The Iraqi Government Opens up for Autonomy in Northern Iraq

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MEP Lars Adaktusson’s office
Jawad al-Hindawy, Ambassador of the Republic of Iraq to the EU and MEP Lars Adaktusson
On the 29th June, at a well-attended conference at the European Parliament in Brussels, entitled “A Future for Christians in Iraq”, Assyrian/Chaldean/Syriac political parties produced a position paper, which outlines their desire to establish self-governance.

On January 21st 2014, the Iraq Council of Ministers approved a plan to establish three new provinces in Iraq. One province would be in Fallujah, in central Iraq; a second would be in north Iraq, in Tuz Khormato; the third would also be in north Iraq, in the Nineveh Plain.

In the summer of 2014, the terrorist group ISIS first invaded Iraq’s second largest city of Mosul. A few weeks later the entire Nineveh Plain that had the largest population of Assyrians/Chaldeans/Syriacs was also invaded. ISIS had threatened to completely eradicate Christianity in Iraq, as well as other religious and ethnic minorities such as Yazidis, Shabaks and Turkmens. The Iraqi army and the Kurdish Peshmerga abandoned the Nineveh Plain. Hundreds of thousands fled the area, which was completely emptied in just a few days. Others were kidnapped. Little girls were sold as sex slaves. And even more were slaughtered. Even today some families are still searching for loved ones.

ISIS fulfilled the ideology that for a decade tried to eradicate both the religious and the ethnic existence of the Assyrian/Chaldeans/Syriacs. Churches and monasteries were destroyed along with ancient Assyrian and Babylon cities in Mosul and the Nineveh Plain. They also destroyed Muslim (both Sunni and Shia) mosques and Yazidi temples. A full scale genocide took place. Since then many parliaments around the world, including the European, British and U.S. Congress have acknowledged that the persecution fulfills the UN resolution criteria for genocide.

“Last October, we were in Northern Iraq after having had successfully passed two resolutions: one to have the genocide recognized by the European Parliament and the second to get support for the self-governance of the Nineveh Plain,” says Charlie Weimers, chief of staff for Member of the European Parliament Lars Adaktusson.

Weimers continues becoming emotional as he tells us about partaking in mass at Syriac-Catholic cathedral in Baghdede (Qarakosh) in the Nineveh plain directly after it was liberated from ISIS. “I was close to tears when I saw the destruction of the church, it was burned and I recall seeing statues being used as target practice for ISIS fighters. They had decapitated statues, torn out eyes of angels and saints.”

After their trip to recently liberated towns and villages of the Nineveh Plain the delegation drove back to Ankawa, outside Erbil to meet the political parties of Assyrians/Chaldeans/Syriacs.

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“They supported the resolution which had passed in the European Parliament and they asked us to host an international conference to highlight the plight of victims of genocide. They signed a letter; all the ten major Christians parties.”

A week before the conference took place, Assyrian Democratic Movement and two other political parties along with two churches pulled out. The organizers were accused of “having a Kurdish agenda” and working to get “the Nineveh Plain annexed to the Kurdistan region of Iraq”. The accusations were based on a draft of the policy position paper.

However, at the conference, the political parties in attendance made it clear that the only solution is a self-governing province. They referred to the Iraqi constitution and the right to establish their region in the Nineveh plain with their own police force, security force, healthcare and education and justice system.

The Kurdish regional government’s representative Hoshyar Siwaily, head of the foreign relations office of the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP), said in his speech that it’s entirely up the people to decide whether they want to join KRG or self-govern within Iraq.

Lars Adaktusson asked the Iraqi ambassador to the European Union, Jawad al-Hindawy, what the Iraqi government’s stance was. He answered:

“This issue will be solved through negotiation and dialogue” and also stated solution may not be a province but rather a regional government since Iraq is a federation.

On the last day of the conference Adaktusson started with saying, “today ISIS was declared defeated by the Iraqi government. That’s to add to this historical moment”. After his speech, Adaktusson was invited to go to Baghdad in the fall and the political parties signed the policy position paper. But not before they thanked Adaktusson for having succeeded in making them cooperate on a their final demands for the Nineveh Plain. Another common issue was that they hoped that the parties who had pulled out of the conference would join the cooperation again.

The personal representative Fawzi Hariri of president Barzani, KRG, opposed the press release that was read. He claimed that he was disappointed with it since KRG wasn’t thanked: “The Iraqi government will not do anything for you, so yes we are disappointed with the wording. If you are willing to make a statement and thanking the Iraqi government you should also thank the Kurdistan regional government.“

The final press release can be read here.

The conference ended with a standing ovations for the representatives who signed the policy position paper, all who helped to implement the request for an international conference, the governments which supported it and Lars Adaktusson himself.

The political parties also made it clear that they “don’t want a Berlin wall in the Nineveh Plain” meaning that the parties who have signed will not accept the region to be split between Baghdad and Erbil.

Below are some of the other participants of the conference:

The Iraqi Government

The European Delegation for Iraq

The Kurdish Regional Government

The US Government

Patriarch of the Syrian Orthodox Church