France cash pledge for persecuted Mideast minorities

8th September 2015, Comments 0 comments

France will contribute 25 million euros to a global "action plan" for the protection of minorities in the Middle East that are persecuted by the Islamic State group and other extremists, Paris announced Tuesday.

Speaking at a conference on the issue that gathered some 60 countries and representatives of around 15 NGOs in Paris, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said the plan aimed to help displaced minorities, fight against extremists and maintain religious and ethnic diversity in the region.

"We will not sit back and let the historic diversity of the Middle East disappear," Fabius said.

So far, France is the only country to have contributed any funds to the action plan but other countries will follow, he added.

Of the 25 million euros ($28 million), 10 million euros will go towards an emergency fund for tasks such as demining, housing and rehabilitating displaced minorities.

The rest of the money is earmarked for refugee camps in countries such as Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Iraq.

Minorities in the Middle East -- Yazidi, Kurds, Christians -- have long suffered at the hands of the Islamic State group and many have fled from Iraq or Syria after jihadists took over their homelands there.

A teenage Yazidi told AFP last week that IS was running an international market in Iraq where women from her religious community and Christians were sold as sexual slaves.

Jinan, 18, spent three months at the hands of jihadists before she managed to flee, and on Tuesday she met President Francois Hollande at the conference.

"The aim of Daesh (IS) is to instil a reign of fear -- fear among minorities to wipe them out of the Middle East where they have always lived," Hollande told the conference.

He said the group was also trying to spread "fear among the Muslim majority, where all those who do not follow Daesh are labelled as heretics or apostates."

© 2015 AFP

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