UN Condemns Destruction of Armenian Church by ISIS

A view of the interior of the now-destroyed Armenian Genocide memorial church in Der Zor

GENEVA—The United Nations human rights office Monday expressed concern about the continuing wave of destruction unleashed by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) amid reports that the terrorist group has targeted and destroyed a number of religious buildings in areas under its control.

According to the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), ISIS militants destroyed an important Armenian church in the Syrian city of Der Zor in mid-September as part of an ongoing campaign of violence and terror which has seen the group also blow up mosques, shrines and damage churches in northern Iraq.

“We condemn the destruction of the church and of other religious institutions,” OHCHR spokesperson Rupert Colville told a news briefing in Geneva.

“We stress that religious personnel and buildings dedicated to religion enjoy specific protection under international humanitarian law and must be respected and protected by all parties.”

Colville also highlighted his agency’s concern about the safety of three clergymen suspected to have been captured by the militant group. Both the Syriac Orthodox and Greek Orthodox Archbishops of Aleppo, Yohanna Ibrahim and Paul Yazigi, were abducted in Aleppo in April 2013 while Paolo Dall’Oglio, a Catholic priest, went missing in Raqqah in January. Their whereabouts remain unknown.

In a report jointly produced by OHCHR and the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) and released Sunday, the UN describes a host of serious violations of international humanitarian law and gross abuses of human rights perpetrated by ISIS and associated armed groups, including “attacks directly targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure, executions and other targeted killings of civilians, abductions, rape and other forms of sexual and physical violence perpetrated against women and children, forced recruitment of children, destruction or desecration of places of religious or cultural significance, wanton destruction and looting of property, and denial of fundamental freedoms.”

At Monday’s briefing, Colville pointed out that ISIL’s indiscriminate violence – targeting members of numerous religious sects including Muslims from other Muslim sects – was a product of the Takfiri belief system adopted by some extremely radical religious groups. In applying the Takfir, groups such as ISIS and Nigeria’s Boko Haram automatically assume the authority to declare anybody to be kafir, or apostate. The spokesperson added that such a doctrine clarified why ISIS militants, in addition to persecuting non-Muslim groups, were also committing atrocities against fellow Muslims and destroying mosques and shrines – a tactic, he said, which the militants used simply to increase their power through fear and intimidation.

The concept of Takfir was originally brought to the fore by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, who, Colville said, is working to draw attention to this “very explicit belief that was not subscribed to by the vast majority of Muslims.”

At the same time, Sunday’s OHCHR paper also cites a number of violations committed by Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) and associated forces battling ISIS.

Mr. Colville similarly explained that both Government and anti-Government armed groups in Syria were perpetrating the destruction of the country’s holy sites as well as numerous heritage and archaeological sites.

“Anti-Government groups’ attacks on religious personnel and buildings have also increased this year,” he noted, adding that Government forces also shared responsibility for the increased destruction as they “continue to place military objectives around cultural sites and turn them into military bases.”


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  1. zarkim said:

    Turkish terrorists attacked Kessab encouraged by the Americans/allies and NATO.
    Pathetic Americans have apologised to Erdogan.
    Erdogan demands apology from Biden over foreign fighter remarks.
    TURKISH terrorists have made plenty of money from lootings (Syria and Iraq). THEY have mugged and looted their neighbours for years.
    Americans/allies funded, trained and armed Terrorists and encouraged Turkey to breed ISIS. Today, ISIS has mosques and actively trains terrorists in Turkey and enters Iraq/Syria unopposed.
    Mr Obama has promised that he will get all ISIS terrorists. There is no where they can hide from him. However, Mr Obama only mentions the ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Somehow, he overlooks the ones in TURKEY… ISIS is very active in Turkey.
    Turkey has recently made a DEAL with the TERRORISTS during their FAKE hostage negotiations. Hours after this DEAL, Der Zor memorial church was destroyed by Turkish thugs.
    Turkey’s borders have been OPEN for ISIS from the beginning. KURDISH people are no fools!
    Syria has been a SANCTUARY to millions of ETHNIC minorities for centuries. Why does anyone want to destroy it? Learn from Syria about MULTICULTURALISM. Syria should be congratulated. Even ISRAELIS used Syria as a safe-heaven. And look the way THEY show their appreciation. Look what THEY have done to Syria/Aleppo.

  2. Areg said:

    When America finally re affirms the facts of the Armenian Genocide and when the rest of the civilized world condemns the Genocidal Turkey for her crimes against the mankind and the Armenians in general and when the UN openly admits that this type of savage and barbaric act against an Armenian Holy Genocide Memorial site by ISIS which is created and supported by the Turkish government must be stopped, then maybe this bully Turkish government will get it into her head that she is not welcomed in the world government club.
    And these acts of barbarism and savagery by the Turkish government, her attack on Kessab, her attack on Der Zor Armenian Genocide monument, her attack on Aleppo Armenian inhabited residences must be a wake up call to the United States and all world governments that Turkey remains the same Ottoman Turkey and nothing has changed and nothing will change.
    Turkey is a fake ally of the United States and the Western World. Turkey is a fake ally of Israel. Turkey is a fake ally of the Arab world. Turkey is a fake ally of Christians and the Muslims world. The Pan Turkism is a disease like a cancer which if not stopped will destroy, kill, murder, steal, rape, behead people’s head, burn and put in flames anything on it’s way.
    Armenians know very well how Turkey operates. The Greeks, Assyrians and others know very well how this Genocidal Turkey operates.
    This must be a wake up call to all nations including the United States on the list to stop arming Turkey and stop this savage government from destruction of this world and humanity. All nations must stop dipping their hands in the blood of innocent people who are victims of this barbarian Turkey.