United States Secretary of State, JohnKerry, declared that the Islamic State is committing genocide against Christians, Yazidis and Shiite Muslims who have fallen under its control in Syria and Iraq. The militants, who have also targeted Kurds and other Sunni Muslims, have tried to slaughter whole communities, enslaved captive women and girls for sex, and sought to erase thousands of years of cultural heritage by destroying churches, monasteries and ancient monuments, The Islamic State’s “entire worldview is based on eliminating those who do not subscribe to its perverse ideology,” he said.   



Atrocities in the Middle East (U.S. Department of State)

This report describes targeting of and attacks against civilians, including members of religious and ethnic groups in the Middle East. Although there is no universally understood or agreed upon definition of “mass atrocities” and the term is not defined as a matter of law, many of these acts committed by Da’esh in the Middle East constitute “mass atrocities,” meaning “large-scale and deliberate attacks on civilians.” 


Da’esh continues to perpetrate atrocities in Iraq, including unlawful forced displacement, forced religious conversions, slavery, kidnapping, trafficking, and sexual violence, resulting in wide-scale fatalities and injuries. Da’esh has sought to displace Shia Muslims and religious minorities from seized Iraqi territory under its control. Victims – including women and children – come from across the spectrum of Iraq’s ethnic and religious groups, including Yezidis, Sunni Muslims, Shia Muslims, Christians, Turkmen, Shabak, and Sabaean-Mandaeans, among others. Da’esh has used public beheadings and other forms of summary executions, kidnapping, rape, forced marriage and sexual slavery, and has employed child soldiers from among its own recruits as well as captured children. Da’esh also continues to attack places of worship, schools, public spaces, economic infrastructure, and government buildings with suicide bombings and improvised explosive devices. Although many of these attacks have taken place in northern Iraq, Da’esh has victimized a broad segment of the population throughout the country including in the largely Sunni province of Anbar, Baghdad province, and the ethnically mixed province of Diyala. For example, local and international media reported that on July 17, 2015, Da’esh claimed responsibility for a truck bombing that killed 115 persons, including women and children, at a crowded marketplace in Khan Bani Saad in Diyala Governorate. The victims, the majority of whom were Shia Muslims, had gathered to celebrate the end of Ramadan. Da’esh forces have also threatened Sunni tribal leaders, Sunni Muslims who cooperated with the government, and Sunni Muslim clerics who refused to recognize Da’esh and its claim to be a caliphate, in some cases killing, kidnapping, burning homes, forcibly displacing, and attacking them with explosives.

More than 3.3 million Iraqis are internally displaced persons (IDPs), with 76 percent of these IDPs originally displaced from Anbar and Ninewa provinces.

In the summer of 2014, Da’esh overran Mosul, Sinjar District, and large portions of the Ninewa Plain resulting in widespread displacement, including approximately 450,000 Yezidis, 300,000 Turkmen, and 125,000 Christians, as well as Iraqi Arabs, Shia Muslims, Sunni Muslims, Shabak, and others. After its June 10, 2014, assault on the city of Mosul, Da’esh reportedly ordered Christians in the city to convert to Islam or pay a protection tax (a jizya). According to one report, failure to pay the tax resulted in the rape of two Christian women and the confiscation of property. On July 18, 2015, Da’esh issued a final ultimatum that Christians convert, pay the jizya, or give up all possessions and leave the city. Most Christians who had remained in the city after Da’esh’s initial offensive – reportedly, approximately 400 families – departed the city by July 20, 2015. Numerous religious buildings were seized and subsequently demolished, including Mar Behnam Monastery, the Tomb of Yunus (Jonah), a shrine inside a Sunni mosque on the site of a former church, and other religious sites. By August 8, Da’esh had captured much of the Ninewa Plains, including the towns of Qaraqosh, Tel Keppe, Bartella, and Karamlish. More than 100,000 Iraqi Christians fled their homes. On August 21 and 22, 2014, Da’esh reportedly gave Christian residents who had not been able to flee the opportunity to leave with no possessions.

In Nasriya in southern Iraq, Da’esh reportedly circulated flyers to approximately 300 Sabaean-Mandaeans demanding their conversion or exile from Iraq.

