Iraq

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U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom

Iraq Chapter - Annual Report 2015

Key Findings

Iraq’s overall human rights landscape, including for religious freedom, deteriorated significantly in 2014, especially in areas controlled by the U.S.-designated terrorist group the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). In these areas the Iraqi government has little capacity to fight ISIL’s advances or to protect religious communities from violent attack. ISIL targets all Iraqis who oppose its violent religious ideology, but the smallest non-Muslim minority communities, particularly Yazidis and Christians, suffered especially egregious and large-scale abuses. While ISIL was the most egregious perpetrator of religiously-motivated human rights and religious freedom violations in Iraq in the last year, the Iraqi government also contributed to the deterioration in religious freedom conditions. Security forces and Shi’a militias supported by the Iraqi government perpetrated grave human rights violations, particularly against Sunni Muslims. Millions of Iraqis are now refugees or are internally displaced. Based on these violations, perpetrated primarily by non-state actors but also by the state, USCIRF recommends in 2015 that the U.S. government designate Iraq as a “country of particular concern,” or CPC, under the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA). USCIRF has recommended CPC designation for Iraq since December 2008. Post-Saddam Iraq has never been designated as a CPC by the State Department.

Background

Under Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi government maintained religious peace through intimidation and terror while favoring the Sunni Muslim minority. With the fall of Saddam in 2003, sectarian conflict exploded. The Shi’a Muslim majority took control of the government and effectively froze out the Sunni Muslim population. The Iraqi government under Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki often acted in an authoritarian and sectarian manner, for example, raiding and disbanding peaceful Sunni protests, targeting Sunni areas, citizens and politicians for security sweeps and arrests, mistreating Sunni prisoners, and marginalizing Sunnis from government and security positions. This background helped create the conditions that allowed ISIL to rise, spread, and ultimately control significant areas of northern and central Iraq. Despite al-Maliki’s resignation and replacement in August by new Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, Sunni resentment and reports of abuses against Sunni Muslims by security forces and allied Shi’a militias continue.

Over the past decade, many Iraqis, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, have been victimized by religiously-motivated violence. The Iraqi government has proven unable or unwilling to stop this violence or bring perpetrators to justice, creating a perpetual sense of insecurity for all religious communities, particularly the smallest ones. While the 2005 Iraqi constitution states that it guarantees equality and religious freedom to all Iraqis, IRAQ ISIL targets all Iraqis who oppose its violent religious ideology, but the smallest non-Muslim minority communities, particularly Yazidis and Christians, suffered especially egregious and large-scale abuses. 96 USCIRF | ANNUAL REPORT 2015 these guarantees thus far have provided little actual protection, particularly, but not only, in the past year.

Even before ISIL’s rise, the country’s smallest religious communities – which include Catholics, Christian Orthodox, Protestants, Yazidis, and Sabean Mandaeans – were mere shadows of their already-small former presence. Pre-2003, non-Muslims amounted to only an estimated 3 percent of Iraq’s population. They have long faced official and societal discrimination, and their small size and lack of militia or tribal structures have made it difficult for them to defend themselves against violence or protect their rights through the Iraqi political system. In 2013 the Christian population was estimated at 500,000, half the size estimated in 2003. Also in 2013, the Yazidis reported that since 2005 their population had decreased by nearly 200,000 to approximately 500,000, and the Mandaeans reported that almost 90 percent of their community had left the country or been killed, leaving just a few thousand. The size of these religious communities continue to decline as the crisis in Iraq deepens, with Iraqi Christian leaders now stating that their community only numbers around 250,000- 300,000. Between 2003 and 2008, many members of Iraq’s smallest minority communities were driven out of the country or fled to northern Iraq, including areas in the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region (KRG), as well as other nearby areas that are now under ISIL’s control. The KRG areas have been the safest part of Iraq, but minorities in areas nearby that are disputed between the KRG and the Iraqi central government have reported pressure from Kurdish officials and political parties to support their territorial claims.

Religious Freedom Conditions 2014-2015

Violations by ISIL and other Non-State Actors

ISIL’s rise, spread and ultimately its June 2014 declaration of a so-called “Islamic State,” which cuts across Iraq and Syria, is particularly threatening for the future of human rights and religious freedom in Iraq and the region. ISIL espouses an extreme, violent religious ideology that allows for no religious diversity. While ISIL targets all Iraqis who oppose it, religious minority communities have suffered especially egregious, devastating, and large-scale abuses, including forced expulsion from their historic homelands, forced conversion, rape and enslavement of women and children, torture, beheadings, and massacres. ISIL’s takeover of northern Iraq could well mark the end of the presence in that area of its ancient Yazidi and Christian communities.

In June 2014, ISIL took the northern city of Mosul, overrunning Iraqi forces there, who dropped their weapons and fled. ISIL issued an ultimatum that all Christians must convert to Islam, leave Mosul, pay a tax, or face death. The Christian community in Mosul dates back more than 1,700 years, with an estimated 30,000 living there before the ISIL offensive. In August, ISIL captured Qaraqosh, the largest Christian town in northern Iraq, prompting an estimated 100,000 Christians to flee, and an assault on the Christian town of al-Kosh also led to an exodus of Christians. Nearly all Christians are believed to have left ISIL-held territory, with most fleeing to the KRG region.

