Reply from Minister for Foreign Affairs

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Mr Hermiz Shahen
Deputy SecretaryG eneral
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169 Quany Road
Dear Mr Shahen
Thank you for your e-mail dated 13 October 2008 and your letter dated 24 October 2008
about the persecution of Christians in lraq. Your e-mail dated 1 1 October 2008 to the
Prime Minister. Mr Rudd, has also been referred to me for reply. I regret the delay in
The Australian Governmenth as continuingc oncernsa boutt he persecutiono f Christiana nd
other minority groupsi n lraq. Despites ignificanti mprovementsin the securitys ituationi n
Iraq, there are still instanceso f sectarianv iolencet hat are causingt he displacemenot f
fami lies and communities.
Australia condemns all incidences of human rights violations against religious minorities.
Through our Embassy in Baghdad, the Government has been active in bringing its concerns to
the attention of the Iraqi Govemment. I also raised Australia’s concerns about the protection
of human rights in lraq when I met the Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister. Barham Salih, in
Baghdad in June 2008. The Government continues to monitor human rights in Iraq, including
the persecution of Christian and other minority groups, and has instructed the Australian
Embassyi n Baghdadt o make high-levelr epresentationosn the mattera t every appropriate
On 19 December2 008 I announcedth at the AustralianG ovemmentw ould provide $1 million
to assist Christian and other minority groups in Ninewa Province, Northern lraq, who have
been the victims of recento utbreakso f sectarianv iolence. That assistancew ill be provided
through the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees ([JNHCR) and the
International Medical Corps (IMC). It will fund emergency provisions, medical support,
reconstruction eflbrts and the tracking of families who have fled into neighbouring countries.
This brings the total humanitariana ssistancep rovidedb y the AustralianG ovemmentt o
Ninewa Province to $3 million. Australia is already providing $2 million through the IMC to
assist Iraqis in Ninewa Province who have suffbred from violence. This funding is going
towards emergency medical training, women’s centres and mental health services for primary
school aqe children.
Australiai s alsop rovidingf undingt o assistv ulnerablea ndd isplacedIr aqism oreg enerally,t o
be deliveredb y the UnitedN ationsH igh Commissionefor r Refugee(sI JNHCR).T his is part
of Australia’so verall assistancper ogramt o Iraq,w orth $165m illion overt he next threey ears.
As a furtherm easurei,n July2 008t he Governmenatl soa nnounceadn increaseo f 500p laces
to Australia’sh umanitarianim migrationp rogrami n 2008-09,s pecificallyf or Iraqis.
Thank you for bringingy our concemsto the Government’sa ttentiona ndI trust this
information is of assistance.
Yours sincerely
StephenS mith