In June 2014, Da’esh reportedly killed as many as 670 Shia Muslims and other non-Sunni Muslim prisoners who had been detained in a prison in Mosul. Da’esh also imposed its strict interpretation of Sunni Islam wherever it had an active presence, such as Mosul, and targeted dissenters, including Sunni Muslims, with rape, execution, and other brutality. In multiple cases throughout the year, Da’esh and other armed groups attacked Sunni religious leaders whose ideology differed from that of Da’esh. On June 12, 2014, Da’esh reportedly executed approximately 1,700 Shia Muslim air force cadets at the former Camp Speicher, an Iraqi army training base near Tikrit. In the same month, Da’esh surrounded the mainly Shia Turkmen city of Amerli, 70 miles north of Baquba, resulting in rampant starvation. Although a siege directed against enemy combatants is not necessarily prohibited by international humanitarian law, starvation of a civilian population as a method of combat is prohibited. Da’esh’s unlawful siege of Amerli was broken on August 31 by Iraqi Security Forces, with the assistance of Coalition airstrikes.

In August 2014, Da’esh forces assaulted the Sinjar District of Ninewa Province, killing several thousand Yezidi civilians, displacing hundreds of thousands, and trapping tens of thousands for several days on Mt. Sinjar. Da’esh’s unlawful siege of the mountain was relieved when U.S. airstrikes and Syrian Kurdish ground forces opened a lane from the northern slope of Mt. Sinjar to Syria, but an unknown number of Yezidis had reportedly died of thirst or other causes by that point. More than 5,600 people were taken captive by Da’esh, including over 5,000 Yezidis, approximately 500 Turkmen, and dozens of Assyrian Christians. Approximately 4,000 were women and children. Abducted women and girls were subject to rape, sexual slavery, forced marriage, forced conversion, and killing, while young males have reportedly been subjected to forcible indoctrination and are reportedly being trained as suicide bombers. Older males were frequently killed. In one example, after seizing the Yezidi village of Kocho on August 15, 2014, Da’esh executed men and boys older than 10 years of age – reported numbers range from 84 to 300 killed – and kidnapped as many as 300 women and girls for sexual slavery. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) used eyewitness reports as well as contact with captives to compile aggregate numbers of those who had died or who Da’esh had captured; in early 2015, as Da’esh more frequently transported captives to Syria, NGOs and the KRG no longer had access to those sources.

In the area around Mosul and Tel Afar, Da’esh reportedly kidnapped, forcibly displaced, killed, raped, electrocuted, and crucified members of other ethnicities and religious groups, including Shabak, Turkmen, and Shia of all ethnicities. Da’esh also destroyed homes, places of business, and places of worship of members of these communities. Human Rights Watch reported that during a violent three-day period that began on June 23, 2014, Da’esh fighters kidnapped at least 40 Shia Turkmen, dynamited four Turkmen places of worship, and razed two villages near Mosul. On June 25 and 26, Da’esh destroyed seven Shia places of worship in the predominantly Shia Turkmen city of Tal Afar, 50 kilometers west of Mosul, which it captured June 16, four sources from the area told Human Rights Watch. In Tal Afar, according to Human Rights Watch and media reports, Da’esh destroyed the Shia shrines of Imam Sa’ad and Khider al-Elias, a historic shrine to a figure associated with Elijah the Prophet, on a site where Christians and Yezidis also worshipped. Da’esh also destroyed numerous mosques in Tal Afar.

According to local media source BasNews and the Turkmen Women Association, a local NGO, Da’esh militants have kidnapped 500 Turkmen women and children from Tal Afar and Mosul following the June 2014 capture of the area. Of the 500 kidnapped, the association claimed that Da’esh militants brutalized some, tying 25 of the women to electricity poles and raping them in front of their family members.

In other cases, Da’esh has reportedly targeted government workers, military, and police, with a disproportionate impact on certain ethnic or religious minorities. In June 2015, Da’esh published a list of the approximately 2,000 people it had killed in Mosul over the course of its occupation, predominately those associated with the Iraqi government or security services. Among the 2,000 were 700 Turkmen, according to the Turkmen Rescue Foundation.

