Iraqi Kurdistan: New Constitution
Below is an article published by Society for Threatened People:
The Society for Threatened Peoples (GfbV) has described the new constitution of the autonomous federal state of Iraqi Kurdistan as a shining model for the nationality politics and the solution of the minority problems in the Near-east. “The rights of all large ethnic groups in Iraqi Kurdistan are expressly anchored, including the right to self-government and freedom of religion”, said the President of the GfbV International, Tilman Zülch, on Tuesday in Göttingen. Smaller communities too have the opportunity to develop. (entfalten”) The regional parliament in Arbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, passed the draft constitution last week. Now it is for the citizens of the federal state to vote for or against the new constitution at the presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for 25th July .
The wishes of all nationalities have been respected in the new constitution. Article 15 says: “The people of the federal state of Iraqi Kurdistan is made up of Kurds, Arabs, Turkmens, Chaldaic Aramean Assyrians, Armenians and other citizens of Kurdistan /Iraq.” Article 35 says: “This constitution guarantees the national, cultural and administrative rights of the Turkmens, Arabs, Chaldaic Aramean Assyrians and Armenians including their right to regional autonomy in the regions and communities in which these ethnic groups form a majority.” Article 36 guarantees complete freedom of religion also for the Christian denominations and the religious community of the Yezidi.
Apart from the Kurdish and Arab languages Turkmen, New Aramaic and Armenian are recognized as languages of the smaller nationalities. In communities or regions where these form the majority local or regional autonomy is granted. The right to native language instruction is guaranteed by the constitution from primary school to university.
An electoral law for Kurdistan also sets down that eleven of the 111 seats in the regional parliament are reserved for non-Kurdish nationalities:
five seats each for Turkmens and Christians and one seat for the small Armenian ethnic group. For the provincial councils also a comprehensive quota system has been introduced. In Sulaimaniya one seat has been reserved for the Chaldaic Aramean Assyrians, In Arbil there are three seats for the Turkmens, two for the Aramaic-speaking Christians and one for the Armenians, while in Dohuk two seats are reserved for the Aramaic-speaking Christians and one for the Armenians. The smaller peoples will be having as a result of their guaranteed seats in all bodies more representatives than corresponds to their percentage in the total population.
In Kurdistan/Iraq there is today a Turkmen and a New Aramaic school system with 58 Aramaic, 16 Turkmen and two Armenian schools. Both nationalities have media (press, radio, TV and culture institutes) in their languages. There is also a private Turkish university and a theological seminar of the Chaldaic Catholic Church for the training of priests, which following the recent mass flight of Christians from Baghdad was transferred to the Kurd capital of Arbil.
The GfbV is represented in Arbil / Iraqi Kurdistan by a section to which representatives of all ethnic and religious communities belong.