Iraqi Christians call for autonomy

DAHUK, Iraq, Oct. 3 (UPI) — Thousands of Iraqi Christians took to the streets in the north of the country, calling for autonomy in response to exclusion by the provincial elections law.

The Iraqi Parliament in September passed a version of the provincial elections law that did not include provisions for minority representation. Despite calls for restoration of the measure, Article 50, from top U.N. officials and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a three-member presidential council Friday moved the bill forward, setting the stage for January elections.

A provision was included in the measure, however, to allocate 25 percent of the council seats to women. U.N. officials Thursday called on Iraqi lawmakers to reinstate Article 50 by Oct. 15, the first day candidates would be eligible for review.

Jamal Zeno, an Assyrian lawmaker, said Iraqi Christians had drafted a memo for self-rule in the northern province of Dahuk, Voices of Iraq reported.

“The demonstrators will present an official memo to the local authorities in Dahuk province to back their efforts and help them demand the rights of our people,” he said.

The Christian minority in Iraq has faced widespread persecution since the U.S.-led invasion. Their numbers have declined from a population of around 1 million to about 400,000, in part due to mass migration from Iraq.