Iraq Admits Minorities Remain Vulnerable

e9a8ceea-b49a-43d9-9cb9-49664fe5d2f5_mw800_mh600_s1.jpgAn Iraqi policeman stands guard outside a church in the Baghdad district of Dora. Up to half of Iraq’s Christians have fled the country since 2003.
August 20, 2010
BAGHDAD — The Iraqi government is doing all it can to ensure security for all citizens, but it is also aware that religious and ethnic minorities are particularly vulnerable and extra efforts are required to protect them, a senior Iraqi official has told RFE/RL’s Radio Free Iraq.

Ali al-Musawi, who is a media adviser to Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, said on August 19 that the safety of Iraq’s minority communities was a top priority for the government in its national security strategy.

Musawi’s comments come after the U.S. Senate adopted a resolution earlier this month that highlighted “the perilous status of religious minorities in Iraq” and called on the Iraqi government to address abuses against these groups.

Minorities including the Chaldeans, Syriacs, Assyrians, Armenians, and other Christians, Shi’ite Shabaks, Sabean Mandaeans, and Yazidis have lived for centuries in the region that is now Iraq. They have often been the target of bomb attacks and other violence by militant Islamic groups.

Unadim Kanna, a Christian member of parliament and secretary of the Assyrian Democratic Movement, says that the United States and Europe can contribute more effectively to enhancing the status of Iraq’s religious and ethnic minorities by helping Iraq advance in such spheres as good governance, human rights, and reconstruction.

Hanin al-Qaddu, leader of the Democratic Shabak Gathering and a member of the outgoing parliament, says that it was the government’s failure to crack down on abuses against minority groups that prompted the U.S. Senate’s call to address this issue.

Qaddu says that the United States is especially concerned ahead of the departure of the last U.S. combat forces from Iraq and in light of the continuing political deadlock over forming a new government.

The UN’s refugee agency estimates that since 2003, some 250,000-500,000 Christians — about half the total number in Iraq — have left the country.