More than a decade has passed since the regime change in Iraq in 2003, yet the country is still unstable and suffering from a complex political situation and negative security consequences. These consequences can be attributed to the constant political differences, especially amongst the major components and influential political blocs, which failed to settle their differences in the management of important issues related to power sharing, wealth distribution, and clarification of respective authorities in government institutions. In addition to that, international conflicts and regional intervention in the [country’s] internal affairs further complicate the scene, resulting in the continuous hindrance of the political process. This hindrance delays the legislation of vital laws, reconstruction, and development, most importantly the failure to provide basic services to citizens.
Under these circumstances, our “Chaldean Syriac Assyrian” people are currently facing serious challenges, enough to become an existential threat in their ancestral homeland. Most important amongst these threats is the continuous targeting of their [people’s] interests, the direct targeting of their persons, and religious institutions, as well as their marginalization from effective political participation in public life on every level. Moreover, the persistence of demographic change in our historical land, impacting the interests of the area and resulting in the change of its identity, culture, and religious make-up. Also, direct and indirect discriminatory practices against our people on various levels, the absence of development projects and poor basic services, and the lack of employment opportunities have all led to the mass emigration of our people. Emigration has become the only available option alleviate our people’s suffering caused by the lack of attention from the government institutions on the one hand and the floundering efforts of our people’s political leaders on the other.
At the national level, our people are still suffering from a lack of legislation aimed at securing this nation in the homeland and preventing its emigration. Even matters that were legitimized by the constitution will either remain limited due to the lack of executive laws, or that law is nothing more than ink on paper with no real implementation, or else those right shave been circumvented and emptied of true content. This is reflected in the fact that large segments of our people are still suffering from targeting, ill-treatment, and discrimination in various aspects of their daily lives especially in areas ripe with security tensions. All of this in addition to the tax imposed upon our people is due to internal conflicts and the competition of various political stakeholders that often lead to the repression of our political will and our incorporation into side conflicts that are contrary to our interests.
The vision of the first annual meeting of the Entity of Abnaa Alnahrain is to protect our ethnic existence in our ancestral homeland as its indigenous people, the strengthening of our people’s participation effectively and completely in the public life including the political, economic and development spheres to ensure equality and non-discrimination. This will only be achieved through a viable agenda along with scheduled –and clear benchmarks detailing the rights of our people along with bills and legislation, special measures and even affirmative action for our people.
As for the region of Kurdistan the most important political and administrative rights of our people are lacking despite the advances made in the region in general especially the progress made in construction and development and despite some cultural and educational rights that our people exercise there. Furthermore, true and full participation in the region’s various institutions has come short of what our people, with their deep history and legacy of struggle for their land and resources, aspire for. In addition to other issues that are still awaiting serious consideration to be resolved, the issue of demographic change and encroachment on our lands that has caused the loss of large segments of our land due to long instability remains to be of the utmost importance. This problem has been ongoing for decades due to instability since (Sumel) and the beginnings of the September Revolution in 1961 all the way through the policies of the former regime in the appropriation of our land and the building of obligatory compounds. Unfortunately these issues remained unresolved even with the formation of the Kurdistan Parliament and the KRG in 1992, despite many decisions by courts and agricultural committees which affirmed the validity of these encroachments. Despite these favorable decisions, most of them have not been implemented and the lands were not returned to their rightful owners. The situation is further complicated today by virtue of more encroachments unto our people’s lands, along with the negative effects of zoning laws.
We the ” Entity of Abnaa Alnahrain” see that the Kurdistan region does not have the political desire to deal with all these issues and is therefore not in a position to become our people’s main political partners Indeed, our people should have a share in the gains and rights of the Kurdistan region just as they were partners in the struggle and sacrifices offering to achieve them. If this is implemented, it would override all remaining administrative and regulatory problems.
The suffering of our people is twofold today in the historic regions of the Nineveh plains as a result of the demographic change facilitated by the decisions and policies of the former regime. Not only are the effects of this demographic change still being felt today, but the encroachments are increasing albeit in different ways. Furthermore, the location of the region in the Nineveh province, which is under the federal government’s jurisdiction, as well as on the border of the Kurdistan Region, has made it a contested area for many years causing instability. This has also resulted in the absence of development projects and the hindrance of existing ones, reducing employment opportunities, increasing unemployment, and preventing improvement in living conditions. This has increased our disappointment and has led to a loss of confidence in securing a better future for our children while keeping the area under continuous tension and instability.
