At its most recent plenary session in Strasbourg, the European Parliament adopted a resolution on the current efforts to expel Islamic State terrorists from Mosul and northern Iraq. The text acknowledges the persecution which Christians and other religious minorities have suffered since the Islamist group took over the region two years ago, and calls on the international community to ensure their safe return and protection when ISIS is finally defeated.
Earlier this year, the European Parliament had already adopted a resolution in which it recognised the actions of ISIS towards religious and ethnic minorities in Iraq as a genocide. Before the Iraq war there were an estimated 1.5 million Christians in Iraq, whereas the number remaining is now estimated at a mere 200,000. Most of these Christian refugees fled to neighbouring countries such as Syria, Jordan and Turkey. In many cases, they continued to suffer attacks and abuse at the hands of Muslim fellow refugees in the camps.
In its most recent resolution, Parliament insisted on the right of return to their ancestral homeland for the displaced indigenous peoples, and that these peoples should have their fundamental human rights fully restored, including their property rights which should supersede any claims of property rights by others. It is vital that the international community insist on these rights, given that the aim of ISIS was to completely exterminate or expel all Christians from the region, claiming that it was Islamic holy ground, despite the fact that Christians had lived in these places for hundreds of years before Islam existed as a religion.
It is to be welcomed that the EU Parliament is seeking to draw attention to the harsh reality for Christians and other religious minorities in Muslim-majority countries. The resolution underlines that Chaldean, Syriac and Assyrians Christians, as well as Yazidis, Turkmens and other ethnic minorities, have a right to safety, security and regional autonomy within the federal structure of the Republic of Iraq. It is to be hoped that the Iraqi army and its allies will be successful in ending the reign of terror of Islamic State. But it is important that the Iraqis themselves respect human rights and freedoms in the newly-liberated territories.