As a result of Da’esh’s initial assaults against Iraqi cities and provinces and subsequent armed clashes between Da’esh and Iraqi forces, including the Kurdish Peshmerga, the number of IDPs since January 2014 rose to more than 3.3 million by February 18, 2016.

Mass graves reportedly containing the bodies of those killed by Da’esh have been discovered in Iraq and organizations are engaged in documentation and preservation efforts. In August 2014, just after Da’esh’s invasion of Sinjar District, the since-disbanded Iraqi Ministry of Human Rights reported the discovery of one grave containing 500 bodies, with no further details available. In May 2015, media outlets reported the discovery of a mass grave in western Mosul containing the remains of 80 Yezidis. Habdi Dobani, a representative from the Yezidi Affairs Council in KRG, reported that these individuals were likely victims of Da’esh’s August 2014 attack on the city, and the remains showed signs of brutal treatment. In addition to the mass graves associated with the Yezidi massacres, in June 2015 the Ministry of Human Rights announced that the government exhumed close to 1,000 bodies from mass graves in Tikrit, mainly those whom Da’esh executed at the former Camp Speicher in June 2014.

In December 2014, portions of the Sinjar District north of Mount Sinjar – referred to as the Sinuni sub district – were liberated from Da’esh. In March 2015, the Daily Beast and other media outlets reported the discovery of mass graves in the Sinuni sub district and the Peshmerga’s exhumation of bodies, including, in one site, the bodies of 21 men, one woman, and one child. In August 2015, investigators from Human Rights Watch visited seven sites in the Sinuni sub district where Da’esh fighters are believed to have executed Yezidi Iraqis. Human Rights Watch reported that the bodies from these sites had been exhumed by Peshmerga or local residents.

In November 2015, areas south of Mount Sinjar, including Sinjar city, were liberated from Da’esh. In late November and in additional trips in December, a documentation team from Yazda Human Rights Organization, a U.S.-based organization working to support the Yezidi ethno-religious minority, assessed 35 potential sites of mass graves based on survivor reports and other evidence. Based on its assessment, including site visits, Yazda confirmed 19 mass grave sites. In addition to the sites they have confirmed, Yazda investigators reported three other survivor-reported sites that they have not been able to confirm as mass graves. A further three sites were identified as potential mass graves but have not yet been visited. Other mass graves in and around Mosul not yet liberated from Da’esh will likely be uncovered as the conflict progresses. Based on reports of mass killings by survivors, Yazda has identified an additional ten potential sites that remain inaccessible to investigators.

Both Human Rights Watch and Yazda found little or no protection of the sites and no preservation of evidence at the sites they investigated and have called on both the Iraqi government and the KRG to provide protection until forensic or other examination can take place. The KRG has requested assistance for forensic examination of the sites.


 Violent extremist organizations, such as the Ansar al-Sharia and Da’esh, expanded their influence in Libya, controlling large swathes of territory, primarily in the areas around Benghazi, Sirte, and Derna. Da’esh effectively controlled Sirte for most of 2015.

On February 15, 2015, Da’esh published a video on social media depicting the beheading of 21 men on an unidentified Libyan beach. The “Tripoli Province” of Da’esh claimed responsibility for the killings. The Egyptian government confirmed the deaths of 20 Egyptian citizens, and the Ghanaian government confirmed that a Christian Ghanaian was one of the persons who were beheaded. This was followed by another video, published on April 19, 2015 which showed the killing of 28 Ethiopian and Eritrean Christians in Libya by beheading and gunshot. Da’esh claimed responsibility for these killings.On October 18, 2015, a video was published depicting the killing of a Christian man from South Sudan in Libya, for which Da’esh claimed responsibility. On August 12, 2015, members of Da’esh killed a popular local imam in Sirte after he refused to relinquish control of his mosque, according to the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL). This was followed by an uprising against Da’esh in Sirte sparked by quietist Salafists (Salafists who do not engage in direct political action, including violence) – reportedly outraged over the execution of a Salafist imam whom Da’esh had declared an apostate – after which Da’esh suppressed the uprising, killing its leaders and many members and hanging their corpses from street lights. Families of the dead, considered apostates by Da’esh, were ordered to bury their own dead in ordinary ground outside Sirte. UNSMIL additionally reported that Da’esh crucified five men and displayed their bodies in the town square. On October 16, 2015, Da’esh beheaded two Libyan men in Sirte accused of sorcery.

