Sydney – 4 June, 2013
Monday, 3 June, 2013, marked a historic day for the Assyrians in Australia. In less than ten hours after a motion was raised by The Hon. Philip Ruddock MP, Member for Berowra, in the Federation Chamber concerning the Human Rights violations committed against Assyrians in Iraq, another historical debate took place in the Federal Parliament for a motion raised by The Hon. Chris Bowen MP, Member for McMahon, focusing on the Assyrian demand for the establishment of an autonomous province in the heart of the Assyrian ancestral lands in the Nineveh Plains in northern Iraq.

We are pleased to announce that both motions were successfully seconded and endorsed by the six speakers of the house. The entire debate lasted about 30 minutes.

Mr. Bowen’s motion was as follows:
That this House:
(1) notes that:
(a) the Assyrian population of Iraq continues to suffer persecution 10 years after the fall of Saddam Hussein; and
(b) since 2003, 600,000 Christian Assyrians have left Iraq, including many thousands to Australia; and
(2) being aware of the Assyrian aspirations for the establishment of an autonomous province, calls on the Government of Iraq to take all appropriate steps to protect the rights of minorities, including the Assyrian Christian people, and to support the continuation of their linguistic, cultural and religious traditions.

A delegation led by Mr. Hermiz Shahen, Deputy Secretary General of the Assyrian Universal Alliance (AUA), was at the house during both debates. The delegation included Mr. David David, President of the Assyrian Australian National Federation, members of the AUA and representatives from the Assyrian media,

In his opening remarks, Mr. Bowen mentioned the first motion that was raised and passed by the House in 2005, highlighting the plight of the Assyrian people of Iraq. It calls on the Federal Government to make direct representations to the newly elected Iraqi Government to ensure their ethnic minorities are constitutionally guaranteed the right to freely exercise their customs, religion, language and traditions, given protection by law enforcement and international security forces and given equal representation and participation in all levels of government.

“It pains me to say that all these years later the situation for the Assyrian people has worsened. Working for many years with the Australian government and successive Foreign Ministers on this issue, I reached the view that the only sustainable solution is the autonomous region for the Assyrians and Chaldeans within Iraq. In the northwest of Iraq lies the Nineveh Plains, a 4000 square kilometre area which is the traditional heartland for the Assyrian people. There have been calls for the establishment of an autonomous region in the Nineveh plains for the Assyrian people, and I support this call. This will help in establishing there on place and defence forces such as the other groups have been able to do,” Mr. Bowen said.

During his speech Mr. Bowen acknowledge the presence of the Assyrian Universal Alliance and for being the driving force in bringing this issue to the Parliament.

Mr. Craig Kelly MP, member for Hughes, made a remarkable speech in support of this motion. He started his speech by giving recognition to the AUA and other delegation in the gallery. “Today, in Iraq there is an ethnic cleansing. Assyrians are being killed in a deliberate and strategic way. It is aimed to derive this ethnic minority from Iraq. Among the chaos and the lack of security, the new Iraqi authorities are unable to protect their Christian minorities, so the only way forward is what is known as the Nineveh Plain solution, the establishment of an autonomous province in the Nineveh plain region, at the centre of the Assyrian ancestral heartland to provide a safe haven for Assyrians and all other historical Christian people. This solution is also in consistence with the United Nations’ declaration for the rights of the indigenous people.”

“Speaker, we now have a non-permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council, one that came at great expense of the Australian tax payers, and we only hold that for two short years. This shouldn’t be a trophy that sits on a metal plate gathering dust. We must use our voice to promote freedom, democracy, Human Rights and religious liberty and to raise significantly these Human Rights concerns of the Christian Assyrians with the Iraqi government. There is no other alternative,” Mr. Kelly said.

The Assyrian Universal Alliance (AUA) thanks The Hon. Chris Bowen MP, for accepting to raise the AUA motion to support the demand for an autonomous province for the Assyrians and all Historical Christians in the Nineveh Plains. The AUA also thanks all members of the Parliament, both Labor and Liberal, for supporting this motion. Furthermore, we thank Mr. Nouri al-Maliki, Prime Minister of the Federal Republic of Iraq,and Mr. Jalal Talabani, President of Iraq, for supporting the establishment of the Assyrian province.

Although this has been a much-welcomed beginning, the debate is far from over and the Assyrian community in Australia is encouraged to lobby their local Member of Parliament to ensure support for this worthy and necessary cause. The AUA is cautiously optimistic and hopeful that both Liberal and Labor Members will unite to unequivocally protect the indigenous Assyrian Christians of Iraq.

You may view a transcript of the debate by following the internet links listed below.

The Hon. Chris Bowen’s presentation:

All other speakers:

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