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Human Rights Without Frontiers Int. Avenue Winston Churchill 11/33, 1180 Brussels, Belgium Phone: 32 2 3456145 - Fax: 32 2 3437491 "Religious Intolerance and Discrimination" IRAQ: Kurdish vision for the future of the Christian community 17 November 2003 Editor-in-chief: Willy Fautré Website: http://www.hrwf.net Email: firstname.lastname@example.org IRAQ The Kurdish vision for the future of the Christian community An analysis of the Constitution of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region and the (Kurdish) Constitution of Iraq Willy Fautré HRWF Int. (17.11.2003) - Website: http://www.hrwf.net/ - Email: email@example.com - The Constitution of Iraq and the Constitution of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region which were authored by the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) and adopted by the Kurdish Parliament (1) in October 2002, in the face of imminent US attacks on Iraq and prospects for a regime change, contain a number of provisions on national minorities, on freedom of religion and on the nature of the Iraqi state that reveal the Kurds' intentions regarding the future of the Christian community in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region and in Iraq. National minorities in the Constitution of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region Article 4 provides that "The people of the Kurdistan Region consists of the Kurds and the national minorities of Turkmen, Assyrians, Chaldeans and Arabs and this Constitution recognizes the rights of these minorities." It is noteworthy that this article does not put the various ethnic communities living on the territory of the Kurdistan Region on the same footing but grants a privileged status to the Kurdish majority and reduces the other communities to minorities, including the Christian community, whose religion and language are the basic components of its identity. Moreover, the content of "the rights of these ethnic minorities" is not defined anywhere in the Constitution and their practice is not supported by any provision regarding mechanisms of safeguard and implementation. The mere fact that Article 49 states, "Within the makeup of the Kurdistan Region's Council of Ministers, representation of the national minorities, Turkmen, Assyrians and Chaldeans shall be taken into consideration", does not guarantee them any concrete right. The Chaldo-Assyrians (2) have been granted five seats in the Assembly and a minister in the Government. However, the dictatorship of the majority will be the rule. As far as the languages of the national minorities are concerned, Article 7 states: "Kurdish shall be the official language of the Kurdistan Region. Official correspondence with the federal and regional authorities shall be both in Arabic and Kurdish. The teaching of Arabic in the Kurdistan Region shall be compulsory. The Turkmen language shall be considered the language of education and culture for the Turkmen in addition to the Kurdish language. Syriac shall be considered the language of education and culture for those who speak it in addition to the Kurdish language." The multi-tiered system of languages in the Kurdistan region speaks for itself. The Kurdish language is dominant. Only the teaching of the Arabic language is compulsory. The Turkmen language is to be used by the Turkmen in the field of education and culture, but only after the Kurdish and the Arabic languages. The Assyrians and Chaldeans are not even mentioned by their names for the use of Syriac, which has the same third rank status as the Turkmen language. The teaching language in all publicly funded schools will be Kurdish; moreover, there are no provisions for using Syriac as the teaching language in publicly funded schools. The only right of the Chaldo-Assyrian community is to set up, run and finance private schools in which the Syriac language is the teaching language (3). In conclusion, the reduction of the Christian community and of their language to a minor status is the most visible sign of their "Kurdification". National minorities in the (Kurdish) Constitution of Iraq In this Constitution there are no specific provisions regarding the Chaldo-Assyrian community and the Syriac language. Article 2 says that the Federal Republic of Iraq consists of two regions: the Arabic Region and the Kurdish Region while Article 4 says that the people of Iraq consists of the Arabic and Kurdish nationalities. The Chaldo-Assyrians and the Turkmen are totally ignored. Freedom of religion and belief Article 16 of the Constitution of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region and Article 15 of the (Kurdish) Constitution of Iraq stipulate that "Freedom of religion and belief, and the practice of religious duties is guaranteed provided they do not conflict with provisions of this Constitution or the Federal Constitution or with federal laws and provided they do not go against general moral and ethical standards." These standards must undoubtedly be understood as the Islamic standards. Article 19 of the Constitution of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region states that the members of the Assembly must swear by Allah, the Almighty. It is therefore to be expected that the Chaldo-Assyrian members of the Parliament will have to swear by Allah. Finally, Article 7 of the (Kurdish) Constitution of Iraq says that there is a state religion and it is Islam. (1) On April 5, 1991, the Security Council voted on Resolution 688 setting up the Safe Haven for the Kurds. The Kurds used this opportunity to elect their first parliament on May 19, 1992 and to establish the Kurdistan Regional Government. (2) At the close of the conference that the Assyrians and Chaldeans held in Baghdad on 22-24 October, they signed a resolution by which they proclaimed the unity of their nation and agreed to adopt the name Chaldo-Assyrians. (3) Human Rights Without Frontiers Int. visited such a secondary school in Dohuk attended by more than 600 boys and girls. The classes took place in the premises of a Kurdish school used by the Kurds in the morning and rented to the Chaldo-Assyrian community in the afternoon. In the office of the principal and in the schoolbooks sat enthroned the picture of the Kurdish president Barzani, who had replaced Saddam Hussein. _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To unsubscribe, visit http://lists.casi.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/casi-discuss To contact the list manager, email firstname.lastname@example.org All postings are archived on CASI's website: http://www.casi.org.uk