Bill undercuts Iraqi religious minorities

The New York Times

BAGHDAD – Iraq’s executive council on Saturday ratified a much-debated bill that gives Iraqi religious minorities fewer guaranteed seats on provincial councils than the U.N. mission in Iraq recommended.

The executive council – President Jalal Talabani and the country’s two vice presidents – agreed with Parliament that the country’s religious minorities, which include about 750,000 Christians, should be guaranteed just six of the 440 seats on the provincial councils. That’s half what the United Nations proposed.

Younadim Kanna, one of two Christians in Parliament, called the executive council’s decision “very disappointing.”

“Their sweet speeches to us turned out to be useless,” he said. “We thought that they would compensate for what was done to us by other major political entities.”

A vast majority of Iraq’s approximately 28 million people are Muslim, and many Christians have been persecuted and displaced over the last five years.

An election for the provincial councils is scheduled to be held next year. Some Christian leaders are threatening a boycott, saying the number of guaranteed seats will leave them underrepresented.

Besides Christians, the country’s religious minorities include Yazidis, Sabeans and Shabaks.