EU-Parliament hold conference on Iraq’s Christians

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confeu.jpgSituation of Iraqi Christians discussed in EU Parliament
Ararat News –Publishing (ANP) – Roni Alasor, 15/6/2008 / Brussels – Wednesday 11 June, the European Parliament was once again a warm venue for discussing the current humanitarian situation of Iraqi Christians. The conference was organised by MEP Esther de Lange from European Peoples Party-European Democrats (EPP-ED) with help from the Assyria Council of Europe.confeu.jpg

The speakers of the Christians-Assyrian conference were MEP Esther de Lange, MEP Giorgios Dimitrakopoulos, Madeline Garlick from UNHCR-Brussels, Ninos Warda from the Assyria Council of Europe, Karin Gatt-Rutter from the European Commission, Bulgarian MEP Nickolay Mladenov, Michael Youash from the Iraq Sustainable Democracy Project, Washington DC, Willy Fautre, from Human Rights Without Frontiers, Pascale Warda from Hammurabi Human Rights Organization-Baghdad and Ambassador of Iraq in Brussels Mohammed J. Al-Doreky. The conference concluded with a general comment by Ria Oomen-Ruijten, MEP from the Netherlands.

With regards to the Kirkuk issue, the Articles 125 and 140 of the Iraqi Constitution were discussed, which both concern the territorial agreements and federalism as well as the protection of minorities and their rights.

Christians in Iraq attacked by Islamic fanatics

Madeline Garlick from UNHCR-Brussels and Karin Gatt-Rutter from the European Commission explained that there is around one million Christian / Assyrians who are internally displaced in Iraq. They both described the situation of Christians in Iraq as becoming worse in recent years. As a result, thousands of Assyrians have had to flee to neighbouring countries, especially to Syria and Jordan.
Situation of Iraqi Christians discussed in EU Parliament

Ararat News –Publishing (ANP) – Roni Alasor, 15/6/2008 / Brussels – Wednesday 11 June, the European Parliament was once again a warm venue for discussing the current humanitarian situation of Iraqi Christians. The conference was organised by MEP Esther de Lange from European Peoples Party-European Democrats (EPP-ED) with help from the Assyria Council of Europe.

The speakers of the Christians-Assyrian conference were MEP Esther de Lange, MEP Giorgios Dimitrakopoulos, Madeline Garlick from UNHCR-Brussels, Ninos Warda from the Assyria Council of Europe, Karin Gatt-Rutter from the European

confeu2.jpgCommission, Bulgarian MEP Nickolay Mladenov, Michael Youash from the Iraq Sustainable Democracy Project, Washington DC, Willy Fautre, from Human Rights Without Frontiers, Pascale Warda from Hammurabi Human Rights Organization-Baghdad and Ambassador of Iraq in Brussels Mohammed J. Al-Doreky. The conference concluded with a general comment by Ria Oomen-Ruijten, MEP from the Netherlands.

With regards to the Kirkuk issue, the Articles 125 and 140 of the Iraqi Constitution were discussed, which both concern the territorial agreements and federalism as well as the protection of minorities and their rights.

Christians in Iraq attacked by Islamic fanatics

Madeline Garlick from UNHCR-Brussels and Karin Gatt-Rutter from the European Commission explained that there is around one million Christian / Assyrians who are internally displaced in Iraq. They both described the situation of Christians in Iraq as becoming worse in recent years. As a result, thousands of Assyrians have had to flee to neighbouring countries, especially to Syria and Jordan.

Karin Gatt-Rutter from the European Commission concluded her speech by explaining that the European Union has already contributed 800 million Euros in the last five years towards humanitarian help to Iraq where the Iraqi Christians have also been included. She added that help from the EU will increase to one billion Euros in the near future. Assyrian representatives Michael Youash, Ninos Warda and Pascale Warda from the Hammurabi Human Rights Organization-Baghdad were asking for direct humanitarian aid, instead of bringing refuges to Europe. The Assyrians would prefer to stay in their own region rather than to flee abroad. Mrs. Warda mentioned that many Christian churches have been destroyed by Islamic fanatics.

Christians in Kurdistan are safer

Many reports show that generally, Iraqi Christians have been targeted by Shiites and Sunni Muslims militants as well as Al-Qaeda and they have been forced to flee from their homes. Nonetheless, the Christians in the Kurdistan region, Geldo-Assyrians, Armenians and Kurdish Ezidis are safer and more protected by the Kurdish government and its security forces. Christians are not targeted and their sacred places, such as churches, are not attacked.

Christians from Kurdistan were not invited

Unfortunately, the conference was not entirely successful as it ended with shortcomings and some critics. Namely, the organizers of the conference were not inviting towards any official representative of the Christian Geldo-Assyrian people from the Kurdish Parliament in Hewler (Erbil). On top of this, Christian Armenians were not invited. Consequently, this is what Kurdistan Region’s Head of EU Mission, Burhan Jaf, reacted towards. Mr. Jaf told the ANP that there are seven Geldo-Assyrian parliamentarians who represent Christian Assyrian people in Kurdistan and three of them have minister positions.

“I believe that the idea of holding a conference on the Geldo-Assyrains in the EP is to highlight the current situation of this community in Iraq. However, I was rather disappointed that no one from the Kurdistan region had been invited to represent the Geldo-Assyrians neither any Geldo-Assyrian member of the Kurdish parliament. There are seven members within the Kurdish parliament and three ministers in the current Kurdistan Regional Government. Their contribution could have given a better picture of Christians in Iraq and Kurdistan”, said the Kurdistan Region representative to the EU.

Mr. Jaf summarised his disappointment, “Unfortunately, speakers haven’t expressed any positive views on the cultural and political achievements that the Geldo-Assyrians community have enjoyed since 1992 in the Kurdistan Region. The Geldo-Assyrian speakers have failed to acknowledge the freedom and safety of Christians in Kurdistan and also the help that the KRG have given in assisting thousands of Christian refugees who fled from Baghdad, Mosul and other areas in Iraq.”

The Iraqi governments and its ambassador in Brussels, Mohammed J. Al-Doreky, who attended the conference came under criticism too. The Iraqi government official (ambassador) contribution to this conference was very poor and there was a lack of knowledge or interest in the wider understanding of the Christian issue. Many participants of the conference think it could have been more effective and had a much larger impact if the organisers of this conference cooperated and consulted the Kurdish and other Iraqi organisations.

The Kurdish Head of Mission to the EU concluded his opinion. “The conference was, to a certain extent, a success. I hope that in the future the representative of the Geldo-Assyrians in Europe will be more cooperative and reflect a more positive view on what their community in Kurdistan have achieved. Also, I anticipate that the organiser will invite the real Christian representative from both the Iraqi federal parliament and the Kurdistan Parliament to their meetings. The Kurdistan Regional Government protects people’s freedom to practice their religion and promotes inter-faith tolerance. There are seven members in the parliament and three ministers in the government. The Kurdish constitution does recognise the national and cultural rights of all Christian communities.