Thursday, February 12, 2009

Iraq: USCIRF Recommends Designating Iraq as Country of Particular Concern, Calls for Ensuring Free and Fair Elections,Focusing on Plight of Most Vuln

WASHINGTON-The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom recommends that Iraq be designated as a "country of particular concern" (CPC) under the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA), in light of the ongoing, severe abuses of religious freedom and the Iraqi government's toleration of these abuses, particularly abuses against Iraq's smallest, most vulnerable religious minorities.[1] "The lack of effective government action to protect these communities from abuses has established Iraq among the most dangerous places on earth for religious minorities," said Commission Chair Felice D. Gaer.While there has been some reconciliation beween Shi'a and Sunni Iraqis, concerns remain regarding attacks and tense relations between these groups. The situation is especially dire for Iraq's smallest religious minorities, including ChaldoAssyrian and other Christians, Sabean Mandaeans, and Yazidis. These groups do not have militia or tribal structures to protect them and do not receive adequate official protection. Their members continue to experience targeted violence and to flee to other areas within Iraq or other countries, where the minorities represent a disproportionately high percentage among Iraqi refugees.Marginalized legally, politically, and economically, they are caught in the middle of a struggle between the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the central Iraqi government for control of northern areas where their communities are concentrated."The combined effect of all this has been to endanger these ancient communities' very existence in Iraq," Gaer said.The marginalization has been felt in elections, too.In the January 2005 elections, many non-Muslims in Nineveh governorate were disenfranchised due to fraud, intimidation, and the refusal by Kurdish security forces to permit ballot boxes to be distributed.Most recently, the provincial elections law passed in late September 2008 by the Iraqi parliament was, at the last minute, stripped of Article 50, a provision that would have guaranteed a set number of seats in provincial councils to minorities. Although an amendment was later adopted, it set aside fewer seats than the original provision, leading minority leaders to denounce the law.The Commission urges the incoming U.S. administration to take steps designed to ensure:
--safe and fair provincial elections;
--security and safety for all Iraqis;
--the prevention of abuses against religious minorities is a high priority;
--the KRG upholds minority rights;
--U.S. financial assistance is refocused;
--religious extremism is countered and respect for human rights is protected; and
--the situation of internally displaced persons and refugees is addressed effectively.
For the full text of the Commission's December 2008 report on Iraq, please click here
To read more go to:
As in the days of Noah....

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