IRAQ: Minority communities in Nineveh appeal for protection

IRIN news (UN project for Humanitarian Affairs)
Nov 15 2009

IRAQ: Minority communities in Nineveh appeal for protection

Photo: Afif Sarhan/IRIN
An estimated 800,000 Christians are left in Iraq (file photo)

BAGHDAD, 15 November 2009 (IRIN) – Iraq’s minority communities in the
northern province of Nineveh have appealed to local and national
authorities for protection amid warnings of an increase in attacks
against them in the run-up to January’s national elections.

`As Christians we have been feeling insecure since the 2003 [US-led]
invasion as we are subjected to killings, kidnappings, extortion and
displacement by different parties due to either political agendas or
extremist ideologies,’ said Ihsan Matti, a 33-year-old taxi driver in
Mosul, provincial capital of Nineveh.

Matti said Iraq’s security forces were slow to respond to any
anti-Christian attacks and left their communities vulnerable to more
violence. `The government still doesn’t deal with the threats we face
seriously. We are still facing the same threats without any
sustainable measures [to counter them].’

Since 2003, minority communities have been repeatedly attacked by
Sunni militants, the majority of whom were affiliated to al-Qaida in
Iraq, by their own admission. The militants accuse minorities of being
crusaders, devil-worshipers, infidels or traitors for co-operating
with US forces.

The main groups of minorities targeted in Nineveh Province are the
Shabaks, whose numbers are estimated at 300,000-400,000 and have a
religion containing elements of Islam, Christianity and other
religions; the Yazidi community, which worships Melek Taus, the
Peacock Angel; and Christians, which are made up of Chaldeans,
Orthodox, Catholics, Assyrians, Anglicans and Armenians.

The deadliest attack on a minority group was in August 2007 when four
truck bombs detonated simultaneously in the small village of
Qahataniya, killing more than 300 Yazidis. Some five months before
that, truck bombs hit markets in the northwestern city of Tal Afar,
killing at least 152 Turkomen people.

In October 2008, a new wave of anti-Christian violence erupted in
Mosul when gunmen started attacking Christians and threatening others,
forcing them to leave the city either to displacement camps or outside
the country.

Government measures

Photo: IRIN
Gates locked outside a church in Iraq

Abdul-Raheem al-Shimari, head of the provincial Security and Defence
Committee, warned that such attacks were likely to increase in the
province in the run-up to January’s national elections, as minority
communities had a significant stake in them.

`I do believe that there will be some security disturbances not only
for the minority communities but for the whole province as we approach
the elections,’ al-Shimari told IRIN. `All parties, especially those
with influential militias, will have a role in destabilizing the
security situation to embarrass the other.’

He added that plans were underway to recruit 14,000 new police
officers and soldiers from the province. The new recruits are to be
spread around Nineveh but with a greater concentration in the areas
where minorities live.

`This will help the residents of these areas to protect their
communities,’ al-Shimari said, adding that 50cm-wide trenches were
being dug around the Christian towns of Tilkaif and Hamdaniya to
prevent car bombs getting in.

Ridha Jawad, 54, of the Shabak community complained of the
government’s `lax measures’, which he said encouraged militants to
increase their brazen attacks.

`If there were tough measures from the government against those who
attack us, such as arrests and executions, we would never see such an
increase in these attacks,’ Jawad said. `We want quick and effective

`On vulnerable ground’

Photo: IRIN
Yazidis worship Melek Taus, the Peacock Angel, who some Muslims and
Christians consider the devil

On 10 November, New York-based NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW) shed light
on another source of repression for these minority communities in
Nineveh; the longstanding territorial dispute between the central
government and the Kurdish regional government.

It its 51-page report titled "On vulnerable ground", HRW said
minorities in the disputed northern areas are caught between the
semi-autonomous regional authorities of Kurdistan and the central
government in Baghdad. It said the ongoing dispute threatens to create
a "human rights catastrophe" for these communities.

"The competing efforts to resolve deep disputes over the future of
northern Iraq have left the minority communities who live there in a
precarious position, bearing the brunt of conflict and coming under
intense pressure to declare their loyalty to one side or the other, or
face consequences," the report said.

"They have been victimized by Kurdish authorities’ heavy handed
tactics, including arbitrary arrests and detentions, and intimidation
directed at anyone resistant to Kurdish expansionist plans," it added.

The rights watchdog called upon the Iraqi government and the Kurdish
regional government to protect minorities and to create an independent
body of inquiry to determine those responsible for the orchestrated
killings of minorities.

Yazidi community member Hamoo Khalil, 44, said that if the government
did not do more to protect them from attacks they would be forced to
take matters into their own hands.

`If the situation continues like this we’ll find ourselves taking up
our own arms to defend our families,’ said Khalil, a father of six who
runs a small supermarket in Baashiqa town, about 15km north of Mosul.
`I’m afraid that we’ve reached the point where we have no trust in the
government’s forces.’



From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress

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