Letter to the member of the Australian Parliament

The Hon. Charlie Lynn MLC
Member of Parliament
Parliament House Macquarie Street
Sydney NSW 2000

Sub: Parliament Support Needed to Prevent Mass Exodus of Christians from Iraq

 

Dear Hon. Charlie Lynn:

On behalf of the Assyrian Australian Community and the Assyrian Universal Alliance (AUA) we thank you for presenting this petition to the State Parliament of New South Wales and both houses of the Federal Parliament on behalf of the over 40,000 Assyrians of Australia who are concerned about the future of the Christian Assyrians and their plight in Iraq.

The Assyrians are the indigenous and homogenous people of the land of Mesopotamia (now made up of modern day Iraq, South Eastern Turkey, North Western Iran and North Eastern Syria) and are a Christian minority living within a Muslim majority. As a result of their cultural and religious diversity, the Assyrians have come to be known throughout the ages by various appellations, such as Chaldeans, Syriacs, Nestorians, and Aramaeans, etc. all names denoting the one and same nation. As a result of their distinct ethnic and religious identity, the Assyrians have been constantly persecuted under various regimes, till the present day, for refusing to denounce these two characteristics.

The more immediate source of our anxiety is that since the liberation of Iraq, much attention has been devoted to the demands and expectations of Iraq’s Shia, Suni, Kurds, and Turkomen. Yet little has been said about Iraq’s Christians.

The United States and the United Nations continue their efforts to establish the foundations for what they envision as a federal, free, democratic, and pluralistic Iraq. However, there are those opinions that realize that the experiences of the last 83 years make it impossible for the various ethnic and religious groups, especially the Assyrian Christians, to live in peace in Iraq.

Iraqi Christians are greatly concerned that, Iraq’s Muslim majority might establish rule based on religious intolerance, especially after the rise of the Islamist groups and Kurdish influence, the inclusion of Islam as the official religion of Iraq, and the making of Shari’aa (Islamic Law) a source of legislation, as instituted in the newly published Transitional Administrative Law of Iraq, also known as the Iraqi Fundamental Law. Article 7 – A of the this law states:

Islam is the official religion of the State and is to be considered a source of legislation. No law that contradicts the universally agreed tenets of Islam, the principles of democracy, or the rights cited in Chapter Two of this Law may be enacted during the transitional period. This Law respects the Islamic identity of the majority of the Iraqi people and guarantees the full religious rights of all individuals to freedom of religious belief and practice.

The indigenous Assyrian Christians have no chance to survive in Iraq under a constitution that declares Islam as the official religion of the State and the Shari’aa as a source for its laws. They have no chance to survive in a country ruled with the influence of Islamists, pan-Arabs, and Kurdish separatists’ dreams.

Christians continue to receive a number of warnings of dire consequences if they should disobey Islamic laws. Assyrian men were told to begin keeping beards Assyrian girls have been kidnapped, raped and slashed to death . The number of attacks against Christians is increasing, not even our Assyrian towns and villages are secured any more after multiple execution style attacks against our men and women in few villages in the province of Nineveh. The persecution has escalated in more recent months culminating in churches being bombed as well as members of the clergy being threatened and kidnapped. The security of our Assyrian people is very important, if something is not done immediately the problem could get out of control. They feel that only an Assyrian administrative enclave in northern Iraq could stand a chance of guaranteeing their survival.

Yet another source of anxiety is that Assyrians might be placed under the aegis of Kurdish rule. The Kurds have been calling for a federation that would include the over 3,000 years old Assyrian cities such as Dohuk, Arbil, the oil rich city of Kirkuk, and other parts of Assyrian heartland. Assyrians found themselves compelled to counter their demands, because as the indigenous people they are more entitled to their territories than those who come to Assyria as invaders. In the meantime historical facts reveal that the Kurds have participated in the repeated massacre of Assyrians. In fact, in the so-called no-fly protected zone, our community in recent years has faced ominous policies and a series of hostile acts. The Kurds continue to use fundamental terror tactics to intimidate Assyrians in a bid to consolidate their expropriation of over 250 Assyrian towns and villages, Kurdish authorities have gone further, issuing a law that will make them potentially able to illegally transfer expropriated Assyrian lands to Kurdish squatters. The decree has the potential of allowing the Kurdish occupation forces de facto confiscation of Assyrian lands, enabling them to sell these to their Kurdish supporters at a fraction of their real market value. Assyrians are rightly concerned about the potential that this law will lead to discrimination of Assyrian existence in northern provinces.

