February 24, 2010

Iraq: Resolution In Favor of Minority Groups

 US Congress Calls For Protection of Minorities in Iraq

Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives on religious minorities in Iraq.


Whereas threats against the smallest religious minorities in Iraq jeopardize the future of Iraq as a diverse, pluralistic, and free society;

Whereas according to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, there are grave threats to religious freedom in Iraq, particularly for the smallest, most vulnerable religious minorities in Iraq, including Chaldeans, Syriacs, Assyrians, and other Christians, Sabean Mandeans, and Yazidis;

Whereas the February 2009 Country Report on Human Rights issued by the Department of State identifies on-going `misappropriation of official authority by sectarian, criminal, and extremist groups' as among the significant and continuing human rights problems in Iraq;

Whereas in recent years, there have been alarming numbers of religiously motivated killings, abductions, beatings, rapes, threats, intimidation, forced conversions, marriages, and displacement from homes and businesses, and attacks on religious leaders, pilgrims, and holy sites, in Iraq, with the smallest religious minorities in Iraq having been among the most vulnerable, although Iraqis from many religious communities, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, have suffered in this violence;

Whereas the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom continues to recommend that the President designate Iraq as a `country of particular concern', or CPC, under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, because of the ongoing, severe abuses of religious freedom in Iraq;

Whereas the Assyrian International News Agency reports that 59 churches have been bombed in Iraq between June 2004 and July 2009;

Whereas persecution and violence in Iraq have extended to church leaders as well, such as the March 2008 kidnap for ransom and killing of 65-year-old Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho;

Whereas members of small religious minority communities in Iraq do not have militia or tribal structures to defend them, do not receive adequate official protection, and are legally, politically, and economically marginalized;

Whereas control of ethnically and religiously mixed areas, including the Nineveh and Kirkuk governorates, is disputed between the Kurdistan regional government and the Government of Iraq, and Chaldeans, Syriacs, Assyrians, and other Christians, Sabean Mandeans, Yazidis, Shabak, and Turkomen are caught in the middle of this struggle for control and have been targeted for abuses and discrimination as a result;

Whereas governments in the region report that approximately 2,400,000 refugees and asylum seekers have fled Iraq since 2003;

Whereas many religious minorities in Iraq, who made up about 3 percent of the population of Iraq in 2003, have fled to other areas in Iraq or to other countries, where they reflect a disproportionately high percentage of registered Iraqi refugees;

Whereas the flight of such refugees has substantially diminished their numbers in Iraq, and few show signs of returning to Iraq;

Whereas approximately 1,400,000 Christians were estimated to have lived in Iraq as of 2003, including Chaldean Catholics, Assyrian Orthodox, Assyrian Church of the East, Syriac Catholics, Syriac Orthodox, Armenians (Catholic and Orthodox), Protestants, and Evangelicals;

Whereas it is widely reported that only 500,000 to 700,000 indigenous Christians remain in Iraq as of 2009;

Whereas the Sabean Mandean community in Iraq reports that almost 90 percent of the members of that community either fled Iraq or have been killed, leaving only about 3,500 to 5,000 Mandeans in Iraq as of 2009;

Whereas the Yazidi community in Iraq reportedly now numbers about 500,000, a decrease from about 700,000 in 2005;

Whereas the Baha'i faith, estimated to have only 2,000 adherents in Iraq, remains prohibited in Iraq under a 1970 law;

Whereas the ancient and once-large Jewish community in Iraq now numbers fewer than 10, and they essentially live in hiding;

Whereas in 2008, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported that approximately 221,000 Iraqis returned to their areas of origin in Iraq, the vast majority of whom settled into neighborhoods or governorates controlled by members of their own religious community;

Whereas many of these returnees reported returning because of difficult economic conditions in their countries of asylum, principally Syria, Jordan, Egypt, and Lebanon; and

Whereas Chaldeans, Syriacs, Assyrians, and other Christians, Sabean Mandeans, and Yazidis are not believed to be among these returnees: Now, therefore, be it Resolved, That it is the sense of the House of Representatives that:

   (1) the United States remains deeply concerned about the plight of vulnerable religious and ethnic minorities of Iraq and is particularly concerned for the Chaldeans, Syriacs, Assyrians, and other Christians, Sabean Mandeans, Yazidis, Baha'is, Jews, and Muslim ethnic minorities, the Shabak and Turkomen, and other religious and ethnic minorities of Iraq;

  (2) the United States Government and the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq should urge the Government of Iraq to enhance security at places of worship in Iraq, particularly where religious minorities are known to be at risk;

  (3) the United States Government should continue to work with the Government of Iraq to--

  (A) urgently train and deploy into the Iraqi police and security forces members of vulnerable minority communities in Iraq, including in Nineveh and other areas in which religious minorities are located, who are as representative as possible of those communities; and

 (B) ensure that members of such communities--

  (i) suffer no discrimination in recruitment, employment, or advancement in the Iraqi police and security forces; and

 (ii) while employed in the Iraqi police and security forces, be assigned to their locations of origin, rather than being transferred to other areas;

 (4) the Government of Iraq should, with the assistance of the United States Government--

 (A) ensure that the upcoming national elections in Iraq are safe, fair, and free of intimidation and violence so that all Iraqis, including religious minorities, can participate in the elections; and

 (B) permit and facilitate election monitoring by experts from local and international nongovernmental organizations, the international community, and the United Nations, particularly in minority areas;

 (5) the Government of Iraq and the Kurdistan regional government should work towards a peaceful and timely resolution of disputes over territories;

 (6) the United States Government and the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq should urge the Government of Iraq to work with minority communities and their representatives to develop measures to implement article 125 of the Iraq Constitution, which guarantees `the administrative, political, cultural, and educational rights of the various nationalities, such as Turkomen, Chaldeans, Assyrians, and all the other constituents' in Nineveh and other areas where these groups are present;

 (7) the Government of Iraq should take affirmative measures to reverse the legal, political, and economic marginalization of religious minorities in Iraq;

 (8) the United States Government should direct assistance to projects that develop the ability of ethnic and religious minorities in Iraq to organize themselves civically and politically to effectively convey their concerns to government;

 (9) the United States Government should continue to fund capacity-building programs for the Iraqi Ministry of Human Rights, the independent national Human Rights Commission, and a new independent minorities committee whose membership is selected by minority communities of Iraq;

 (10) the Government of Iraq should direct the Iraqi Ministry of Human Rights to investigate and issue a public report on abuses against and the marginalization of minority communities in Iraq and make recommendations to address such abuses;

 (11) the Government of Iraq should, with the assistance of the United States Government and international organizations, help ensure that displaced Iraqis considering return to Iraq have the proper information needed to make informed decisions regarding such return; and

 (12) the United States Government and international organizations should continue to work with the Government of Iraq to develop the legal framework necessary to address property disputes resulting when displaced Iraqis attempt to return to their homes in Iraq.


 Note: Click here for the full resolution