On October 28, 2015, Da’esh claimed responsibility for a bomb that killed a Sunni Salafist imam in Ajdabiya who was known to have been critical of Da’esh. Da’esh is also believed to be responsible for the November 26, 2015, killings of two Salafist preachers (as well as an Ajdabiya police official), according to media reports.

The eastern city of Derna was controlled by the Shura Council of Mujahideen in Derna, an umbrella organization consisting of Salafist groups opposed to Da’esh, including the U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organization Ansar al-Sharia. This group was widely reported to have severely hindered Derna’s Sunni Muslims’ exercise of freedom to worship, and reportedly publicly executed and flogged residents accused of violating Da’esh’s interpretation of sharia.

In March 2015, Da’esh published pictures on social media depicting its fighters destroying Sufi shrines outside of Tripoli with sledgehammers and construction equipment.


 Violent extremist groups, including Da’esh, have committed appalling atrocities in Syria. In 2015, extremists groups targeted Shia, Alawites, and members of other religious groups with killings, kidnapping, and other brutality in the areas of the country under their control. Da’esh reportedly killed more than 60 members of religious minority groups – including men, women and children – through public executions, crucifixions, and beheadings, claiming that they had committed apostasy, blasphemy, and cursing God. It imposed other brutal punishments, including lashing, on individuals it “charged” with committed lesser religious offenses such as insulting the Prophet or failing to comply with its standards of grooming and dress. Da’esh reportedly required Christians to convert, flee, pay a jizya, or face execution, and has destroyed churches, Shia shrines, and other religious heritage sites. Da’esh employed what it deemed its own “police force,” “court system,” and revised school curriculum to enforce and spread its interpretation of Islam.

According to NGO and media reports, prior to the war in Syria, approximately 1,500 Christian families lived in Raqqa, where Da’esh is currently headquartered. By the summer of 2015, virtually all Christians had fled Raqqa, according to media reports. While estimates of the numbers of Christian families remaining in the city vary, media and civil society reporting from as recently as February 2016, including estimates from former and current residents, have suggested that as few as 30 individual Christians and as many as 50 Christian families remain, paying an unknown amount in jizya with no access to public places of worship.

In February 2015, Da’esh overran the Khabour river region forcing thousands of Assyrian Christians and others to flee and kidnapping over 200 Assyrian Christians. Three of these hostages were murdered on video in August 2015. The remainder were held hostage for months and released in small groups following lengthy and difficult negotiations. The last of the hostages, with the exception of two women (one of whom had reportedly been forcibly married to a Da’esh fighter), were released on February 21, 2016.

In August 2015, Da’esh moved into the mostly-Christian town of Qarytain in Homs province and began targeting residents for discriminatory treatment on the basis of religion. In October 2015, Da’esh released a video in which the group asserted that it had converted some residents to Islam and imposed a jizya on others. Da’esh fighters also reportedly desecrated Christian holy sites in the town.

In May 2015, al-Nusra Front (al-Nusra) leader Abu Mohammed al-Julani told media sources that Druze would not be targeted by al-Nusra but that representatives would be sent to Druze villages to “inform them of the doctrinal pitfalls they have fallen into,” as conservative Islamic schools considered Druze to be apostates. In June 2015, a Tunisian al-Nusra commander in Idlib province reportedly ordered his fighters to open fire, killing 20 Druze villagers, who he referred to as “infidels.” Al-Nusra also reportedly killed seven Druze clerics and eight other Druze in August 2015. In October 2015, al-Nusra abducted members of religious minority groups, including a Catholic priest and 20 other Christians in Quenyeh village.

Syrian Regime:

 Atrocities Although actions of the Syrian government are not included in the reporting requirement, its conduct has helped contribute to the rise of violent extremist groups in the region. While violent extremist groups continue to commit appalling abuses in Syria, the scale of killing by the Syrian regime, which has particularly affected Sunni communities in the country, far exceeds that of any other party to the conflict.

Source: U.S. Department of State