Kerry told reporters at the State Department that the designation specifically applies to the Sunni militant group’s persecution of Yazidis, Christians and Shiite Muslims.
Kerry in his announcement said that members of the Sunni militant group killed hundreds of Yazidi men and older women in the Iraqi town of Kocho in August 2014. Tens of thousands of Yazidis who had fled the Islamic State were trapped on nearby Mount Sinjar around the same time that the massacre took place.
“Without our intervention, it was clear those people would have been slaughtered,” said Kerry. “Rescue efforts aided by coalition airstrikes ultimately saved many, but not before Daesh captured and enslaved thousands of Yazidi women and girls — selling them at auction, raping them at will and destroying the communities in which they had lived for countless generations.”
Kerry said the Islamic State has executed Christians in the Iraqi cities of Mosul and Qaraqosh “solely because of their faith.” The Sunni militant group has also executed dozens of Coptic and Ethiopian Christians in Libya.
Kerry said the Islamic State has also forced Christian women and girls into sexual slavery. He noted members of the Sunni militant group have also kidnapped hundreds of Shiite Turkmen women, “raping many in front of their own families.”
Kerry said the Islamic State has also “massacred hundreds of” Turkmen and Shabaks in Mosul and the nearby city of Tal Afar. Members of the Sunni militant group last summer publicly beheaded Khalid al-Assad, who was the caretaker of the ancient Roman ruins in the Syrian city of Palmyra.
“Daesh is genocidal by self-proclamation, by ideology and by actions,” said Kerry.
The U.S. House of Representatives on Monday unanimously approved a resolution that says the Islamic State has committed genocide against Christians and other religious groups.
Kerry’s determination, which is not legally binding, does not include LGBT Syrians and Iraqis.
Genocide determination ‘important step’
The Islamic State has executed dozens of men in Syria and Iraq who had been accused of committing sodomy. Reports indicate that members of the Sunni militant group force people to attend these executions, which frequently include throwing men and boys from the roofs of buildings.
A report that OutRight Action International and MADRE, a global women’s advocacy organization, released in 2014 concludes LGBT Iraqis who live under the control of the Islamic State are likely “at imminent risk of death.”
Many LGBT Iraqis and Syrians have fled to Lebanon, Turkey and other countries to escape the Sunni militant group.
Advocates in the Lebanese capital of Beirut with whom the Washington Blade has spoken said they have heard reports of the Islamic State burning men alive who were suspected to be gay. One report indicates that the Sunni militants hanged a transgender Syrian woman by her breasts.
The U.S. and Chile in August 2015 co-sponsored the first-ever U.N. Security Council meeting on an LGBT-specific issue that focused on the Islamic State. U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power on March 12 referenced this gathering in a speech she gave at a Human Rights Campaign conference in D.C.“As the fight to defeat Daesh progresses and new information regarding Daesh atrocities is uncovered, we will regularly document and assess that information, with the aim of promoting accountability for perpetrators of such heinous atrocities,” said a State Department spokesperson on Friday in response to the Blade’s question about why Kerry’s designation did not include LGBT Syrians and Iraqis.
The Islamic State in January announced it had executed a teenager in the Syrian city of Deir ez-Zor who allegedly engaged in homosexuality. Militants with the Sunni extremist group reportedly took him into custody in the home of a prominent Islamic State officer.
“If true, this would be just the latest example of the vile nature of this barbaric organization and why we are committed to working with our partners until it is destroyed,” State Department spokesperson Pooja Jhunjhunwala told the Blade after reports of the teenager’s execution emerged.
Kevin Schumacher of OutRight Action International told the Blade on Friday that Kerry’s designation “is an important step in holding the Islamic State responsible for their atrocities.”
Schumacher told the Blade the Islamic State and other radical groups do “not recognize sexual orientation and merely imposes the death penalty and other cruel punishments for their alleged sexual acts.”
“Perhaps it is a little tricky to argue if their atrocities against these individuals is part of a broader ‘genocide’ targeted (at) LGBTI people,” he said.
OutRight Action International has confirmed the Islamic State has killed 39 men on sodomy charges in Iraq and Syria. Reports indicate this number could be much higher, but they are often difficult to verify.
“The number of Islamic State’s victims…definitely shows a patter of abuse and targeted killing,” Schumacher told the Blade. “But whether this amounts to genocide or not may require legal experts’ opinion.”