UN urges new, ‘post-ISIL’ Iraq to draw on diversity, support religious minorities

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[Yezidi children and women who fled Sinjar Mountain re-enter Iraq from Syria at a border crossing in the town of Peshkhabour in Dohuk Governorate.]
UNICEF/Wathiq Khuzaie
As Iraq rebuilds after defeating a terrorist group, the country must draw on its religious diversity and protect minorities, including Yezidi and Christians, a senior United Nations official has said.

“Iraq needs all its components, all its ethnic and religious groups, to rebuild in the post-Da’esh period and prosper in the future as a stable and united country,” said the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Iraq, Ján Kubiš, in a press release issued Monday.

He urged the authorities to proactively support these communities and ensure the return of minorities who had been persecuted by the terrorist group, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

Millions of Iraqis have been displaced since the rise of ISIL and due to a battle to oust the terrorists.

His call comes in the wake of recent criminal and terrorist acts that targeted members of minority communities in Iraq.

Last Thursday, three Christian family members were killed in Baghdad by armed men who stormed their house and stabbed them to death. In the past three years, Christians, particularly in Ninewa Governorate, suffered from the Da’esh terrorism.

Iraq draws its strength from its cultural and religious diversity, and its rich history. This treasure should be protected and nurtured.

Christians are one of the ancient communities in this country, dating back to the early days of Christianity and Mesopotamia. This indigenous community, which in the 1980s counted almost 1.3 million, has dwindled to an estimated 400,000 today, according to community leaders.

Also last week, a member of the Sabean Mandaean community was kidnapped from his shop in Baghdad and his body was later found on a street. In Nassiriyah in the country’s south, another Sabean Mandaean was stabbed at his shop but survived after his Muslim neighbours came to his aid.

“Iraq draws its strength from its cultural and religious diversity, and its rich history. This treasure should be protected and nurtured by the Government and the people of Iraq,” Mr. Kubiš said.

“There is no place for intolerance and discrimination, for targeting and suppressing minorities,” he added, urging the Government to support and protect Yezidi, Christians, Shabak, Sabean Mandaeans, and other minorities.