Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Baghdad Tries To Prevent Iraq’s Minorities From Leaving

Recently Amnesty International and the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom released reports that documented the plight of Iraq’s minorities. Both groups noted that the country’s Christians, Sabean Mandeans, and Yazidis were disappearing. They have been singled out for attacks by militant groups, abused by the Kurds, and neglected by the government. Half if not more of each community has either died or fled the country since 2003. Amnesty and the U.S. Commission criticized Baghdad for not caring about minorities. They have never provided adequate security for them, investigated attacks, or brought to justice the culprits. Now Radio Free Iraq reported that the government has ordered its ministries to stop minorities from leaving the country.

The Minister of Immigration and Displacement told Radio Free Iraq about Baghdad’s new policy.  The Minister said that he was asking the European Union, the United States, and Australia to not accept asylum cases by minorities. He claimed that this was to preserve the country’s diversity. Baghdad has also talked about the matter with the United Nations’ High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). The Iraqi Human Rights Organization criticized the move as a violation of people’s rights to live where they like, which is included in the country’s constitution. A Christian priest from Baghdad was also critical saying that with a lack of security and jobs it would be very difficult for Iraq to maintain its minorities. Already they are a disproportionate size of the refugee population. Christians, Mandeans, and Yazidis are only 3% of Iraq’s population, but 15% of the refugees registered by the United Nations in Jordan, and 20% of those in Syria. More importantly, if the government continues to not protect these groups, while preventing them from leaving, the authorities may be dooming Iraq’s minorities to oblivion. This would be just the latest example of Baghdad’s misguided refugee policy where image is more important than actual solutions. The government may say that it wants to preserve the nation’s diversity, but this idea can only do harm.

SOURCES

Amnesty International, “Iraq Civilians Under Fire,” April 2010

Radio Free Iraq, “Iraq Trying To Retain Its Minority Communities,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 6/24/10

United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, “Annual Report of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom,” December 2008
- “Annual Report of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom,” May 2010

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