In the recent elections in Iraq, which were held o­n Sunday 30 January 2005. Assyrians were prevented from voting due to organisational and administrative mishaps. Thousands of voters were left stranded outside the polling station with no sign of election officials or ballot papers. Our sources indicate that The Kurds prevented the staff to deliver the Ballot Boxes to these areas.  The Assyrians were also forced by the Kurds to cast vote for the referendum that declares Kurdish independence. The Kurds are forcing our people in the Northern region of Iraq to join the Kirdish Democratic party to become eligible to work or to run a business or face the consequence. They are doing this to pave the road for themselves for establishing a self-autonomy in Northern Iraq.  They know that Northern Iraq near Mosul (The Nineveh Province) is the Assyrian land.  By manipulating the votes and mistreating the Assyrians, the Kurds are hoping to push the Assyrians out of the region so they can freely aim for an independent State in Northern Iraq ultimately creating a new country for themselves. This has been a systematic method adopted by all Assyrian neighbours since the Islamic invasion into Iraq. the goals are to ethnically cleanse the Assyrian Christians from their native lands and replace them with Kurds and Arabs.

Assyrians believe that they are left out of the equation of Iraq again. This follows the neglect of the Assyrian question in Iraq by the International Community following the genocide of the two-thirds of Assyrians by Ottoman Empire following WW1, the broken promise of the British to give the Assyrians their autonomy in the land of our forefathers, and the failure of the League of Nations to provide protection to the Assyrians following the lifting of the British mandate in 1932 which led to the biggest massacre in their recent history. However, we hope this times the United Nations and Allied countries will support our people in Iraq. Assyrians wish to live in peace with their neighbours in an atmosphere of mutual respect. Assyrians wish to contribute to the development of greater tolerance and diversity in a sovereign, democratic and secular Iraq and will be able to live in their fatherland in peace and prosperity and enjoy full equality with our Arab, Kurdish and Turkoman brothers.

‘The petition of certain citizens of Australia draws to the attention of the House: The need to develop an Australian foreign policy that calls on the Iraqi government to:

  1. designate a geographic autonomous region within a federal Iraqi state, in which they can administer themselves and live in peace as proud Iraqi citizens in the land of their forefathers.
  2. ensure that the Assyrians will be constitutionally recognised as the indigenous people of Iraq;
  3. ensure that the number of Assyrians is not limited to the number of  Assyrians presently living in Iraq;
  4. ensure that Assyrians will be entitled to proper representation and participation in all levels of government;
  5. ensure that Assyrians will be constitutionally guaranteed the right to freely exercise their customs, religion, language and traditions;
  6. ensure that the homes, lands and property of all Assyrians (not limited to those presently living in Iraq) previously confiscated and forcefully removed from the Assyrians will be returned;
  7. ensure that adequate and proper compensation is paid to Assyrians and Assyrian organisations and Churches whose properties, businesses and Churches have been confiscated by the Arabs, Kurds and the insurgents;
  8. ensure that all Assyrians previously forced to leave Iraq will have the right to return to their ancestral and ancient homeland;
  9. ensure that all Assyrian antiquities and museums are placed in the care and ownership of Assyrians with all income generated therein used for the protection of Assyrian history;
  10. ensure that the lands, properties and businesses currently inhabited or owned by Assyrians are legally and properly protected from expropriation.

 

Yours faithfully,

Hermiz Shahen

Secretary,
Assyrian Universal Alliance- Australia Chapter