United States Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Tom Malinowski visited Iraq, February 21-24, to discuss human rights issues with senior Iraqi government and judicial officials, and religious and civil society leaders. The Assistant Secretary’s delegation, which included Knox Thames, Special Advisor for Religious Minorities, was joined by United States Ambassador to Iraq Stuart E. Jones.
While in Baghdad, Assistant Secretary Malinowski met with Minister of Defense Khalid al-Obaidi. The Assistant Secretary thanked the Minister for his efforts to ensure all security forces operate under government control and respect and protect civilians, their property, and religious sites in all liberated areas. In his meetings with judicial, religious, and civil society leaders, including with parliamentarians and Iraqi Human Rights Commissioners, the Assistant Secretary underscored the significance the United States places on the protection of media freedom and civil rights, and that holding perpetrators of human rights violations accountable will be critical for stability once Da’esh is defeated.
The Assistant Secretary also met with UN representatives and other international relief organizations, welcoming their efforts to address Iraq’s humanitarian crisis, particularly the plight of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees. He emphasized the need for the international community to help the Government of Iraq stabilize liberated areas and ensure the peaceful, voluntary, and safe return for all IDPs.
In Erbil, the Assistant Secretary had meetings with the Minister of Anfal and Martyrs, Mahmood Salih, the head of the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) Department of Foreign Relations, Falah Mustafa, the KRG Minister of the Interior/Acting Minister of Peshmerga Affairs, Karim Sinjari, and the KRG President’s Chief of Staff Fuad Hussein. He also met with Christian leaders and civil society groups, and, joined by Ambassador Jones, visited with Yezidi religious and political leaders at the Lalish Shrine in Duhok province, where he discussed Da’esh atrocities and the need to integrate minority communities into Iraq’s political and security structures. This was the first time a senior U.S. official or U.S. Ambassador has ever visited the Yezidi shrine.
In all his meetings, the Assistant Secretary stressed the United States’ commitment to the protection of minority communities, urged efforts to prevent reprisal attacks, and reaffirmed U.S. support for the safe and voluntary return of internally displaced persons.