Minorities of Iraq co-operate to put pressure on the UK government in the House of Lords

Lobby for the Minorities of Iraq
(supported by C.H.A.K.)
eilian@nantperis.wanadoo.co.uk

Press Release

Minorities of Iraq co-operate to put pressure on the UK government in the House of Lords

A crowd of nearly a hundred people crowded into a room in the House of Lords in the UK Parliament on tuesday, 9th december to put the case for urgent action by the UK government to address the issues facing the minority communities of Iraq. Faylee Kurd, Mandaean and Christian representatives of all Assyrian, Syriac and Chaldaean Churches urged the government to help the situation by putting more pressure on the Iraqi government to provide adequate security, and by accepting more refugees (at least temprarily) from the minority communities in this time of crisis. The Yezidis and Shabaks were not forgoten as the CHAK (Centre of Halabja) director put forward their case.He also announced a proposal for Minorities-Kurdish dialogue
  It was proposed that all Minorities as well as Kurdish and Arab supporters in the UK co-operate to lobby the government to take action on this problem. One way that this will be done is to ask our MPs to sign the new Motion in the UK Parliament on the Minorities (EDM 27 – below). The meeting was sponsored by Lord Alton, and several parliamentarians attended to hear the case fgor the minorities.

Prof Gregory Stanton, President of the International Association of Genocide Scholars, opened the meeting by stating he had no doubt that both Assyrians and Kurds had been the victims of Genocide in the past, and that there was a serious threat to the cultural diversity of Iraq, if action is not taken immediately.

Dr Munira Omed, of the Fayllee Kurd Society, spoke of the terrible suffering experienced by the Faylee Kurd community ever since 1936, 1941 and the 1980’s when half a million Faylees were deported to Iran, and 18,.000 young Faylee men disappeared after being imprisoned
 “Even after the fall of Saddam Hussein, Faylees cannot return to claim their comes,the fate of their detained familly members is still unknown, the ones responsible for their detention were not prosecuted and no compensation has been paid. Furthermore the terrorists of al-Qaeda targeted Faylee Kurd famillies in the provinces of Baghdad and Diala, in many cities (Shorja, Al-Kefah,Mandeli,and Khanaqin), killing many innocents and destroying their already poor homes. There is an estimate of more than 10,000 killed just in Dila in the past four years.
The situation in Wasit province is not that bright, Faylee Kurd famillies were repeatedly attacked by al-Qaeda and their subordinates(the remnants of Saddam’s regime). Most of these cities looked like “ghost towns” after the few remaining famillies left.
  We are asking for your support of our rights, and to stop the genocide of Faylee Kurds in Iraq”

Dr Layla, Alroomi, spokeswoman for the Mandaean Human Rights Group said:
“Since 2003, the Mandaeans have become the target of a sustained and violent campaign by insurgents and militia extremists. Accounts of murders, rapes, kidnappings, forced conversions and financial expropriation committed against hundreds of Mandaeans in the last five years necessitate an immediate investigation. Mandaean women suffer the most persecution at the hands of extremist insurgents and militia who consider them products of pleasure. The escalating kidnappings and rape of Mandaean women has gone unpunished. Many families, young girls, and even children have been subjected to forced conversions.

In an effort to destabilize the country the insurgent groups have purposely singled out and persecuted the Iraqi religious minorities. The Sabian Mandaeans are small in numbers and are not protected constitutionally or socially within Iraq, despite the constitutional reforms under the transitional and the current government. Since their religion prohibits self-defence, the Mandaeans do not carry weapons and will not reciprocate these attacks. Instead they choose to stand behind the rule of law, which currently is not protecting them. Furthermore, the Mandaeans do not have a particular area inside Iraq to which they can relocate for safety.

Out of 60,000 Mandaeans who lived in Iraq, unfortunately more than 80 % have fled the country, leaving their homes and occupations. Currently, there are approximately more than 10,000 Mandaean refugees in the neighbouring countries of Syria and Jordan alone. According to the UNHCR more than 4 million Iraqis are displaced. About two million are internally displaced, and the rest are mainly in the neighbouring countries. This has led to one of the largest refugee crises in the Middle East since the Palestinian exodus in 1948. Although religious minorities are about 4 -5% of Iraq, they represent 20% of the refugees.

Despite the reported relative improvement in the security situation within Iraq, this has not been the case in relation to the minorities. The recent killing of Christians in Mosul is a reminder of the continual aggression against religious minorities. Only few weeks ago a whole Mandeaen family was gunned down including an 8 years old boy, while minding their shop in a district in Baghdad. Most of these atrocities went without any proper investigation or punishment. The government of Iraq has yet to acknowledge that the minorities have suffered a disproportionate share of targeted violence although this fact has been cited by many independent organizations such as the UNHCR, Amnesty International UNAMI and others. The recent ruling that Article 50, which previously reasserted the right of minority representation in certain areas, should be limited does not send a reassuring signal to the displaced minority communities.
We ask Her Majesty’s Government to urge the Iraqi government to stop the insurgents and sympathizing religious clerics from continuing the systematic attack on the ethnic and religious minorities in Iraq and to press the Iraqi government to take active steps for the protection of the Mandaean community, culture, historical artefacts, their property, and to provide adequate funds to help the Mandaean refugees.

