On 21st June, the World Council of Arameans (WCA) began several days of work in the UN in Geneva. During the 32nd session of the Human Rights Council, the Interactive Dialogue with the commission of inquiry on Syria, whom investigates the human rights situation in the country. The Commission acknowledged that a genocide is taking place on Yazidis and one of WCA’s main issues was to highlight that Arameans (also known as Syriacs) and other minorities are victims of the same genocide. In addition to meeting several member states, they met with the chairman of the commission of inquiry Paolo Pinheiro to discuss the issue.
Whilst the WCA says they applaud the Commission’s report, they together with several states and NGOs pointed out that it was not only Yazidis who are victims of ISIS genocide. For example, Belgium’s Charlotte Vangrunderbeek stated in her speech that Belgium is particularly concerned about the genocide of Da’esh (ISIS) against Yazidis and other ethnic and religious groups, and Germany’s Frank Jarasch said the Yazidis are only one of the groups in the region, and asked the Commission if they can provide more information on the situation of other minorities in Syria.
Even among NGOs, the fact that not only Yazidis are affected was pointed out. For example, the European Center for Law and Justice, established that ISIS are committing a genocide against Yazidis, but at the same time urged the Human Rights Council to recognize that Arameans and other ethno-religious minorities are victims of the same genocide. Its director Gregor Puppinck said that “the crimes committed by ISIS are a continuation of a local tradition of persecution of minorities, including the 1915 genocide of Armenians, Arameans and Greeks.”
The WCA met ambassadors and other representatives of several member states during the day to discuss the issue of genocide and scheduled further meetings for the following day. They also delivered a statement that emphasizes the fact that the cruelties against the Arameans must also be recognized as genocide. Following private consultations with Paulo Pinheiro, President of the Commission, and his team, the WCA delegation was told that they are extremely willing to receive more information about the crimes against humanity that ISIS commit against Arameans. Pinheiro, however, clarified that they did not rely on external reports but based their conclusions solely on their own investigations and interviews. They therefore asked the WCA’s delegation to help introduce them to the victims who suffered from ISIS’s horrible deeds in Syria.
The WCA promised to continue their cooperation to provide the Commission of inquiry with all the necessary information for its investigations, so that the genocide of Yazidis, Arameans and other vulnerable ethno-religious minorities can be brought into light and allow the international community to act for those endangered groups.
The WCA’s statement to the member states of the UN Human Rights Council and the Independent commission of inquiry on Syria can be read down below:
Thank you, Mr. President.
It is fair and even necessary that Syria’s vulnerable ethnic and religious minorities have been given broader attention in 2016. This became clear when overwhelming evidence convinced genocide scholars, the Parliaments of the EU and the Council of Europe, the US House of Representatives, the UK House of Commons and world leaders to recognize unequivocally that ISIS is guilty of genocide against Yazidis, Christians (above all the Arameans) and other vulnerable minorities
Member States must now embrace the shared responsibility to take all necessary measures to punish and prevent these ongoing acts of genocide, crimes against humanity and violations of the laws of war that ought to protect the civilian population from deliberate acts of violence
Therefore, we urge the Commission of Inquiry on Syria, the Human Rights Council and the United Nations Security Council to adopt a fairly balanced resolution on the situation in Syria by recognizing that ISIS also committed a genocide against Syria’s indigenous Aramean population on equal footing with other targeted ethnic and religious minorities. Recent events confirm again the special intent of the destruction of this distinct ethnic, religious and linguistic group.
Just last Sunday, for example, a terrorist blew himself up in the north-eastern Syrian town of Qamishli in a failed attempt to assassinate the Syriac Orthodox Patriarch and hundreds of innocent Arameans, killing two Arameans and injuring five others. This foiled attack was planned to take place after the Pentecost celebration and during the commemoration of the still unrecognized Ottoman genocide during World War I, when 70% of the Aramean people were exterminated from their historic homeland in this same region of Qamishli, which was founded in 1926 by Arameans and where their existence is also being threatened today by the YPG Kurdish forces.
The international community must take urgent action to protect the rapidly disappearing ethnic, religious and linguistic mosaic in the Middle East. Providing humanitarian and development aid to the neglected minorities should be no consideration, but an obligation.
Without an urgent demand for immediate action today, tomorrow it will be too late.
Thank you, Mr. President.