Readout of Assistant Secretary Tom Malinowski and Ambassador David Saperstein's Travel to Baghdad and Erbil, Iraq

Media Note
Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
February 17, 2015

Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Tom Malinowski and Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom David Saperstein met with Iraqi government leaders, representatives of non-governmental organizations, and civil society activists, including representatives of Iraq’s religious and ethnic minority communities, students, journalists, and residents of a camp for internally displaced persons in Iraq February 8-11. Their visit highlighted the importance of promoting human rights in the fight against ISIL.

Assistant Secretary Malinowski said that the United States will continue to stand with Iraqis in their fight against ISIL. He also underscored the importance of inclusive governance, respect for human rights, and protection of civil society, including Iraq’s diverse religious communities, to fully defeat ISIL’s divisive ideology and prevent its creed of hatred from emerging in another form after ISIL is defeated on the battlefield.

In meetings with Iraqi government officials, including the Ministers of Human Rights and Women’s Affairs, the Deputy Minister of Interior, and Kurdistan Ministers of the Interior, Foreign Affairs, and Peshmerga, Assistant Secretary Malinowski and Ambassador Saperstein expressed their concerns about allegations of human rights abuses by militias in Iraq. Assistant Secretary Malinowski stressed the importance of accountability for these alleged abuses and security for civilian populations, to avoid reinforcing the sectarian divisions that facilitated ISIL’s rise in the first place. Assistant Secretary Malinowski and Ambassador Saperstein also raised concerns regarding the need to protect all civilians from harm and urged the Iraqi and Kurdish authorities to do everything possible to rescue women captives whom ISIL holds and abuses.

Members of Iraq’s minority communities, including Chaldean Patriarch Louis Sako and Yezidi, Sabean-Mandaean, Shabak, and Kakai leaders, described the need for inter-faith dialogue and reform of school curricula to promote understanding and conflict resolution, promote religious freedom, and to reduce sectarianism. Those displaced from the Ninewa plains area expressed fear to return to their historic homelands, and stressed the need for security, employment and education opportunities, and conflict resolution. Malinowski pressed them to avoid taking revenge against former neighbors suspected of collusion with ISIL, and Ambassador Saperstein pledged U.S. commitment to helping them return to their homelands and to meeting the needs of the displaced.

Assistant Secretary Malinowski also delivered remarks before the Middle East Research Institute in Erbil, Iraq where he thanked the people of Kurdistan for their generosity in opening their homes to the vast influx of the internally displaced, who now represent almost a third of the Kurdistan region’s population. He said that the United States stands with all people of Iraq to degrade and defeat ISIL, but highlighted that the stabilization of Iraq afterwards must be Iraqi-led and that protection of human rights and freedom of expression is a strategic component of that reconstruction as well as the defeat of ISIL.

Follow Assistant Secretary Malinowski on Twitter: @Malinowski. Follow Ambassador Saperstein on Twitter: @AmbSaperstein. For updates on the U.S. Government’s human rights work, visit or the DRL Twitter account, @State_DRL.

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