Iraqi minority groups faced with ‘eradication’: report
From AFP, February 25, 2007
LONDON, Feb 25, 2007 (AFP) – Minority groups in war-torn Iraq are living in “desperate conditions” and face being “eradicated” from their homeland, a report published on Monday said.
“Iraq’s minority communities are living in desperate conditions that are going ignored and unaddressed inside Iraq and in the international arena,” the report by Minority Rights Group International read.
The London-based organisation recommended in the report that the Iraqi government promote the political participation of religious and ethnic minorities, and called on the international community — and not just neighbouring Middle Eastern countries — to share the refugee burden.
It said that “chaos has ensued” since a US-led coalition overthrew then-Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein in 2003.
Iraq’s minority groups have, according to the report, suffered through the destruction and defacement of their religious buildings and the mass murder of their congregations. They have also faced forced conversions to Islam under the threat of death, rape and forced marriage.
Minorities in the country, including civic leaders and children, have in addition been the target of abductions, ransoming and murder.
“Every day we hear news about the carnage in Iraq, yet the desperate situation of minority communities is barely reported,” said Mark Lattimer, the group’s director.
“Subject to a barrage of attacks, kidnappings and threats from all sides, some communities which have lived in Iraq for two thousand years now face extinction.”
Though Iraq is dominated by three major groups — Sunni and Shiite Muslims, and Kurds — a tenth of the country’s approximately 27 million people are religious or ethnic minorities.
“Immediate protection for these minorities and adequate consideration and consultation with them on their future role in the new Iraq is essential if their voices are not to be lost,” the report said.
It also noted that a “huge exodus” of Iraq’s minorities is taking place, citing figures from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which showed that minorities made up about 30 percent of the 1.8 million Iraqis seeking refuge in various countries around the world.
According to the report, states outside the region should become more involved in voluntary resettlement programmes of vulnerable groups, and countries around the world, in particular the United States and Britain, should contribute “generously” to the UNHCR’s appeal for funds for Iraq.
“Despite the immeasurable difficulties, the international community and the Iraqi government must act now — before it is too late for Iraq’s minorities,” the report warned.