Jun 10, 2011

Assyria: Australian MP Moves To Increase Support For Iraqi Minorities

The Hon. Mr. Chris Hayes MP, in coordination with the Assyrian Universal Alliance, has spoken out against abuses of human and indigenous rights in Iraq

On 30 May 2011 Mr. Chris Hayes (MP of the Labor Party of Australia) introduced a motion during Private Members Business entitled Religious Minorities in Iraq. Focusing upon the current equity deficit of minorities in Iraq, Mr Hayes emphasised firstly:

That for more than 2,000 years religious groups such as Assyrians, Mandaeans, Chaldeans, Syriacs and other Aramaic speakers have called Iraq home;

And secondly;

Due to Australia’s part in the 'coalition of the willing', that state has a moral responsibility to deal compassionately with those people displaced following the political turmoil of the 2003 Invasion.

Below, is an extract from Mr. Hayes’ speech delivered in the Australian Federal Parliament:

“I rise to speak about an issue which is of great concern—that is, the persecution of the ethnic and religious minorities of Iraq which has escalated since the invasion of Iraq by the coalition of the willing in 2003 […] My position is unequivocal. As a member of the coalition of the willing, Australia has a responsibility to pursue this issue and to do all it can as a good global citizen to raise awareness of the issue, in the first instance, and, more importantly, to ensure that the democratically elected government of Iraq protect all its citizens regardless of race and religion.

[…] There are a number of credible reports that members of ethnic and religious minorities in Iraq are subject to continuous persecution, often to the point of death, within their own country. These include various Christian groups, the indigenous Assyrians, Mandaeans—the followers of John the Baptist—Chaldean Catholics, Syriacs and the other Aramaic speakers who have all called the geographic area known as Iraq home for the last 2,000 years. They all have a unique history within Iraq but, at the moment, they are all disproportionately represented amongst those who have fled Iraq since 2003. They are also disproportionately represented in the refugee numbers in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Egypt. We see the numbers are truly astounding when we look at the figures associated with those who have fled Iraq due to persecution. The US State Department says that prior to 2003 Christian leaders estimated that there were somewhere between 800,000 and 1.4 million Christians across the various indigenous Assyrian groups, such as the Chaldeans, Syriacs and Armenians. Currently, according to the American State Department, the number is somewhere around 400,000 […]

It is clear that there is real persecution and a real ongoing fear of persecution for those minority groups in Iraq. It is not limited to religion or is a black-and-white case of something that has been experienced by any particular group […]

[…] I would also like to draw attention to the provinces of northern Iraq, in the area of Kurdistan. Many indigenous Assyrians and Christian minority groups have sought sanctuary in those provinces. It is one thing to have a degree of sanctuary shown to them there, but without resources such as schools, hospitals and also the opportunity of having a future, it is one step away from the persecution from which they fled in other areas of Iraq. If we are going to be serious […], we do need to make a renewed commitment with financial as well as other resources to Iraq with a view to reducing this persecution and doing something just for the people of Iraq.


Click here for Mr Hayes’ full statement