Assyrian Christians Raise Alarm Over Iraq Elections
Despite the emergence of a fledgling democratic government and a minority president, Assyrian Christians in Iraq have expressed concern over the persecution and disenfranchisement of minority groups during the past two months since the Jan. 30 elections.
Assyrian Christians make up about three percent, or 800 thousand, of Iraq's 26 million people. The majority of Iraqi Christians belong to the Chaldean Catholic Church, the Iraqi branch of Roman Catholicism. Their patriarch is known as the "Assyrian," according to the Middle East Media Research Institute.
There are other smaller Churches in Iraq, including the Roman Catholic, Protestant, Baptist, Nestorian and Armenian.
For Assyrian Christians, the path to democracy and representation in the new government has been filled with pitfalls.
The head of the Save the Assyrians campaign, Andy Darmoo spoke at a news conference at the United Nations on Feb. 18 raising a call attention to the plight of Iraqi Christians.
Darmoo, an Assyrian who left Iraq in 1965, urged the United Nations and European union to increase international pressure on Baghdad to give Assyrians more humanitarian aid and a voice in the new Iraqi government, according to Reuters.
"Iraq was liberated to have freedom for everybody, not just Shi'ites, Kurds and Sunnis," said Darmoo.
He said that Assyrian Christians were the targets of a "quiet campaign of ethnic cleansing," according to Reuters.
The Assyrian International News Agency reported that pleas for help regarding vote fraud, threats, and killings targeting Assyrian Christians had been whitewashed by the Iraqi Independent Electoral High Commission's report on voting irregularities and lockouts in North Iraq.
In addition, another report said that the Al-Rafidayn Democratic Coalition, the main party representing ChaldoAssyrians blasted a February report by the IEHC. They said the report failed to explain a decision by the Niniveh governorate to open only 93 of 330 voting centers on Election day, according to AINA
In terms of parliamentary representation, the agency also reported that four of six Assyrians elected to the National Assembly are under the "explicit direction" of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, which carried out the "terror campaign" that was "whitewashed" by the IEHC, according to AINA.
Talabani belongs to the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, which had been at odds with the KPD in the past.
At the Feb. 18 U.N. news conference, Darmoo said that Talabani had assured minority groups such as the Assyrian Christians that they would have a role in drafting the constitution.
By Francis Helguero