Assyrians in Australia represent their plight at the 2016 DFAT-NGO Forum on Human Rights

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Canberra – 9 February 2016
As part of its intensive campaign to promote the Assyrian cause on the national and international level, a delegation of the Assyrian Universal Alliance (AUA) and the Assyrian Australian National Federation (AANF) attended the 2016 Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) NGO forum on Human Rights that was held on Monday 8 February 2016, at the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra.

The meeting was chaired by Dr Lachlan Strahan, First Assistant Secretary, and Multilateral Policy Division and the Panellists were from different Human Rights Policy Branches. The forum was attended by Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Hon. Julie Bishop, MP for a short stay.

The Assyrian Universal Alliance, made up of Mr Hermiz Shahen, Deputy Secretary General of the AUA and Mr David David, President of the AANF. Also in attendance was Ms Elizabeth Kendal representing Christian Faith & Freedom and a representative from the Coptic community.

During the meeting, the Assyrian delegates presented the critical conditions of the Assyrian people in the Middle East, with particular focus on Iraq and Syria, accusing these two countries of violating the Declaration of Rights of Persons Belonging to National, Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities. They urged to pressure Iraq into complying with its international obligations relating to minorities.

Mr Shahen stated that the entire Assyrian people in Iraq and Syria are being forcibly deported by Al-Qaida and the new product Da’ash (ISIS) from their homeland in the ancient cities like Mosul, Nineveh plains, other major cities in Iraq and from their 35 Assyrian villages in the Hassaka province on the Khabour River – Northeast Syria.

In his statement Mr Shahen talked about the serious situation at present in which the Iraqi government and the Kurdish Regional government plans to undermine and destroy the Assyrian identity, culture and religion by not providing them with protection, illegal subjugation of their lands and denying their rights to defend themselves. Assyrians are also denied any official representation in any governmental positions. Mr Shahen also talked about the discriminatory law which states that minors must follow the religion of a parent who adopts Islam calling it “unjust” to non-Muslims.

Mr Shahen asked the Chairman about the steps Australia is taking to raise these human rights violations being part of the International Coalition and asked the DFAT to support the Assyrian and Yazidis demands for International protection and a safe haven.

Mr David David highlighted the needs for more aid to be distributed to hundreds of thousands of internally displaced Assyrians and other minorities. He doubted that aid is getting to the right hands. David insisted that the international intervention is the only solution for safety of the non-Muslim minorities as the Iraqi Government and KRG are unable to provide that.

Ms Elizabeth Kendal also spoke in support of the Assyrian people of Iraq and Syria, she insisted that more serious approaches have to be taken in order to provide safety and security for the Assyrians, the indigenous people of both countries.

The Chairman replied by saying that Australia is very concerned about the minorities in Iraq and Syria, they have raised these issues on many occasions with the Iraqi Ambassador and with Iraqi authorities, that Australia has supported UN statements condemning such abuses. He highlighted the humanitarian assistance provided by the Australian Government to both Iraq and Syria and the Australian commitment to resettle people fleeing violence in Iraq and Syria.

The AUA would like to take this opportunity to thank the DFAT-NGO Forum on Human Rights for inviting the Assyrian delegation to take part in such an important forum and for their hospitality. We also would like to thank Christian Faith and Freedom for their continued support to the plight of Assyrians and all other Christians in the Middle East.

Assyrian Universal Alliance – Australian Chapter
PO Box 34, Fairfield NSW 1860 Australia.