ISIL’s August 2014 attack on the largely Yazidi town of Sinjar, located in the Nineveh province of northern Iraq, led to the massacre of Yazidis, Assyrian Christians, Shi’a and others, and the destruction of religious sites that date back centuries. Yazidi contacts told USCIRF that the Kurdish forces protecting the town abandoned them during the night when ISIL was approaching, leaving them defenseless. According to the UN, 200,000 civilians, mostly Yazidis, fled Sinjar town for the mountain, which ISIL forces surrounded. Men, women, and children were stranded on Mount Sinjar with no escape and little access to food, water, or shelter, except for limited airlifts provided by Iraqi and Kurdish Peshmerga forces. Reportedly, as many as 500 Yazidis were massacred by ISIL and dozens died of starvation and dehydration. For Yazidis, the ISIL ultimatum was to convert or die; they are not considered “people of the book” and therefore not afforded the options to leave or pay a tax. In addition, thousands of Yazidi women and girls, including those who had not reached puberty, were kidnapped, raped, sold as sex slaves, or killed. The Kurdish Peshmerga, with the assistance of U.S. airstrikes, was finally able to break through ISIL’s siege of Mt. Sinjar in December 2014. Peshmerga forces reported finding mass graves in the area.

ISIL also has killed Sunni Muslims who disagree with its extreme ideology. In October 2014, 150 Sunni Muslims from the Albu Nimr tribe were found in a mass grave, and in a separate case a few weeks earlier, 70 additional corpses from the same tribe were found. ISIL has also killed at least 12 Sunni clerics that rejected their extremist ideologies or attempted to assist or protect religious minorities.

Non-state actors other than ISIL have also perpetrated religiously-motivated attacks. As in previous years, 2014 saw a number of violent attacks targeting the country’s Shi’a majority, including pilgrims celebrating important holidays. These presumably were carried out by Sunni extremist groups, though the actual perpetrator of specific attacks is rarely known. For example, on May 22, multiple attacks in and around Baghdad killed at least 35 Shi’a pilgrims traveling to a shrine in Kadhimiya and injured dozens.

Violations by the Iraqi Government

The Iraqi government, under both former Prime Minister al-Maliki and current Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, also has committed human rights abuses, including torture and extrajudicial killings of Sunni prisoners and civilians. In addition, the government is funding and arming Shi’a militias to fight ISIL, which operate outside any legal framework and with impunity. Human rights groups and the United Nations have documented summary executions and other severe abuses committed by members of these groups against Sunni civilians. In an October 2014 report, Amnesty International named ‘Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq, the Badr Brigades, the Mahdi Army, and Kata’ib Hizbullah as perpetrators of human rights abuses, including mass killings of Sunni civilians.

U.S. Policy

After the U.S. military withdrew from Iraq in December 2011, the U.S. presence in the country decreased significantly between 2012 and 2014. However, the rise of ISIL and the formation of a new Iraqi government in 2014 have led the United States to once again deepen its involvement, including but not limited to, increased humanitarian aid, air strikes, and training and assisting Iraqi forces.

After years of supporting the al-Maliki government, by mid-2014 U.S. officials reportedly felt that al-Maliki could no longer govern Iraq due to his and his government’s sectarian and authoritarian actions, and pressured al-Maliki to step down to allow a new government to form. In August 2014, al-Maliki resigned and Haider al-Abadi was designated as Prime Minister by President Fuad Masum.

In August 2014, ISIL’s offensive in northern Iraq that targeted Yazidis and other minority communities and threatened U.S. personnel in Erbil led to U.S. airstrikes, the first since the 2011 troop withdrawal. In addition, the U.S. military began airdrops of food and water to the thousands of people trapped on Mount Sinjar. The same month, the U.S. government announced that it would provide Iraqi Kurdistan’s Peshmerga forces with light weaponry and ammunition and begin sending military advisers and trainers to assist Iraqi government forces. In addition, in August 2014, USAID deployed a Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) to the region to coordinate U.S. humanitarian efforts in responding to the needs of newly displaced populations. According to a Congressional Research Service February 2015 report, approximately 3,100 U.S. military non-combat personnel have been deployed to Iraq. The United States is now leading a coalition of 60 countries to combat ISIL’s advance.

Many of the countries conduct their own airstrikes, train and provide weaponry to Iraqi and Kurdish forces, provide humanitarian aid, and are working to cut off ISIL’s funding sources. In September 2014, President Obama appointed retired General John Allen as the U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL.

In addition, the United States is leading the international effort to provide aid for civilians whom ISIL forced to flee their homes and are now internally displaced or refugees in neighboring countries. The Congressional Research Service has reported that the total U.S. government humanitarian funding to Iraq in FY2014 and FY2015 (as of December 19, 2014) was more than $213.8 million. The United States also continues to resettle Iraqi refugees to the United States. According to State Department statistics, 19,769 Iraqis were resettled to the United States in FY2014, the most from any single country.

