The United Nations has some explaining to do. Pictures have surfaced of a building with fresh paint on the outside and rubble on the inside with a UNICEFF stencil on the walls has made an attorney for the Catholic archdiocese in Northern Iraq accuse the State Department and United Nations of giving promised funding away, reports the Washington Free Beacon.
Stephen Rasche, the legal counsel and director of internally displaced people resettlement programs for the Catholic Archdiocese of Erbil, testified before a House panel Tuesday that the aid programs that were promised to the Christian, Yazidi area and other religious-minority communities are virtually non-existent.
Rasche claims that the aid programs are so mismanaged that some U.S. tax payer dollars are going to benefit Iraqis who took over areas that persecuted Christians fled too, even though the U.N says that the project is aimed to help Christians.
“While status reports from UNDP work in Ninevah purport to show real progress in the Christian-majority towns, on the ground we see little evidence of it,” he told a House Foreign Affairs panel Tuesday.
The Trump administration has continued to direct aid to Iraq through the United Nations’ Development Program UNDP, despite warnings from Catholic leaders.
The U.N. is meant to be “religion-blind” in their policy of distributing most of the money to refugee camps that Christians and Yazidis avoid out of fear of further persecution.
Rasche has uncovered that the few of the UNDP projects for Christians are mostly “cosmetic in nature,” even though U.N. official reports want them to appear to be far more extensive. He says the outside exterior walls have been painted with a fresh coat of paint to give the illusion of progress, but then once inside, the rooms have been untouched and contain mostly rubble.
“There is no water, no power, and no furniture,” he said. “Bear in mind that these are government schools, which were due to open today.”
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is a UNDP partner, which is the logo that is sprayed every 30 feet on the outside of the building.
“The Washington Free Beacon obtained several photos of the UNDP projects in Teleskov showing the fresh exterior paint with the stenciled UNICEF logo while the insides of the buildings remained covered in dust and rubble.”
What is even worse, Rasche says, is that the fund is meant to assist religious minorities in Telkayf, but there are no more Christians in that community. “They were forced from this town by acts of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes,” he says.
When ISIS had a firm control over the area, they expelled roughly 10,000 Christian families from the town and there was no U.N. aid planning for those refugees.
“That such a representation could be made in the UNDP report, without even the barest attempt at an explanatory note, shows clearly the profound depth of disconnect between representation and reality,” he added. “In effect, U.S. taxpayers are financing the spoils of genocide.”
Shireen Jerdo Ibrahim, a Yazidi woman says that even though ISIS has been pushed out of the region, adherents of its ideology are still in the community, and religious minorities don’t feel safe there.
The Catholic Archdiocese of Iraq is one of the only groups on the ground working to house and feed displaced Christians and Yazidis and help rebuild their homes. The Knights of Columbus and Aid to the Church in Need are the church’s main fundraisers and have provided more than $26 million for more than three years since ISIS began its onslaught in Iraq.
Bipartisan groups in the House and Senate, along with human rights activists and Catholic groups have been pressing the State Department for months to direct money to assist the situation in Iraq. But instead the State Department has continued to channel most of its funds to the U.N. to help Iraq.
Critics have complained that the State Department will quickly dispatch $32 million to help the Muslim-majority Rohingya population in Burma, but not help Christians in Iraq.
“Rep. Chris Smith (R., N.J.), a longtime champion for improving human rights around the world, said during Tuesday’s hearing that ‘career staff’ at the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) are ‘thwarting the commitment of the president, vice president, and Congress to give aid to Christian and Yazidi survivors of the ISIS genocide.'”
Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, a devout Christian himself, have pledged to do more to help protect Christians in the Middle East. Pence even said during a world summit in May that the administration would reaffirm “America’s role as a beacon of hope and life and liberty.”
The State Department avoided using the word “genocide” to describe the ISIS onslaught of Christians, Yazidis and other minorities in Iraq and Syria from speeches and formal documents. Smith urged the Senate to vote on a bill he authored with Rep. Anna Eshoo (D., Calif.) that would explicitly authorize the State Department and USAID to direct U.S. aid to faith-based entities such as the Archdiocese of Erbil.
Congress did allocate more than $1.4 billion in funds for refugees assistance and ensured that part of the money would be used to assist Yazidis, Christians, and Shia Muslims, all groups deemed by the State Department as victims of genocide in 2016.
While Secretary of State, Tillerson may have declared over the summer that the situation in Iraq is in fact a genocide, little has changed on the ground about the conditions for the persecuted.
“Even though the U.S. already has the authority to provide such assistance, we were aware some in the bureaucracy inaccurately claimed they lacked the authority and so we wanted to remove the excuse,” Smith said.