In order to resolve the problems of the Nineveh plains, a mini-Iraq [demographically], which has been inhabited by our people for thousands of years and more recently by other minority groups such as the Yezidis and the Shabak, the Entity of Abnaa Alnahrain propose the separation of authorities of these groups and transforming the area into a “green strip” instead of a contested area. This means that the area’s security ought to be left to its own inhabitants by forming army, police, and security forces composed of its own inhabitants as an initial step. This would be followed by an expedited effort to take the necessary steps to legislate the special law required to establish a province in the Nineveh plains, while striving to build the biggest parliamentary coalition possible to pass it in parliament. This province would help growth and development in the region economically, politically, and socially on the one hand and serve as the best possible solution for all parties involved on the other. Keeping the area contested will not resolve the dilemma between us, the Nineveh province, and the Kurdistan region; albeit, this area will become an area of tension for all of Iraq for a long time.
The implementation of the “work program” mentioned earlier must have a timetable according to the needs of various sectors in order to face the increasing challenges facing our people that cannot be ignored any longer. Our people’s confidence has begun to waver in our ability to implement these projects, and so has their confidence in the idea of a future in their homeland. Moreover, the implementation should be done by various actions all adhering to the higher goal of securing the existence of our people [in Iraq], and not partisan, party, or personal interests. It is important to note the importance and necessity of conformity in the political activities of our people and avoiding the creation of political divisions. We must also avoid speeches of skepticism and mistrust while rejecting political exclusivity. We must take actual steps towards having a joint national effort [to achieve these goals].
In the event that the [political] partners in the country fail to understand our people’s difficult situation and do not deal with our people’s case seriously, we in the Entity of Abnaa Alnahrain would inevitably turn to international support to protect our existence and rights in our homeland. The country’s political partners must ensure our people’s interests even if it means exempting them from certain laws, legislation, and enforcement. Otherwise, the Entity of Abnaa Alnahrain would appeal to international treaties and agreements, especially the United Nation’s declaration regarding the rights of indigenous peoples, to protect our Rights and existence.
The most important proposals of the “work program” according to the first annual overarching meeting of the Entity of Abnaa Alnahrain are:
Actions and measures:
1 –Speeding up the process of creating a Nineveh plains province by drawing a clear road map to move forward with governmental, parliamentary, public, and media procedures required to achieve the necessary coalition to legislate the special law needed to have a Nineveh plains province.
2 –Work towards the adoption of clear measures and procedures in the form of laws, decisions, and orders and in accordance with the articles of the constitution relating to our people (and other minorities’) rights to true political participation. This participation must include [our people’s] involvement in the executive, legislative, and judicial bodies of government, as well as independent committees. We must also participate in the government at the local, regional, national, and international levels (embassies and consulates.)
3-The inclusion of our people’s areas in the Nineveh Plain and the Kurdistan region in the implementation of Article 140 which deals with the elimination of the effects of demographic change. Alternatively, legislating another similar law to resolve the demographic change that we are experiencing in our historical areas all over Iraq.
4 – Address the issue of the confiscation, by the majority and influential parties, of the reserved seats allocated to our people in parliament. As an initial step towards that effort, the Electoral Commission must designate special ballot boxes for our people in the next election. This should be followed by the legislation of a special law for all minorities later at a later time. Additionally, our representatives in the reserved parliamentary seats should have the legal power of veto in matters directly relating to those whom they represent. Finally, our reserved parliamentary seats should not be based on our religious identity but rather our national, ethnic identity; the Electoral Law should reflect that change by stating that those seats are reserved for our Chaldean-Syriac-Assyrian people.
5 – Work to get national and international recognition of the genocides committed against our people in “Sayfo” at the beginning of the last century as well as “Sumel” and “Suoriya “in order to receive appropriate reparations.
6 – Developing mechanisms of interaction and communication between our people in the homeland and in Diaspora so that those abroad can take advantage of dual citizenship and other laws that ensure their rights in the homeland. This will enable them to preserve their identity and interests in the community while enabling them to contribute to the decision-making process related to our people and our national and ethnic effort in general.
