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U.S. Report on Religious Freedom Slams ISIS Violations | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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ISIS militant waving a flag, cheers as he takes part in a military parade along the streets of Syria’s northern Raqqa province June 30, 2014. REUTERS/Stringer

Washington-The annual report issued by the U.S. State Department on religious freedom around the world has focused on violations made by ISIS, mainly what it termed as “genocide” carried out by the group against Christians, Shi’ites and Yazidis.

According to Agence France Presse, in its comprehensive look at the situation in more than 200 countries in 2015, the State Department singled out its usual bugbears on the issue of religious repression: China, Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Sudan.

And as in previous years, the U.S. government expressed concern at the rise of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia in Europe, against a backdrop of the continent’s migrant crisis and an uptick in jihadist attacks.

In addition to ISIS, the report denounced non-state actors like the Nigerian group Boko Haram. Both “continued to rank amongst the most egregious abusers of religious freedom in the world.”

ISIS “continued to pursue a brutal strategy of what Secretary (John) Kerry judged to constitute genocide against Yazidis, Christians, Shi’ites, and other vulnerable groups in the territory it controlled,” the State Department said.

Iran was rapped for restrictions on its Christian and Sunni minorities.

In Pakistan, the U.S. expressed concern over an increase in the number of blasphemy charges and their use as “justification for mob justice.” Similar concerns were raised about Afghanistan.

China, the target of U.S. criticism over its human rights record in general, earned scorn for demolishing Catholic and Protestant churches and arresting lawyers working for church communities.

Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken formally unveiled the report.

This past March, Kerry made clear his judgment that ISIS “is responsible for genocide against religious communities in areas under its control,” said Blinken. ISIS “kills Yezidis because they are Yezidi, Christians because they are Christian, Shi’ite Muslim because they are Shi’ite.”

ISIS “is also responsible for crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing directed at these same groups,” he added.

According to AFP, Kerry and United Nations experts had previously used the term “genocide” — which has legal implications in the United States.

Washington’s usual targets bear the brunt of the tough language in the report, though no sanctions result from the heavily detailed report, compiled by State Department staff.