In recent years, the U.S. government has made efforts to help address the problems facing Iraq’s smallest religious and ethnic minorities. Since 2008, the State Department has designated officials in both Washington and Baghdad to coordinate its efforts on minority issues. In Washington, that responsibility is now held by the deputy to the Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL. The United States also has funded civil society efforts to assist Iraq’s minorities, such as the Support for Minorities in Iraq (SMI) program, which works with minority groups to help them better represent themselves in civil society. In addition, after the reporting period, Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Tom Malinowski and Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom David Saperstein raised concerns about minority issues and abuses perpetrated by Iraqi militias on a February 2015 visit to Iraq.

Recommendations

In addition to recommending that the U.S. government designate Iraq as a CPC, USCIRF recommends that the U.S. government should:

  • Call for or support a referral by the UN Security Council to the International Criminal Court to investigate ISIL violations in Iraq and Syria against religious and ethnic minorities, following the models used in Sudan and Libya, or encourage the Iraqi government to accept ICC jurisdiction to investigate ISIL violations in Iraq after June 2014;
  • Ensure that the efforts of the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL include steps to protect and assist the region’s most vulnerable religious and ethnic minorities and, where appropriate, assist Iraqi government and KRG security forces in efforts to provide security to protect likely targets of sectarian or religiously-motivated violence;
  • Develop a government-wide plan of action to protect religious minorities in Iraq and help establish the conditions for them to return to their homes; charge the Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom with engaging with the Inter-Governmental Contact Group on Freedom of Religion or Belief to coordinate similar efforts by other governments;
  • Urge the Iraqi government to create structures to oversee and hold to account Shi’a militias, so they do not violate the human rights of non-combatant Sunni Muslims or religious minorities, and to investigate and prosecute perpetrators when violations occur;
  • Include in all military or security assistance to the Iraqi and Iraqi Kurdistan governments a requirement that security forces are integrated to reflect the country’s religious and ethnic diversity, and provide training for recipient units on universal human rights standards and how to treat civilians, particularly religious minorities;
  • Continue to task embassy officials with engaging religious minority communities, and work with Iraq’s government and these communities and their political and civic representatives to help them reach agreement on what measures are needed to ensure their rights and security in the country;
  • Urge the parties to include the protection of rights for all Iraqis and ending discrimination as part of negotiations between the KRG and the Iraqi government on disputed territories, and press the KRG to address alleged abuses against minorities by Kurdish officials in these areas;
  • Focus U.S. programming in Iraq on promoting religious freedom and tolerance and ensure that marginalized communities benefit from U.S. and international development assistance; and
  • Continue to prioritize the resettlement to the United States of vulnerable Iraqi refugees, including those who fled to Syria but are now refugees in a third country; interview applicants by videoconference when in-person interviews cannot be conducted for security reasons; and allocate sufficient resources to the Department of Homeland Security and other agencies to expeditiously process applications and conduct security background checks to facilitate resettlements without compromising U.S. national security.

Dissenting Statement of Vice Chair James J. Zogby

I disagree with the decision to name Iraq a “country of particular concern” for two reasons.

First, the main violators of religious freedom in Iraq today are non-state actors from the self-styled “Islamic State” (IS) to the armed sectarian militias that operate outside of the control of the central government. Both the IS and the armed sectarian militias have committed atrocities against those not of their faith, and the IS, in particular, has engaged in genocidal behavior towards Christians and other vulnerable religious minorities.

At present, the Administration is working with the Iraqi government to defeat the IS, to rebuild a non-sectarian army, and to implement political reforms that will create a more inclusive government. Declaring Iraq as a CPC does not contribute to this effort.

The second reason I am averse to making this designation is that it was hubris that led the Bush Administration to invade, occupy, and believe that it could restructure the governance of the country. The creation of the murderous sectarian militias took place on our watch in the middle of the last decade, as did the massive sectarian “cleansing” operations that resulted in the dislocation of one-fifth of the country’s population and the forced exile of two-thirds of Iraq’s Christian community.

The question we must ask now ourselves is: did we do everything in our power, when we left Iraq to insure that the country was on the path to national reconciliation and inclusive governance? Since the answer is clearly that we did not, it is, at best, insensitive for us to now declare the mess we left behind a “country of particular concern.”

While the non-state actors in Iraq deserve our condemnation, what the Iraqi government now needs from us is the political and military support we are providing to defeat the IS and put their house in order.

Did You Know?

