Reply from ForiegnAffairs

Australian Government
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
Mr Hermiz Shahen
Deputy Secretary & Regional Secretary of Australia and New Zealand
Assyrian Universal Alliance-Australia Chapter
PO Box 34
Dear Mr Shahen
I refer to your letter dated 4 May 2010 to the Prime Minister, Mr Kevin Rudd, conceming the
situation of Assyrian Christians in Iraq. As the matters you raised fall within the portfolio
responsibility of the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Stephen Smith, your letter has been
forwarded to him for consideration. The Minister has asked me to reply on his behalf.
Australia condemns all human rights violations against religious minorities and remains
concerned about reports of the persecution of the Assyrian Christian community and other
minority groups in Iraq.
The Australian Embassy in Baghdad and officials in Canberra take every appropriate
opportunity to raise these concerns with the Government of Iraq. Australia’s Permanent
Representative to the United Nations on Geneva delivered a statement on human rights in Iraq
at the Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review on 16 February 2010. In that
statement, Australia recommended that Iraq ensure all reports of human rights violations,
including those against religious minorities, are investigated and prosecuted. Senior
Australian officials also raised these concerns on 26 February 2070, with senior Iraqi officials
from a range of ministries, including the Ministry of Human Rights, during a human rights
roundtable hosted by AusAID in Canberra.
Australia’s aid program to Iraq aims to improve the quality of life for all Iraqis and contribute
to nationwide stability. Australian aid is provided on the basis of need and not according to
ethnic or religious affiliation.
R G Casey Building John McEwen Cres Barton 0221
Telephone:026 261 llll Facsimile:026 26131ll
In responset o outbreakso f sectarianv iolencea gainstC hristiana nd other minority groupsi n
Ninewa Provincei n October2 008, Mr Smith announceda $l million emergencya ssistance
package. $500,000 was delivered through the United Nations High Commissioner for
Refugees and $500,000 through the Intemational Medical Corps. Reports from implementing
agenciesin dicatet hat Assyrian Christiansw ere amongt he beneficiaries.
The Australian Government is also providing $11 million over two years for a United Nations
Children Fund program that has identified Ninewa as a priority arca. The program aims to
build safe water and sanitation facilities in 200 schools, and promote the rights of all children
to access education, including children with disabilities.
Australia is working with the Government of Iraq to build capacity in human rights practice
and has strongly supported the establishment of a national Human Rights Commission in Iraq.
Under Australia’s three-year,$ 165 million developmenta ssistancep rogram in Iraq, the
Government has provided human rights training in Australi a for 127 Iraqi officials and plans
to train a further 60 officials by June 2011.
The Australian Government supports Iraq’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and strongly
believest hat all political aspirationsi,n cluding thoseo f Assyrian Christians,s houldb e
pursued within Iraq’s existing political framework. This is particularly important in the
context of the formation of the next Iraqi Govemment following the national elections held on
7 March 2010.
I am pleasedt o note that the United NationsA ssistanceM ission for Iraq chairedt he first
meeting of the Committee on Ethnic and Religious Communities in Tilkaef, Ninelva, on27
May 2010. Participants included representativeso f the Christian, Shabak,T urkoman and
Yazidi communities, as well as of the Iraqi Government, the Kurdistan Regional Government
and the Ninewa administration. This meeting marks an important step for further dialogue
between minority groups in Ninewa and all relevant authorities, including on the issues of
human rights and security.
The Government will continue to monitor human rights in Iraq, including the situation of
Christian and other minority groups, and has instructed the Australian Embassy in Baghdad to
make high-level representations on the matter at every appropriate opportunity.
Yours sincerely
z lrz n>
Lloyd Brodrick
Iraq and Gulf States Section