With the recent escalation of armed conflicts in countries like Iraq and Syria, many seek to escape the war-torn areas in search of safety and freedom. The freedom of religion and political opinion that is greatly cherished here in America, is the cause of violence and turmoil amongst the Muslim nations in the Middle East. In both Iraq and Syria, the ongoing tension and division between the Sunni and Shiite’s has many seeking refuge.
According to the Council on Foreign Relations, the ancient religious divide is helping fuel a resurgence of conflicts and the struggle between Sunni and Shiite forces have fed a Syrian civil war and spurred violence that is fracturing Iraq. This violence includes kidnapping, torture, rape and executions of civilians.
In a recently released report by Amnesty International, which covers human rights violations, it was revealed that Iraqi people are not only suffering from atrocities committed by ISIS militants but also from the armed government-backed Shiite militants. The report claims that the Iraqi government is responsible for the attacks on the civilians since the Shiite militias that target Sunni Iraqis, do so in response to the ISIS attacks. As a result, the ongoing cycle leaves the Shiite civilians targeted by ISIS, whereas the Sunni Muslim’s in Iraq are trapped between the Shiite Militia, the government and ISIS militants who attack anyone that opposes them (including the Sunnis).
The conditions in Syria are not much different. Human atrocities occur daily and both Sunni and Shiite Muslims are the victims of the violence. As reported in the Amnesty International, the civilians in Syria continue to be the victims of frequent and indiscriminate attacks by both the Syrian government forces and armed opposition groups, including assaults by ISIS.
For Iraqi and Syrian nationals who have been fortunate enough to escape the ongoing violence and who are physically present in the U.S., there may be an opportunity to enjoy the freedom and safety within the U.S.: by seeking Asylum.
Asylum is an immigration benefit that allows certain Foreign Nationals who are unable to return to their country of origin, because of a well founded fear of persecution based on religion, race, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion, to remain in the United States. The persecution that the U.S. government protects the asylum seekers from must be carried out by the government of a foreign country or a group that the government is unable or unwilling to control. The Iraqi and Syrian civilians who have been targeted as a result of their Sunni or Shiite beliefs and affiliations, by either the government, Shiite Militia, ISIS or any other extremists group, may have a good case for establishing asylum based on a well-founded fear of persecution grounded on religion and/or political opinion.
Freedom of religion is a fundamental right under the U.S. Constitution as well as international law. Therefore, those who have been persecuted or fear persecution based on their religious beliefs, or belonging to a religious sect, may qualify for asylum protection under the U.S Immigration law. Often times religious identity may overlap with other group identity, such as that of a political opinion. Thus, those who have been victims of persecution or fear persecution based on their affiliation with a political group, may also seek asylum.
Conclusively, given the current country conditions and ongoing violence, both the Sunni and Shiites in Iraq and Syria may be able to show a well-founded fear of sectarian persecutions at the hands of Shiite Militia, ISIS or other extremist groups, and the government who participates and/or does little to nothing to control the violence.
If you would like to know whether or not you have a strong asylum case, call us today to schedule an initial consultation. Please note, each case is evaluated on its merits and must be analyzed individually.