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Monday, 1 September 2014
Page: 9099


Mr BYRNE (Holt) (11:04): I am acutely aware of people in the gallery who have family members who may be affected by the motion that we are discussing today. I rise to support the private member's motion of the member for McMahon condemning the actions of the Islamic State in Iraq, who, since their reign in parts of Iraq, have pursued mass killing of religious minorities living in Iraq, including the Assyrian, Chaldean, Mandaean and Yazidi people. I would like to thank the member for bringing this motion to our federal parliament at this time, a motion that concerns many in the Assyrian, Chaldean and—in particular in my electorate—Coptic Christian communities.

We know that ISIS have systematically abused the human rights of all of those who do not subscribe to their extremist ideology and are continually finding more and more callous and brutal means and ways to enforce their control. Organisations such as Human Rights Watch advise that these groups living in ISIS-controlled Iraq are suffering horrendous persecution based merely on their religious or ethnic identities. They are living in fear and desperation with the knowledge that they are targets of those who wish to perpetrate mass killings or other heinous human rights violations and then, in some cases, broadcast them to a horrified world.

It is widely reported that these groups are being forced to convert to Islam and to pay a religious tax or be killed. Otherwise, they must flee their homes and be asked, or forced, to join almost 2½ million other internally displaced people in Iraq. From July this year Christian minorities in Iraq were having their homes marked by a ISIS fighters, as the member for McMahon has said, with the Arabic letter for 'N', which is a way of identifying that the families living in those homes were Christians, making it very clear they were being targeted and in grave danger. Their churches, places of worship and sanctuary, have been seized and their religious monuments are being destroyed. There are other Islamic minorities, the Shia Shabak and Shia Turkmen minorities, whose homes have also been marked, to identify that they are shias, and they have been subjected to kidnappings and murders like other minorities in the regions. They have been forced to flee their homes in fear of their lives and in fear for their families because they do not share the extreme views of ISIS.

The actions of ISIS are crimes against humanity. This motion talks about us raising these issues with the United Nations Security Council. There is a provision the United Nations Security Council can use, which is called Responsibility to Protect. If there were ever a case to legally mandate actions to be taken under UN auspices to protect the genocide of minorities, this has got to be it.

What we need is a lasting solution, a considered solution, a measured solution to the horrible atrocities that we are seeing. As we know, the persecution of Christian minorities in the Middle East has been happening for some period of time. Being a friend of the Coptic Christian community in my electorate, I have witnessed and heard of the persecutions that have existed—not just those happening now. For example, there have been persecutions occurring in Egypt, where there has been the burning of churches and the murders and kidnappings of Coptic Christians since August 2013; in Libya, where there has been the murder of Coptic Christians because they are Christian; and, as I said before, in Iraq, where there has been the killing and forced evacuation of Christians, and other heinous crimes committed, because they are Christian.

The question for the UN Security Council—and we can play a critically important role in this—is to mandate lasting action to protect these minorities, because they face an extremist ideology that may not go away if we degrade ISIS, or ISIL as we call them now. We must have a lasting solution. The member for McMahon has raised these issues in this House on an ongoing basis. In my time as a member of parliament, I have heard time after time after time when talking to members of the Christian community the stories of the persecution of the Christian community in the Middle East, because they are Christian. These actions, these measures, these atrocities are so grave, it is the responsibility of the world community to take legally mandated action to remove the stain of genocide in this part of the world and, properly, for perpetuity. (Time expired)