hudson Institute's Center for Religious Freedom in Washington D.C., was quoted as saying.
The Christian Post reached out to the State Department for comment on the claim made in the Beacon article that the agency's lawyers are now scrubbing references of "genocide" from speeches and documents. However, a response was not received by press time.
The Beacon report comes after human rights activists spent much effort pressuring the United States government and other international governmental bodies to declare the Islamic State's actions against religious minorities in Iraq and Syria as "genocide."
Since the group's 2014 rise in Iraq, hundreds of thousands of Christians and religious minorities were forced to flee from their homes and towns or risk being killed by the jihadi death cult. Meanwhile, thousands of Yazidis have been killed or kidnapped by the terrorist group.
Last March, former Secretary of State John Kerry declared publicly that the Islamic State was carrying out a "genocide." Kerry's declaration, which was reportedly at odds with others in the Obama administration, came after the human rights advocacy groups In Defense of Christians and Knights of Columbus produced a 280-page report highlighting the persecution faced by Christians at the hands of the Islamic State.
Activists told the Beacon that the State Department's efforts to scrub references to "genocide" in combination with Democratic senators' efforts to delay Trump's nomination of Mark Green to head the U.S. Agency for International Development only "guarantee that Obama-era policies that worked to exclude Iraq's Christian and other minority religious populations from key U.S. aid programs remain in place."
Last month, the House of Representatives passed legislation that would authorize U.S. government funds to be given to organizations that are providing direct relief to displaced Iraqi and Syrian religious minorities. The legislation comes as human rights groups have complained that U.S. relief funds given to the Iraqi government have not been funnelled down to those helping displaced Christians and Yazidis.
Although the report indicates that the move to scrub "genocide" references from certain speeches and documents was inspired by an Obama holdover, Shea asserted that it will be Trump administration policies that "make or break the situation."
"Iraq is home to one of the four largest remaining Christian communities in the Middle East that are about to become extinct," Shea asserted. "Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama made catastrophic mistakes that left these communities on the brink of extinction, but it's going to be on President Trump's watch as to whether they survive or become extinct."