There is a moral obligation for the countries of the coalition forces in Iraq, particularly the United Kingdom and the EU countries , to take active and immediate steps to help prevent this small and peaceful community from becoming extinct by giving them a safe place of refuge. The Mandaean refugees need a durable solution which takes into account their vulnerable situation

We ask the British Government to consider the resettlement of those Mandaean refugees as a collective group; otherwise this ancient indigenous, ethnic and religious minority will become extinct”.

Nicola Craven a researcher on Mandaeans said
“Coalition forces, ignorant to the existence of the Mandaean religion and people, opened the flood gates to unprecedented sectarian violence. Since then, a report produced by the Mandaean human rights group lists the names of hundreds of victims attacked, maimed or murdered purely the basis that they are Mandaean. Sheikh Khaldoun, a Mandaean priest residing in Damascus informed me that what is happening in Iraq is nothing short of genocide. The Mandaean principle of non-violence even in the case of self defense has made them particularly vulnerable as they did not have militias to protect them. The number of Mandaeans who live in exile now outnumbers those who remain in their ancestral homeland.
Many Mandaeans have been forced to flee to neighbouring Jordan and Syria. The Mandaean community in Damascus has been provided with the facilities allowing them to continue with the practice of rituals such as weekly baptisms. The UNHCR have also been working to try and improve conditions. However, although these Mandaeans are free from mortal dangers, they are in limbo, living off their savings and unable to work.
It is apparent that the Syria authorities and the UNHCR have a limited ability to support the vast numbers of Iraqi refugees that are residing in Damascus. Whilst there is sadly no shortage of human tragedy in Iraq today with people from all religious groups having suffered appalling violence, the Mandaean faith may now face extinction. Sheikh Khaldoun asked the question “There are organizations set up to save the panda from extinction but why not save the Mandaeans?
. The British government remains seemingly oblivious to this potential humanitarian and cultural tragedy. It is agreed by Mandaeans and academics that Government and non government organizations have, at the very least, a moral responsibility in preventing the disappearance of the sect by granting them asylum.
Opening the doors to asylum seekers, however, in itself isn’t enough. A small amount of financial aid would ensure that rituals and rites could be continued and that priests can reach out to all Mandaeans within the UK. Western goverments and organisations, particularly Britain and the United States who have had a hand to play in the Middle East, must help the Mandaeans.” .
  Monsignor Khoshaba Georges read a statement on behalf of all the Iraqi Christian Churches in the UK ( Assyrian Church of the East, Anciennt Church of the East, Chaldaean Catholic Church Syrian Orthodox Church and the Syrian Catholic Mission). He said that there is a danger of Iraq becoming an extreme Islamic state within five years. The statement appealed to western countries to accept Iraqi Christian refugees . The whole speech is attached

Neville Kyrke-Smith of the Catholic Charity “Aid to the Church in Need” summarised the present problems. Mark Green of Barnabas Fund also commented on the current chaotic situation. The Anglican Bishop of Bath also gave his appraisal of the situation.

Adnan Kochar, director of CHAK put the case for the Yezidis and Shabaks, as the Yezidi speaker Dr Dinay,from Germany, was held up, and arrived late.
Isaac Asia, an Assyrian speaker,to loud applause, pointed out that Britain had previously used the Minorities, Kurds and Arabs against each other in the past, and that Britain had a heavy responsibility for the subsequent course of events.

Message of solidarity was read by the Kurdish Islamic Society speaker and a message of sympathy was given by the Al-Khooi Islamic Shia Foundation
  Sharon Booth of the Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East read a message from Rev Andrew White. vicar of St Georges Church, Baghdad who said: “The International Community must wake up to these needs and provide real help for those without a future.”.
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Our friends are requested to ask their MP to sign this Early Day Motionin the House of Commons. In the next few weeks, MPs will be leafleted for this purpose as they enter and leave parliament. This will be a practical way for minorities to co-operate

EDM 27 SAFETY OF MINORITY COMMUNITIES IN IRAQ
03.12.2008 Spink, Bob
That this House is concerned that the failure to honour promises made after the First World War to the Assyrians and Kurdish minority communities on autonomy, the creation of a centralised Iraq in 1932 without provision for the security of minorities, the recent war of 2003 which led to the rise of fundamentalism, and the ethnic cleansing of the Mandaeans and Assyrian-Chaldeo-Syriacs in Basra, Baghdad and Mosul, place a special responsibility on the Government to these minorities; calls on the Government to therefore take a sympathetic attitude to asylum claims from these minorities; and urges the Government to learn from past mistakes and to use its influence in a robust way on the government of Iraq to ensure the safety of the aforementioned minorities as well as of Yezidis, Faili Kurds and Shabaks, so that a dishonourable withdrawal from Iraq is avoided