Administrative and political rights:
7 – Create municipality departments in areas densely inhabited by minorities. These municipalities should be excluded from the standard regulations that govern normal municipalities so as to ensure they autonomously manage their affairs and provide basic services.
8 – Form “local councils” in the historic areas of our people in the Region of Kurdistan, with the power and authority to make decisions regarding their own affairs including national, religious, and geographical interests. These areas would include, for example, Ankawa ,Shaqlawa , Diana and Howdian , Barwari Bala , Sapna , Zakho, Smeal , Akre , Nahla , Mangesh and the strip of villages that extend north of the province of Dohuk. Councils shall be formed in parallel with other councils elected by the people of the region. Also, develop administrative units in the regions that are eligible geographically and demographically like Feshkhabuor and its surrounding villages.
9 – Ensuring the participation of our people in matters relating to the anthem and the flag, on the federal and regional levels, so that they may be in line with the ethnic and religious diversity of the country. These [symbols] affirm the concepts
of democracy and human rights.
The Constitution – laws and legislation:
10 -Enact a law regarding “city councils” in all regions where our people and other minorities reside to function like small parliaments. These councils should have the power to maintain the demographic of these historical lands for their people and also to exploit the land’s resources in accordance with the law. These councils would also ensure the protection of these areas’ identities, civilization, cultural, and religious interests as well as the exercise of constitutional rights.
11 -Enact a law regarding the protection of minorities and a law prohibiting discrimination of all kinds.
12 -Work and coordinate with our people’s church authorities to legislate a law regarding “personal status”
13 – Legislates law regarding a directorate for the Syriac Culture and Arts subject to the federal government.
14 -Identify the provisions affecting the rights of our people in the federal and Kurdistan region’s constitutions so that they may be accordingly reviewed and amended at the right time.
15 –Demand a budget allocation [from the Iraqi government] specifically for the development of investment projects and infrastructure in our people’s (and other minorities’’) areas, especially those that areas that are marginalized and dilapidated. This allocation would grow and develop these areas to provide basic services and employment. This budget can be allocated as part of a five-year plan.
16 –Demand the provision of jobs and appointments for the thousands of unemployed amongst our people and other minorities especially the original inhabitants of these areas, the emigrants, and those who have been displaced into the Nineveh plain, Kurdistan region, and other Iraqi provinces belonging to the federal government. These people should be except from certain [hiring] procedures and regulations due to their [precarious] situation.
Educational, cultural, and social rights:
17 – Change schools’ curricula to highlight the historical role and civilization of our people and the various groups of the Iraqi people to cement the concepts of peaceful coexistence, respect of others, democracy, and human rights.
18 – Develop Syriac education in the Kurdistan Region and federal government schools, and ease the difficulties of this project by providing the necessities for its success.
19 -Demand to start implementation of the ” Official Languages Act ” and begin using Syriac (along with Arabic and Kurdish) in official government offices in the districts and areas heavily inhabited by our people in the Nineveh plain including: ” Baghdida (Alhamdania) , Bartalah , Bashiqa , Tilkaif , Alqush , Sheikhan ” In addition to other areas in the Kurdistan region including: Ankawa , Amadia , Sarsank , Mangesh , Zakho , Sumel , Barwari Bala , and Nahla.
20 –Include the cultural, social, media, sports and civil society institutions of our people in the areas where they heavily reside along with support and funding to help preserve this people’s culture, language, heritage and identity.
Regarding our people in neighboring countries:
The changes that have stormed through the region in the past few years have brought about negative consequences for ethnic and religious minorities, especially with the rise of radical Islamist groups. Despite this reality, the fall of autocratic regimes does lead to the opening up of geographic and political borders which can be used to strengthen communication amongst our people who are scattered between Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Turkey, and Iran. Starting with our fundamental belief in the overlap of our cause with all of our dispersed people in the [homeland], surrounding countries, and Diaspora, we deem it necessary to continue having serious dialogues in order to reach a common understanding with all of our people in the surrounding countries. We will do this to strengthen our ethnic and religious existence in all of these countries.