In this episode, Nadine Maenza talks about religious freedom issues in the Middle East, especially in Iraq where the Yazidis suffered genocide starting six years ago. First, she explains the role of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), of which she is vice-chairman, and how its operations differ from the US State Department. Then she reviews what the Islamic State (ISIS) did to the Yazidis during the genocide and how this group and other religious minorities, including Iraqi Christians, suffer. Maenza explains how the Iraqi central government in Baghdad and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Erbil treat these religious minorities differently and how those groups feel about the authorities. She also discusses problems other religious minorities there face and how the Iranian-backed Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) causes problems. USCIRF recommended the US place Iraq on a special watch list, so Maenza reviews what the US government can do.

Then Nadine Maenza and Mark Melton talk about the situation in northeast Syria and some good news in that region for religious minorities. They close out their conversation by talking about other countries that have problems with religious liberty. But they also talk about success stories, specifically in Uzbekistan, whose government came to USCIRF and tried to improve their laws for religious groups. From this, Maenza and Melton conclude by talking about how some countries, like China, have nefarious motivations for why they persecute religious minorities, whereas other countries are either incompetent or don’t know how to use their laws to improve the situation for those groups.

Those who want to learn more can read USCIRF’s annual reports for Iraq and Syria. Listeners can also read Maenza’s recent op-ed about Yazidis in Iraq and follow her and USCIRF on Twitter.