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In an attempt to forcibly transform the Soviet Union into a socialist paradise, the Communist Party declared the elimination of religion to be an ideological imperative. Even though the Orthodox Church was deeply interwoven in pre-revolutionary Russian society, the state forbade public expressions of faith, demolished hundreds of places of worship, and executed hundreds of priests. However, the Orthodox faith remained rooted in Russia - as communism collapsed in the late 1980s and early 90s, millions rushed to be baptized and thousands were ordained as priests. Despite attempts to eliminate religion, today the majority of Russians identify themselves as Orthodox Christian.
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Appalled by the scourge of slavery across the United States, Harriet Beecher Stowe called attention to its horrors and impact on American society by publishing Uncle Tom’s Cabin in 1852. Selling 10,000 copies in its first week and becoming the second best-selling book of the century after the Bible, the graphic horrors of slavery portrayed in the book ignited social consciousness and fierce public debate. This debate carried through into the U.S. Civil War, which in turn led to Congress passing the 13th amendment to the U.S. Constitution, prohibiting slavery throughout the country. Uncle Tom's Cabin prepared the way for one of the biggest social shifts in American history.
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In the early 20th century, the Ku Klux Klan was responsible for the deaths of thousands of African-Americans, and symbols of the Klan – like the burning cross – inspired terror nationwide. But in 1946, the Klan was dealt a significant blow by a single concerned citizen. Activist and author Stetson Kennedy infiltrated the Klan over a period of months, gathering key information on the group's secret rituals and code words. Kennedy then shared his knowledge with the writers of a Superman radio serial, leading to the broadcast of The Adventures of Superman: "Clan of the Fiery Cross,” which over a two-week period exposed the Klan’s best-kept secrets. By trivializing the Klan, the broadcast helped strip the Klan of its mystique. Over time, the group declined rapidly and only a few thousand members are active today.
In the late 19th century, thousands of South Asian migrants flocked to East Africa to construct a railway network throughout the British Protectorate of Uganda. Over the following century, many of these laborers and their descendants secured lucrative positions in the growing domestic economy. However, the rise to power of President Idi Amin in 1971 brought trouble. Playing on the nationalistic feelings of native Ugandans, he denounced the entire South Asian community as “bloodsuckers” and decreed their immediate expulsion under threat of imprisonment. The United Kingdom attempted to intercede with Amin, but eventually accepted almost 27,000 refugees, decimating the Indian and Pakistani community in Uganda.
Although branded as the transcript of a Jewish plot masterminding world domination, a large portion of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion is copied directly from a political satire by French writer Maurice Joly. Joly’s protagonist warns, “Like the God Vishnu, my press will have a hundred arms and these arms will give their hands to all the different shades of opinion throughout the country," and the Protocols attribute an almost identical statement to a “sinister” Jew. This plagiarism is just one of the many holes in the Protocols' so-called indictment of world Jewry.
Sierra Leone is a beacon of religious tolerance in West Africa. With a Christian president elected by a roughly 70% Muslim nation, both groups pray alongside each other with conversions and intermarriage commonplace. Some Sierra Leonian citizens even practice both religions; known as ChrisMus, they attend regular prayers at the mosque while faithfully attending church on Sundays.
Despite his sharp criticism of organized religion, Voltaire, one of the Enlightenment's greatest thinkers, resolutely defended religious tolerance. The most famous example of this defense was sparked by a tragedy. In October 1761, Marc-Antoine Calas, a young man from a Protestant family living in Catholic France, was found dead in his father’s shop in Toulouse, most likely by suicide. Public opinion quickly settled on his father, Jean, as the prime suspect – it was supposed that he had killed Marc-Antoine to prevent him from converting to Catholicism. Jean was repeatedly and inhumanely tortured and eventually executed. Outraged by the blatant injustice of the case, Voltaire succeeded in securing Jean a posthumous pardon, and went on to write his famous treatise on religious tolerance.

 It is the enemy who can truly teach us to practice the virtues of compassion and tolerance.

- 14th Dalai Lama (1935-present), Ocean of Wisdom: Guidelines for Living, 1989

 The life of the nation is secure only while the nation is honest, truthful, and virtuous.

- Frederick Douglass (1818-1895), African-American abolitionist and U.S. minister to Haiti from 1889 to 1891, Speech on the twenty-fourth anniversary of Emancipation in the District of Columbia, Washington, D.C., April 1885

 A human being is a part of the whole, called by us "Universe," a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest—a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. The striving to free oneself from this delusion is the one issue of true religion. Not to nourish it but to try to overcome it is the way to reach the attainable measure of peace of mind.

- Albert Einstein (1879-1955), German-born theoretical physicist, 1950

 I am a lover of truth, a worshipper of freedom, a celebrant at the altar of language and purity and tolerance. That is my religion.... My belief in my religion is strong and I know that lies will always fail and indecency and intolerance will always perish.

- Stephen Fry (1957-present), English comedian, actor, writer, presenter, and activist, 1993

 WHAT is tolerance? it is the consequence of humanity. We are all formed of frailty and error; let us pardon reciprocally each other's folly--that is the first law of nature.

- Voltaire (1694-1778), French Enlightenment writer, historian, and philosopher, 1764

 It is my inmost conviction, Badshah Khan said, that Islam is amal, yakeen, muhabat – selfless service, faith, and love.

- Badshah Khan (1890-1988), Pashtun independence activist

 If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind.

- John Stuart Mill (1806-1873), British philosopher, political economist and civil servant, On Liberty, 1859

 Whenever you're in conflict with someone, there is one factor that can make the difference between damaging your relationship and deepening it. That factor is attitude.

- William James (1842-1910), American philosopher and psychologist

 You must not treat others with cruelty and that much harshly, you must fight others but through peace and through dialogue and through education.

- Malala Yousafzai (1997-present), Pakistani activist for female education and Nobel Prize laureate, October 10, 2013

 To build a future you have to know the past.

