Assyria: Letter From The Australian Department Of Foreign Affairs And Trade
Below is an article published by the Assyrian Universal Alliance:
Dear Mr Shahen
I refer to your letter dated 4 May 2010 to the Prime Minister, Mr Kevin Rudd, conceming the situation of Assyrian Christians in Iraq. As the matters you raised fall within the portfolio responsibility of the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Stephen Smith, your letter has been forwarded to him for consideration. The Minister has asked me to reply on his behalf.
Australia condemns all human rights violations against religious minorities and remains concerned about reports of the persecution of the Assyrian Christian community and other minority groups in Iraq.
The Australian Embassy in Baghdad and officials in Canberra take every appropriate
opportunity to raise these concerns with the Government of Iraq. Australia's Permanent Representative to the United Nations on Geneva delivered a statement on human rights in Iraq at the Human Rights Council's Universal Periodic Review on 16 February 2010.
In that statement, Australia recommended that Iraq ensure all reports of human rights violations, including those against religious minorities, are investigated and prosecuted. Senior Australian officials also raised these concerns on 26 February 2070, with senior Iraqi officials from a range of ministries, including the Ministry of Human Rights, during a human rights roundtable hosted by AusAID in Canberra.
Australia's aid program to Iraq aims to improve the quality of life for all Iraqis and contribute to nationwide stability. Australian aid is provided on the basis of need and not according to ethnic or religious affiliation.
In response to outbreaks of sectarian violence against Christian and other minority groups in Ninewa Province in October2 008, Mr Smith announced a $l million emergency assistance package. $500,000 was delivered through the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and $500,000 through the Intemational Medical Corps. Reports from implementing agencies indicate that Assyrian Christians were among the beneficiaries.
The Australian Government is also providing $11 million over two years for a United Nations Children Fund program that has identified Ninewa as a priority arca. The program aims to build safe water and sanitation facilities in 200 schools, and promote the rights of all children to access education, including children with disabilities.
Australia is working with the Government of Iraq to build capacity in human rights practice and has strongly supported the establishment of a national Human Rights Commission in Iraq.
Under Australia's three-year, $ 165 million development assistance program in Iraq, the Government has provided human rights training in Australia for 127 Iraqi officials and plans to train a further 60 officials by June 2011.
The Australian Government supports Iraq's sovereignty and territorial integrity, and strongly believes that all political aspirations including those of Assyrian Christians,
should be pursued within Iraq's existing political framework. This is particularly important in the context of the formation of the next Iraqi Govemment following the national elections held on 7 March 2010.
I am pleased to note that the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq chaired the first meeting of the Committee on Ethnic and Religious Communities in Tilkaef, Ninelva, on 27 May 2010. Participants included representatives of the Christian, Shabak, Turkoman and Yazidi communities, as well as of the Iraqi Government, the Kurdistan Regional Government and the Ninewa administration. This meeting marks an important step for further dialogue between minority groups in Ninewa and all relevant authorities, including on the issues of human rights and security.
The Government will continue to monitor human rights in Iraq, including the situation of Christian and other minority groups, and has instructed the Australian Embassy in Baghdad to make high-level representations on the matter at every appropriate opportunity.
Iraq and Gulf States Section