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Norway to increase support for vulnerable groups and religious minorities in Syria and Iraq

‘The wars in Syria and Iraq have caused immense suffering, and religious minorities have been particularly badly hit. These groups need our help. Norway is therefore increasing its support for vulnerable groups such as Christians and other religious minorities in Syria and Iraq,’ said Minister of Foreign Affairs Børge Brende.

An assessment of the situation and needs of persecuted groups in Syria and Iraq will be carried out in cooperation with organisations such as Norwegian Church Aid and the World Council of Churches. The aim will be to identify the most effective ways of providing protection to vulnerable groups such as Christians and other religious minorities in Syria and Iraq. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs will earmark up to NOK 10 million this year and a further NOK 10 million next year for this purpose.

The wars in Syria and Iraq have created a massive humanitarian crisis; there are over 12 million people in need in Syria and over four million people have fled to neighbouring countries. In Iraq, more than 3.2 million people are currently internally displaced as a result of ISIL’s brutal campaign of violence. In both countries, religious minorities are among the most vulnerable groups. 

‘ISIL uses extreme and brutal methods against ethnic and religious groups that refuse to convert or submit to its authority. We have also witnessed systematic attempts to destroy cultural diversity in Syria and Iraq. We cannot accept this,’ Mr Brende said. 

‘It is vital to target support to ensure that it reaches those in greatest need and at most risk. Many women and men from different minority groups have also become victims of sexual and gender-based violence. This will therefore be an important dimension in our efforts,’ Mr Brende said.  

On 8 September, State Secretary Bård Glad Pedersen took part in a conference in Paris on the victims of ethnic and religious persecution in the Middle East. The conference was hosted jointly by Jordan and France. 

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