Clinton speaks at a town hall event in Portsmouth, N.H., on Tuesday. (Photo: Steven Senne/AP)
Hillary Clinton is sharpening her tone on ISIS, calling the terror group’s attacks against Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East “genocide.”
“We have enough evidence,” Clinton said at a town hall event in New Hampshire on Tuesday night. “What is happening is genocide, deliberately aimed at destroying not only the lives but wiping out the existence of Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East in territory controlled by ISIS.”
The Democratic frontrunner said she was asked earlier in the campaign whether ISIS’ attacks on religious minorities — including Christians, Kurdish Muslims and Yazidi women — in Syria and Iraq represented genocide, but wasn’t sure at the time.
“I said, you know, that term carries with it legal import. It is a very important concept and label for behavior that deserves that name,” Clinton told attendees. “I said, ‘We are only at the beginning at seeing this, and I am not sure yet we have enough evidence.’ I am sure now we have enough evidence.”
Religious leaders, including Pope Francis, have also called the atrocities committed by ISIS “genocide.”
Earlier Tuesday, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio criticized President Obama for not using the term to describe ISIS’ terror campaign.
“Unlike this president — the one we have now — I’m going to call it for what it is,” Rubio said at a rally in Iowa. “It’s a genocide.”
But the president did call it “genocide” while laying out his plan to “degrade and ultimately destroy” ISIS last year.
“In a region that has known so much bloodshed, these terrorists are unique in their brutality,” Obama said in Sept. 2014. “They execute captured prisoners. They kill children. They enslave, rape, and force women into marriage. They threatened a religious minority with genocide.”
And last week, President Obama released a statement condemning the terror group’s persecution of Christians at Christmas:
During this season of Advent, Christians in the United States and around the world are preparing to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. At this time, those of us fortunate enough to live in countries that honor the birthright of all people to practice their faith freely give thanks for that blessing. Michelle and I are also ever-mindful that many of our fellow Christians do not enjoy that right, and hold especially close to our hearts and minds those who have been driven from their ancient homelands by unspeakable violence and persecution.
In some areas of the Middle East where church bells have rung for centuries on Christmas Day, this year they will be silent; this silence bears tragic witness to the brutal atrocities committed against these communities.
The Obama administration, though, has yet to formally label ISIS’ attacks “genocide.”
It’s not the first time the White House has been reluctant to use the term. Earlier this year, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough and Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes issued “a full, frank, and just acknowledgement” of the Armenian genocide on its 100th anniversary, but avoided the genocide label out of fear of “angering Turkey, a NATO ally that has long rejected the description.”