Iraqi Women, Christians Targeted in Violence, UN Chief Says

Crimes against women and Christians in Iraq are among the human rights abuses that persist amid a drop in overall violence in the predominantly Muslim nation, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today.“Grave and systematic human rights violations remain constant, but are less visible and less widely reported” than attacks such as the bombing that killed at least 25 Iraqis today in Baghdad, Ban said in a report to the UN Security Council. “Targeted assassinations of journalists, political activists, public officials and pilgrims remain a deeply worrying feature of the security picture.”

Ban said the world body has received many accounts of “minority groups being forced to identify themselves as either Arabs or Kurds and prohibited from using their own languages.” They also have been “forced to sell their property at low prices” and had their land and other economic assets confiscated, he said.

More than 2,200 Christian families fled the northern city of Mosul to escape sectarian killings in October, Ban said.

There has been “no significant improvement” in women’s rights, Ban said, noting reports of “alleged suicides” and so- called honor crimes that continue to be reported with “alarming regularity.” Such crimes involve the killings of women by male relatives for perceived dishonor to a family.

Overall, violence ebbed in Iraq this year after an increase in U.S. troops and support from Sunni tribesmen against al-Qaeda. Attacks average four a day, 83 percent less than in 2007, according to the U.S. military.

Today’s attack was the worst in Baghdad since a car bombing on June 17 killed 51 people and wounded 75 others.

Ban acknowledged the security gains, which he called “fragile,” while saying the rights violations pose a “serious concern” and “require political will, resources and long-term commitment to eliminate.”