France’s action to help the victims of ethnic and religious persecution in the Middle East


What is France doing for the victims of ethnic and religious persecution in the Middle East?

Following on from the conference of 8 September 2015 on the victims of ethnic and religious violence in the Middle East, France took coordinated initiatives to assist the victims of ethnic and religious persecution in the Middle East.

Humanitarian dimension

The Fund to support victims of ethnic and religious violence in the Middle East, which is financed by the Territorial Communities External Action Fund (FACECO) has supported 95 projects, 60% of which for emergency humanitarian assistance and 40% for stabilization activities in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. Funding totalled €29 million between 2015 and 2019. These projects are mostly implemented by French NGOs in the field, supporting threatened minorities and often displaced persons and refugees.

Five areas were identified as priorities for intervention: housing conditions, support for returns, access to health care, education and vocational training, combating impunity, and support for media.

The renewal of the Fund’s endowment in 2019 with €5 million helped fulfil the President of the French Republic’s promise to 2018 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Nadia Murad: 100 Yazidi women and their children, victims of Daesh atrocities, were welcomed to France, and an operating theatre was built in Sinjar, Iraq, to address the most urgent medical needs.

The Agence Française de Développement (AFD, French Development Agency) is also implementing several projects aimed at members of ethnic and religious minorities, through funding from its Peace and Resilience Fund (Minka) for the Middle East. The first projects financed in Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon between 2015 and 2018 concerned the fields of psychosocial support, health care, education, agriculture, water and sanitation (project list here (in French)).

Heritage dimension

The International Alliance for the Protection of Heritage in Conflict Areas (ALIPH) was created following the Abu Dhabi Conference co-organized by France and the United Arab Emirates in December 2016. This international foundation works to protect cultural heritage affected by conflicts through a grants programme that enables it to respond quickly and flexibly. To date, ALIPH has raised $79 million in contributions from governments and private partners, including $30 million from France, which have enabled it to support more than 20 projects worldwide, including the restoration of Mar Behnam Monastery and the rehabilitation of the Mosul Museum in Iraq and the restoration of the Tomb of Askia in Mali.

Two other initiatives involved mapping the heritage of ethnic and religious communities affected by conflicts in Iraq and Syria. The first was the documentation of 100 sites of Assyrian, Chaldean, Syriac and Yazidi Christian heritage in Iraq, while the other was a study to identify and survey intangible cultural heritage practices and locate them geographically, demographically and sociologically, through a grant from the French Institute for the Near East (IFPO).

France, which is one of the most active countries in the area of heritage protection in the Middle East, primarily conducts scientific, expertise and training (research, conservation and restoration) missions in the field. The archaeological missions supported by the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs and the research programmes of the IFPO, the National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) and French universities, help strengthen knowledge of these minorities’ tangible, built and intangible heritage.

The École Biblique et Archéologique Française de Jérusalem (French Biblical and Archaeological School of Jerusalem), supported by the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs, also plays an important role in preserving heritage by contributing to restoration and conservation activities.

The French President has entrusted Mr Charles Personnaz, a senior official specialized in cultural policies, with the mission of drawing up a strategy for the protection of the heritage of ethnic and religious minorities in the Middle East and the support of the educational network of the region’s Christian minorities. The final report was handed over to the President of the Republic in January 2019, and the French authorities are considering how best to implement its key recommendations.

Political dimension

France has been one of the main contributors to the Global Coalition Against Daesh since its creation in 2014. At the request of the Iraqi authorities, it has provided major support to operations against the terrorist group and currently provides training, advice and assistance to the Iraqi forces.

France is strongly committed to Iraq’s reconstruction. Twice a year, the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs chairs a steering committee for the reconstruction of Iraq, involving government services and agencies, businesses, NGOs and local government bodies. A multi-year line of funding of a billion euros was made available to the Iraqi authorities in 2019 to facilitate reconstruction projects.

Justice/impunity dimension

In order to combat impunity in Iraq and Syria, France is providing support for the documentation of the mass violations of human rights committed by Daesh against minorities in Iraq and Syria (€715,000 since 2015).

France also supports the action of UN mechanisms to combat impunity for crimes committed in Iraq and Syria, including the United Nations Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Da’esh/ISIL (UNITAD) in Iraq and the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism (IIIM) on Syria.

Legal proceedings have been opened at national level by the Paris Prosecutor’s Office for crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocides committed abroad.

Updated: January 2020

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