Mar 10, 2010

Assyria: Christians Out of Competition

Sample ImageLow voter turnout among Christians leaves them without representation. Most Christians approached the election with great apprehension, sure that the results will make no difference in their lives and rights.


Below is an article published by: Kurdish Globe

Despite the high tension in the heated competition between the Kurdistan Alliance List, which consists of the two major Kurdish parties-the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan--and the Wousha Corporation's Gorran List, Kurdistan Region's Christian community is among the very few groups that stayed out of the heat, and is focusing solely on strengthening its representation in Iraq's Parliament.

Christians, a minority in the Kurdistan Region, approached the election and went to polling stations with a different attitude when compared to the rest of the region's citizens. Ankawa, a Christian-populated district of Erbil, which is also the largest Christian community throughout the region, was probably the area in Kurdistan farthest away from the heated conflict, and Christians headed to the polling centers without taking a position on it.

"Christians are only trying to increase their representation in the new Iraqi National Assembly to protect our rights as the original inhabitants of this country," said Yousif Toma, 49, a Christian inhabitant in Ankawa, shortly after casting his vote in a polling station in Ankawa.

A total of approximately 20,000 Christians were eligible to vote throughout Kurdistan, 75% of whom were local inhabitants; the remaining 25% were the internally displaced Christians who fled to Kurdistan from various other Iraqi provinces in search of a safe haven.

Christians had five lists fighting for five seats in Iraq's Parliament. Each candidate was in need of 3,000 votes to win. However, the participation rate of the Christians, as was the case almost everywhere else, was well below expected.

"People, especially Christians, have lost their hope about the political process in the country, and recent incidents in Mosul against Christians have raised their anger--they vowed not to vote at all," said Faten Jarjis, a middle-aged Christian woman who refused to go to the polling centers. "I don't think my vote will improve the situations at all, and I don't want to waste my vote."

The voting process was calm and free of fraudulence or cheating. People headed toward voting stations with the hope that they would have a say in their country's future.

Rawa'a Hanna Ya'qub, the coordinator of the Yazdandookht polling station in Ankawa, was very happy that she was in full control of the situation and had no problem with the process. The only issue was of some voters failing to find their names on the list-those people had to leave the station without ink on their fingers.

"Everything goes smoothly here," said Ya'qub. "We have 2,368 local voters in addition to 108 IDP voters from Baghdad, Diala, and Neinawa provinces."

Emad Khalil Yousif, 62, a Christian IDP from Baghdad who moved to Ankawa along with his wife, Ikhlas Ya'qub, 52, and two of their three daughters, waved his inked finger as he waited for his wife to join him after casting her vote in a polling station in Ankawa.

Yousif, who has almost forgotten about going back to his home city, was very happy about having the chance to vote. "My country needs my vote and your vote to succeed and get rid of insurgency, terror, and corruption."

Mrs. Ya'qub spoke of her pride in the smooth election process, which occurred without any accidents or cheating--unlike what was very likely to happen in her city due to the "weak security situation" there.

Despite the majority of Christians who were not thinking of voting for any lists other than their own, there was a small portion of voters who thought that their candidates would not necessarily protect their ethnic rights as Kurdish candidates would.

Muhannad Sabah Hormoz, 26, an Ankawa citizen who was also a local observer in the Yazdandookht polling center, said there are non-Christians who have served the Christian community more than any other Christian has.

"The clear example is Kurdistan Region President Mr. Massoud Barzani," said Hormoz. "As a person, I think that by voting, I prove myself as a citizen and prove that I am part of this nation and can have my hand in building its future."