Emergency Relief for Genocide Victims in Iraq and SyriaPress Release
Washington, D.C. – Today the House of Representatives passed the Iraq and Syria Genocide Emergency Relief and Accountability Act (H.R. 390), which provides for emergency relief to victims of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in Iraq and Syria, and provides accountability for perpetrators of these crimes.
Chairman Ed Royce submitted the following remarks for the record:
“I want to begin by recognizing the efforts of Mr. Smith, Chair of the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health and Global Human Rights, and Ranking Member Engel for their strong leadership on this critical issue.
Mr. Speaker, for seven years, the world has watched the brutal dictator Assad inflict untold suffering on the Syrian people. Since the beginning of the conflict, half a million people have been killed and 13 million – largely women and children – remain in dire need of basic humanitarian assistance in Syria.
Over the course of this deadly conflict, we have seen Assad and his backers – Russia in the air and Iran on the ground – commit atrocious war crimes, including using chemical weapons on civilians. I am sure I am not the only one who will never forget the footage shown before our committee of a Syrian doctor trying to revive two young children, foaming at the mouth, after chlorine bombs rained down on their village; or the testimony of Caesar, a former regime police photographer, who bravely smuggled thousands of images cataloguing the gruesome and methodical torture in Assad’s prisons out of Syria.
But the brutal Assad regime is not the only terror the Syrian people have had to endure. His brutality paved the way for ISIS to expand in the country as well. Exploiting the chaos created by the conflict in Syria, ISIS burst onto the scene in 2014 by declaring their supposed ‘caliphate’ – and committing obscene, horrific acts in an effort to spread their nihilistic, death-filled ideology.
Today, thanks to the service of our brave men and women in uniform, ISIS is receding. But we cannot forget the incredible evil they unleashed. While in power, they committed unfathomable violence against Christians and Yezidis in Syria and Iraq and terrorized the Muslim communities unlucky enough to fall under their ‘caliphate.’
Congress played a critical role in calling these atrocities by their correct name – genocide. This was a very important first step – allowing for assistance to get to minority communities desperately in need. Even now, there is still an urgent need for assistance to these vulnerable communities, which have been devastated by ISIS’ efforts to wipe them out. These ancient communities, whose roots go back centuries, include Christians, Yezidis, Assyrians, Syriacs, Turkomens and many others. Their presence in Iraq and Syria is crucial to the social fabric of these nations.
H.R. 390 offers additional, immediate relief for these vulnerable communities and also directs the State Department to do more to support efforts to collect and preserve evidence of ‘genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes’ so that someday, justice might be served.
I urge Members to support this bill and send it straight to the president so that the possibility of justice and accountability for these atrocities can give hope to those suffering today.”