- Otto Frank (1889-1980), Holocaust survivor who was a German-born businessman and father of Anne and Margot Frank, 1967

 Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.

- Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968), American Baptist minister and leader of the American Civil Rights Movement, Strength to Love, 1963

 There is only one good, knowledge, and one evil, ignorance.

- Socrates (469 BC-399 BC), Greek philosopher

 We all know we are unique individuals, but we tend to see others as representatives of groups.

- Deborah Tannen (1945-present), linguist and author, You Just Don't Understand, 1990

 Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.

- Frederick Douglass (1818-1895), African-American abolitionist and U.S. minister to Haiti from 1889 to 1891, Speech on the twenty-fourth anniversary of Emancipation in the District of Columbia, Washington, D.C., April 1886

 All of us have this commandment at heart: do good and do not do evil. All of us.... this ‘closing off’ that imagines that those outside, everyone, cannot do good is a wall that leads to war and also to what some people throughout history have conceived of: killing in the name of God.... And that, simply, is blasphemy.

- Pope Francis (1936-present), May 22, 2013

 The scientist is free, and must be free to ask any question, to doubt any assertion, to seek for any evidence, to correct any errors. Our political life is also predicated on openness. We know that the only way to avoid error is to detect it and that the only way to detect it is to be free to inquire. And we know that as long as men are free to ask what they must, free to say what they think, free to think what they will, freedom can never be lost, and science can never regress.

- Robert Oppenheimer (1904-1967), American theoretical physicist

 I knew that to really minister to Rwanda's needs meant working toward reconciliation in the prisons, in the churches, and in the cities and villages throughout the country. It meant feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, caring for the young, but it also meant healing the wounded and forgiving the unforgivable.

- John Rucyahana (1945-present), former Rwandan Anglican bishop, The Bishop of Rwanda: Finding Forgiveness Amidst a Pile of Bones, 2007

 Injustice, poverty, slavery, ignorance — these may be cured by reform or revolution. But men do not live only by fighting evils. They live by positive goals, individual and collective, a vast variety of them, seldom predictable, at times incompatible.

- Isaiah Berlin (1909-1997), Russo-British Jewish social and political theorist, philosopher and historian, Political Ideas in the Twentieth Century, Foreign Affairs, 1950

 If we cannot end now our differences, at least we can make the world safe for diversity.

- John F. Kennedy (1917-1961), 35th President of the United States, Commencement Address at American University, June 10, 1963

 I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it.

- Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), Author of the Declaration of Independence and Third President of the United States,Letter to Archibald Stuart, Philadelphia, December 23, 1791

 From the saintly and single-minded idealist to the fanatic is often but a step.

- Friedrich Hayek (1899-1992), economist and philosopher, 1944

 For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.

- Nelson Mandela (1918-2013), South African anti-apartheid revolutionary and first black president of South Africa,Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela, 1995

 While differing widely in the various little bits we know, in our infinite ignorance we are all equal.

- Karl Popper (1902-1994), Austrian-British philosopher, Conjectures and Refutations: The Growth of Scientific Knowledge, 1963

 My country is the world, and my religion is to do good.

- Thomas Paine (1737-1809), English-American political activist, philosopher, and revolutionary, The Rights of Man, 1791

 If we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them.

- Karl Popper (1902-1994), Austrian-British philosopher, The Open Society and its Enemies, 1945

 I can imagine nothing more terrifying than an Eternity filled with men who were all the same. The only thing which has made life bearable…has been the diversity of creatures on the surface of the globe.

- T. H. White (1906-1964), English author

 There can be only one permanent revolution — a moral one; the regeneration of the inner man. How is this revolution to take place? Nobody knows how it will take place in humanity, but every man feels it clearly in himself. And yet in our world everybody thinks of changing humanity, and nobody thinks of changing himself

- Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910), Russian novelist, playwright, and philosopher, 1900

 Each person must live their life as a model for others.

- Rosa Parks (1913-2005), African-American civil rights activist

 God's dream is that you and I and all of us will realize that we are family, that we are made for togetherness, for goodness, and for compassion.

- Desmond Tutu (1931-present), South African social rights activist and retired Anglican bishop, April 26, 2005

 I believe in God who made of one blood all races that dwell on earth. I believe that all men, black and brown and white, are brothers, varying through Time and Opportunity, in form and gift and feature, but differing in no essential particular, and alike in soul and in the possibility of infinite development.

- W.E.B Dubois (1868-1963), African American sociologist, historian, civil rights activist, Darkwater: Voices from Within the Veil, 1920

 I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."

- Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-1968), American Baptist minister and leader of the American Civil Rights Movement, "I Have a Dream", August 28, 1963

 We need a little more compassion, and if we cannot have it then no politician or even a magician can save the planet.

- 14th Dalai Lama (1935-present)

 Religion must mainly be a matter of principles only. It cannot be a matter of rules. The moment it degenerates into rules, it ceases to be a religion, as it kills responsibility which is an essence of the true religious act.

- Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar (1891-1956), Indian jurist, economist, politician and social reformer

 Even God doesn't propose to judge a man till his last days, why should you and I?

