Enemies and Brothers

Elizabeth A. Clark is Associate Director of the International Center for Law and Religion Studies and the lead organizer of the Center’s Annual International Law and Religion Symposium. The following is an edited summary of her remarks given during the closing session of the 29th Annual Symposium, 4 October 2022.

My Enemy, My Brother

A few years ago, I watched a short documentary called My Enemy, My Brother (2015), which relates a true story that begins with a surprising incident during the Iran-Iraq war.

As most of us remember, the Iran-Iraq war was a devastating and brutal conflict that lasted from 1980 to 1988. It involved chemical weapons, ballistic missiles, a million casualties on both sides, and at least half a million soldiers who became permanently disabled.


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Why Iraq Should Enact Laws Criminalizing Genocide

Aldo Zammit Borda is Associate Professor at City, University of London. He has published extensively on international justice issues and, most recently, has co-authored a report on State responsibility for the Yazidi genocide. The following is an edited summary of his remarks at the April and July 2022 Windsor Dialogue conferences.

We know the heavy psychosocial toll that the genocide perpetrated by ISIS (Daesh) against the Yazidis has had on this small, religious community. That genocide, which began in the early hours of 3 August 2014, was intended to destroy the Yazidis in northern Iraq on account of their religious beliefs and their depiction as “devil worshippers.”

Under the Genocide Convention, the crime of genocide may be committed through a number of underlying acts, including killing, causing serious bodily or mental harm, and deliberately inflicting conditions of life calculated to bring about a group’s physical destruction. In 2016, a UN Commission of Inquiry report found that ISIS fighters had committed genocide against the Yazidis using all of the methods envisaged by the Convention.


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Saving Iraqi Religious Minorities and Their Heritage

Knox Thames is a Senior Fellow at the Institute for Global Engagement and Visiting Expert at the U.S. Institute of Peace. He previously served as the State Department Special Advisor for Religious Minorities under both the Obama and Trump administrations

Since the U.S. invasion and subsequent ISIS onslaught, the future for religious minorities in Iraq is increasingly uncertain. Once one of the largest Christian communities in the Middle East, Iraq’s Christian community has shrunk to an estimated 250,000 from over 1.5 million before the American intervention. Many fear the country known as the “Cradle of Christianity” will soon be a graveyard. And the world witnessed the barbaric treatment of Yezidis by ISIS.

When I served in the Obama and Trump State Department in a special envoy role focused on religious minorities, I made multiple trips to Iraq, hearing firsthand about the victimization of minorities. In my diplomatic engagements, I searched for ways to turn the tide against seemingly unstoppable currents that drove minorities out. Caught between religious extremists and discriminatory laws, theirs is a vexing problem with no obvious or immediate solutions. But we were able to make some progress. Christians and minorities feel forgotten, so the Pope’s recent visit provided a high-profile shot in the arm for these efforts.


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