- Dale Carnegie (1888-1955), American self-help author and lecturer

 The test of faith is whether I can make space for difference. Can I recognize God's image in someone who is not in my image, whose language, faith, ideal, are different from mine? If I cannot, then I have made God in my image instead of allowing him to remake me in his.

- Jonathan Sacks (1948 - present), rabbi, philosopher and scholar of Judaism, The Dignity of Difference, 2002

 I truly believe the only way we can create global peace is through not only educating our minds, but our hearts and our souls.

- Malala Yousafzai (1997-present), Pakistani activist for female education and Nobel Prize laureate, September 3, 2013

 Compassion is sometimes the fatal capacity for feeling what it is like to live in somebody else’s skin. It is the knowledge that there can never really be any peace and joy for me unless there is peace and joy finally for you too.

- Frederick Buechner (1926-present), American writer and theologian

 Parents can only give good advice or put them on the right paths, but the final forming of a person's character lies in their own hands.

- Anne Frank (1929-1945), author of The Diary of a Young Girl, 1942-1944

 It is hardly possible to overrate the value, for the improvement of human beings, of things which bring them into contact with persons dissimilar to themselves and with modes of thought and action unlike those with which they are familiar... It is indispensable to be perpetually comparing [one's] own notions and customs with the experience and example of persons in different circumstances.

- John Stuart Mill (1806-1873), British philosopher, political economist and civil servant, Principles of Political Economy, 1848

 We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant.

- Karl Popper (1902-1994), Austrian-British philosopher, The Open Society and its Enemies, 1945

 We recall our terrible past so that we can deal with it, to forgive where forgiveness is necessary, without forgetting; to ensure that never again will such inhumanity tear us apart; and to move ourselves to eradicate a legacy that lurks dangerously as a threat to our democracy.

- Nelson Mandela (1918-2013), South African anti-apartheid revolutionary and first black president of South Africa, February 25, 1999

 I am not an Athenian or a Greek, but a citizen of the world.

- Socrates (469 BC-399 BC), Greek philosopher

 Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.

- Nelson Mandela (1918-2013), South African anti-apartheid revolutionary and first black president of South Africa

 At every level of society, familial, tribal, national and international, the key to a happier and more peaceful and successful world is the growth of compassion.

- 14th Dalai Lama (1935-present), The Compassionate Life, 2001

 I do not want my house to be walled in on all sides and my windows to be stuffed. I want the cultures of all lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible. But I refuse to be blown off my feet by any. I refuse to live in other people’s houses as an interloper, a beggar or a slave.

- Mahatma Gandhi (1969-1948), leader of Indian independence movement, 1927

 Tolerance implies a respect for another person, not because he is wrong or even because he is right, but because he is human.

- John Cogley (1916-1976), author of Religion in a Secular Age, 1968

 [Most] can seldom discern even the simplest and most obvious truth if it be such as obliges them to admit the falsity of conclusions they have formed, perhaps with much difficulty — conclusions of which they are proud, which they have taught to others, and on which they have built their lives.

- Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910), Russian novelist, playwright, and philosopher

 Being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions.

- John Locke (1632-1704), English philosopher, Second Treatise of Government, 1689

 Christian, Jew, Muslim, shaman, Zoroastrian, stone, ground, mountain, river, each has a secret way of being with the mystery, unique and not to be judged.

- Jalaluddin Rumi (1207-1273), 13th-century Persian poet, jurist, theologian, and Sufi mystic

 No man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship or ministry or shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief, but all men shall be free to profess and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion.

- Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), Author of the Declaration of Independence and Third President of the United States, Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom, 1786

 Anger and intolerance are the twin enemies of correct understanding.

- Mahatma Gandhi (1969-1948), leader of Indian independence movement

 I believe we are here on the planet Earth to live, grow up and do what we can to make this world a better place for all people to enjoy freedom.

- Rosa Parks (1913-2005), African-American civil rights activist

 It is thus tolerance that is the source of peace, and intolerance that is the source of disorder and squabbling.

- Pierre Bayle (1647-1706), French philosopher, 1686

 I have striven not to laugh at human actions, not to weep at them, nor to hate them, but to understand them.

- Baruch de Spinoza (1632-1677), Dutch philosopher, Tractatus Theologico-Politicus, 1670

 Tolerance implies no lack of commitment to one's own beliefs. Rather it condemns the oppression or persecution of others.

- John F. Kennedy (1917-1963), 35th President of the United States, October 10, 1960

 I respect Muslims, Jews, Christians, Zoroastrians, Buddhists, Bahá’ís, etc., even non-believers who believe in the principles of humanity. I love them dearly and kiss the hands of each and every one of them.

- Masoumi Tehrani, senior Iranian cleric

 Where they have burned books, they will end in burning human beings.

- Heinrich Heine (1797-1856), German poet, journalist, essayist, and literary critic, Almansor, 1821

 Compassion is not religious business, it is human business. It is not a luxury, it is essential for our own peace and mental stability. It is essential for human survival.

- 14th Dalai Lama (1935 - present), spiritual leader of Tibet

 I like the religion that teaches liberty, equality and fraternity.

- Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar (1891-1956), Indian jurist, economist, politician and social reformer

 Judging others makes us blind, whereas love is illuminating. By judging others we blind ourselves to our own evil and to the grace which others are just as entitled to as we are.

- Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945), German Lutheran pastor, theologian, anti-Nazi dissident, 1995

 Tolerance is the positive and cordial effort to understand another’s beliefs, practices, and habits without necessarily sharing or accepting them.

- Joshua Loth Liebman (1907-1948), American rabbi and best-selling author, Peace of Mind: Insights on Human Nature That Can Change Your Life, 1946

 Intolerance is itself a form of violence and an obstacle to the growth of a true democratic spirit.

- Mahatma Gandhi (1969-1948), leader of Indian independence movement

 Where in this wide world can a person find nobility without pride, friendship without envy or beauty without vanity? Here, where grace is laced with muscle and strength by gentleness confined. He serves without servility, he has fought without enmity. There is nothing so powerful, nothing less violent; there is nothing so quick, nothing more patient.

- Ronald Duncan (1914-1982)

 There's in people simply an urge to destroy, an urge to kill, to murder and rage, and until all mankind, without exception, undergoes a great change, wars will be waged, everything that has been built up, cultivated, and grown will be destroyed and disfigured, after which mankind will have to begin all over again.

- Anne Frank (1929-1945), author of The Diary of a Young Girl, 1942-1944, entry dated May 3, 1944

 Hate. It has caused a lot of problems in this world, but it has not solved one yet.

- Maya Angelou (1928-2014), American poet and author

 It is a worthy thing to fight for one's freedom; it is another sight finer to fight for another man's.

- Mark Twain (1835-1910), American author and humorist, June 17, 1898

 I was heartened that people everywhere want certain basic freedoms, even if they live in a totally different cultural environment.

- Aung San Suu Kyi (1945-present), Nobel Peace Prize laureate and leader of the National League for Democracy in Burma, 2012

 I keep my ideals, because in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart.

- Anne Frank (1929-1945), author of The Diary of a Young Girl, 1942-1944, entry dated July 15, 1944

 We call upon all communities to be tolerant, to reject prejudice based on caste, creed, sect, colour, religion or agenda to ensure freedom and equality for women so they can flourish. We cannot all succeed when half of us are held back.

- Malala Yousafzai (1997-present), Pakistani activist for female education and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, July 12, 2013

 How many paths are there to God? There are as many paths to God as there are souls on the Earth.

- Jalaluddin Rumi (1207-1273), 13th-century Persian poet, jurist, theologian, and Sufi mystic

 We all live with the objective of being happy, our lives are all different and yet the same.

- Anne Frank (1929-1945), author of The Diary of a Young Girl, 1942-1944, entry dated July, 6, 1944

 The open society is one in which men have learned to be to some extent critical of taboos, and to base decisions on the authority of their own intelligence.

- Karl Popper (1902-1994), Austrian-British philosopher, The Open Society and its Enemies, 1945

 Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.

- Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968), American Baptist minister and leader of the American Civil Rights Movement, Loving Your Enemies, 1957

 I have always strenuously supported the right of every man to his own opinion, however different that opinion might be to mine. He who denies another this right makes a slave of himself to his present opinion, because he precludes himself the right of changing it.

- Thomas Paine (1737-1809), English-American political activist, philosopher, and revolutionary, Age of Reason, 1794

 Give to every other human being every right that you claim for yourself.

- Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899), American lawyer, May 8, 1888

 Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching.

- International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, December 16, 1966

 No rational argument will have a rational effect on a man who does not want to adopt a rational attitude.

- Karl Popper (1902-1994), Austrian-British philosopher, The Open Society and its Enemies, 1945

 To deny any person their human rights is to challenge their very humanity.

- Nelson Mandela (1918-2013), South African anti-apartheid revolutionary and first black president of South Africa, June 27, 1990

 The time must come when, great and pressing as change and betterment may be, they do not involve killing and hurting people.

- W.E.B Dubois (1868-1963), African American sociologist, historian, civil rights activist, Dark Princess, 1928

 How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.

- Anne Frank (1929-1945), author of The Diary of a Young Girl, 1942-1944, March 26, 1944

 More dangerous than bayonets and cannon are the weapons of the mind.

- Ludwig Van Mises (1881-1973), leader of the Austrian School of economic thought, Liberalism, 1927

 The golden rule of conduct... is mutual toleration, seeing that we will never all think alike and we shall always see Truth in fragment and from different angles of vision. Even amongst the most conscientious persons, there will be room enough for honest differences of opinion. The only possible rule of conduct in any civilised society is, therefore, mutual toleration.

- Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948), leader of Indian independence movement, 1927

 The love of one's country is a splendid thing. But why should love stop at the border?

- Pablo Casals (1876-1973), Spanish cellist, 1974

 And if we want to achieve our goal, then let us empower ourselves with the weapon of knowledge and let us shield ourselves with unity and togetherness.

- Malala Yousafzai (1997-present), Pakistani activist for female education and Nobel Prize laureate, July 12, 2013

 The cost of liberty is less than the price of repression.

- W.E.B Dubois (1868-1963), African American sociologist, historian, civil rights activist, John Brown, 1909

 No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.

- Nelson Mandela (1918-2013), South African anti-apartheid revolutionary and first black president of South Africa, Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela, 1995

 I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities.

- Nelson Mandela (1918-2013), South African anti-apartheid revolutionary and first black president of South Africa, I am Prepared to Die, Statement in the Rivonia Trial, Pretoria Supreme Court, April 20, 1964

 We must plan for freedom, and not only for security, if for no other reason than only freedom can make security more secure.

- Karl Popper (1902-1994), Austrian-British philosopher, The Open Society and its Enemies, 1945

 Human nature is not simple and any classification that roughly divides men into good and bad, superior and inferior, slave and free, is and must be ludicrously untrue and universally dangerous as a permanent exhaustive classification.

- W.E.B Dubois (1868-1963), African American sociologist, historian, civil rights activist, Evolution of the Race Problem, 1909

 If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.

- Nelson Mandela (1918-2013), South African anti-apartheid revolutionary and first black president of South Africa, Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela, 1995

 A person is a person because he recognizes others as persons.

- Desmund Tutu (1931-present), South African social rights activist and retired Anglican bishop, September 7, 1986

 You may choose to look the other way but you can never again say you did not know.

- William Wilberforce (1759-1833), English abolitionist, 1791

 Tolerance and patience should not be read as signs of weakness. They are signs of strength.

- 14th Dalai Lama (1935-present), spiritual leader of Tibet, September 21, 2012

 Freedom of judgment must necessarily be permitted and people must be governed in such a way that they can live in harmony, even though they openly hold different and contradictory opinions.

- Baruch de Spinoza (1632-1677), Dutch philosopher, Tractatus Theologico-Politicus, 1670

 Many of our problems are created by ourselves based on divisions due to ideology, religion, race, resources, economic status or other factors. The time has come to think on a deeper, more human level and appreciate and respect our sameness as human beings.

- 14th Dalai Lama (1935-present), The Compassionate Life, 2001

 I don't believe in charity. I believe in solidarity. Charity is vertical, so it's humiliating. It goes from the top to the bottom. Solidarity is horizontal. It respects the other and learns from the other. I have a lot to learn from other people.

- Eduardo Galeano (1940-present), Uruguyan journalist, writer, and novelist, 2004

 [W]e are all guilty in some Measure of the same narrow way of Thinking... when we fancy the Customs, Dresses, and Manners of other Countries are ridiculous and extravagant, if they do not resemble those of our own.

- Joseph Addison (1672-1719), English essayist, poet, playwright, and politician, 1711

 I think... if it is true that there are as many minds as there are heads, then there are as many kinds of love as there are hearts.

- Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910), Russian novelist, playwright, and philosopher, Anna Karenina, 1877

 All major religious traditions carry basically the same message, that is love, compassion and forgiveness … the important thing is they should be part of our daily lives.

- 14th Dalai Lama (1935-present)

 First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

- Martin Niemöller (1892-1984), German anti-Nazi theologian and Lutheran pastor, January 6, 1946

 Laws alone can not secure freedom of expression; in order that every man present his views without penalty, there must be spirit of tolerance in the entire population.

- Albert Einstein (1879-1955), German-born theoretical physicist, 1940

 If our goal is to be tolerant of people who are different than we are, then we really are aiming quite low. Traffic jams are to be tolerated. People are to be celebrated.

- Glennon Doyle Melton, Carry On, Warrior: Thoughts on Life Unarmed, April 2, 2013

 Is discord going to show itself while we are still fighting, is the Jew once again worth less than another? Oh, it is sad, very sad, that once more, for the umpteenth time, the old truth is confirmed: "What one Christian does is his own responsibility, what one Jew does is thrown back at all Jews."

- Anne Frank (1929-1945), author of The Diary of a Young Girl, 1942-1944, entry dated as May 22, 1944

 He that would make his own liberty secure, must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty, he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself.

- Thomas Paine (1737-1809), English-American political activist, philosopher, and revolutionary, Dissertation on First Principles of Government, July 1795

 I have no animosity towards anyone. Whoever displays human dignity, regardless of their religion or faith, I bow my head before them and hold them dear.

- Masoumi Tehrani, senior Iranian cleric

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About Tavaana

Tavaana: E-Learning Institute for Iranian Civil Society is Iran’s pioneer e-learning institute. Tavaana – meaning ‘empowered’ and ‘capable’ in Persian – was launched on May 17, 2010 with a mission to support active citizenship and civic leadership in Iran through a multi-platform civic education and civil society capacity building program. Tavaana holds a vision for a free and open Iranian society, one in which each and every Iranian enjoys equality, justice and the full spectrum of civil and political liberties.

About The Tolerance Project

The Tolerance Project aims to inspire conscience, pluralism, religious freedom, and celebration of difference. Using an array of educational materials in Arabic, Persian, and English, The Tolerance Project emphasizes the capacity of each and every individual to counter hate, and imparts the benefits of living in tolerant, open societies. The Tolerance Project educates to prevent persecution and genocide, cultivating the basis for vibrant and stable societies in the broader Middle East.

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