Iraqi Christians protest the end of their representation in government
Sept. 28, 08
BAGHDAD - Iraq's prime minister on Sunday sought safeguards for small religious communities in this mainly Muslim country as Christians protested parliament's decision to stop setting aside seats for minorities on provincial councils.
In Baghdad, meanwhile, a series of explosions struck mostly Shiite areas Sunday evening, killing at least 25 people and wounding 51, police reported. The attacks appeared aimed at reviving sectarian tensions that once threatened to the nation with civil war.
Parliament last week approved a new law mandating elections in most of Iraq's 18 provinces. But the law removed a system that reserved a few legislative seats for Christians and other religious minorities.
Lawmakers cited a lack of census data to determine what the quotas should be. But many Christians saw the move as an effort to marginalize their community.
"I think that some political groups are pushing the remaining Christians to leave Iraq," worshipper Afram Razzaq-Allah said after services at a Catholic church in Baghdad. "They want us to feel that we are no longer Iraqis."
In a letter sent to parliament Sunday, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki appealed to the legislators and the electoral commission to restore the quota system.
"The minorities should be fairly represented in the provincial councils and their rights should be guaranteed," al-Maliki wrote.
Hundreds of Christians staged street protests after Sunday church services in and around Mosul, a northern city where many of the country's Christians live. Some said the removal of the quotas is an attempt to force them to leave Iraq.
"This is an unjust decision and it affects our rights as Christians," Matti Galia, a local politician, said at a rally in Mosul. "We are original citizens in this country. The politicians' goal was to divide the Iraqi people and create more struggles. Indirectly, they are telling us to leave Iraq."
Iraq's Christians have been targeted by Muslim militants since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, with priests, churches and Christian-owned businesses attacked. The violence has led many Christians to flee the country.
Sectarian violence has receded since U.S. troop reinforcements were sent in last year. However, U.S. commanders have warned that extremist groups such as al-Qaida in Iraq are still trying to rekindle sectarian warfare to undermine the U.S.-backed Iraqi government.
The string of explosions in the capital Sunday began near sundown as Muslims were preparing for Iftar, the meal that breaks the fast during the holy month of Ramadan.
The deadliest blast occurred in the Karradah neighborhood, where a parked car loaded with explosives blew up in a commercial area about 7 p.m., killing 12 people and wounding 34, police and hospital officials said.
Iraqi police said that about 90 minutes earlier, two car bombs exploded nearly simultaneously in the Shurta Rabaa and Amil districts of west Baghdad, but the U.S. military said later that the car in Amil blew up due to an electrical fire.
Twelve people were killed and 35 wounded in the Shurta Rabaa blast, and one person died and two were injured in the Amil explosion, police said.
Also Sunday, snipers fired on an Iraqi army checkpoint, killing two soldiers and a civilian in the eastern Zayona neighborhood of Baghdad. A roadside bomb killed an Iraqi soldier on a patrol in Mansour, a mostly Sunni area in the city's west, police officials said.
Two civilians were killed in an armed attack in the town of Khan Bani Saad by a group believed tied to al-Qaida, a police official in Diyala province said. The town is near the provincial capital of Baqouba.
The same official said two Iraqi soldiers were killed and 10 wounded when a bomb targeted them in Balad Ruz, 45 miles northeast of Baghdad late Saturday. A medic at the Balad Ruz hospital said the wounded suffered burns and shrapnel wounds and were later taken by U.S. soldiers to a military base.
Also Sunday, an Iraqi official said the country signed preliminary deals with General Electric Co. and Siemens AG to upgrade the electricity grid, which has been ravaged by years of war, sanctions and neglect.
Electricity Ministry spokesman Aziz Sultan said GE will supply turbines to some of Iraq's power plants. He said Iraq has also signed a similar memorandum of understanding with a third company but he had no details about it.
Lengthy power outages have been common in Iraq, with some Baghdad areas getting as little as four hours of electricity a day. The problem has been a major cause of discontent during the summer when the heat is punishing.
Associated Press writers Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Bushra Juhi contributed to this report.
Web masters comments:
Banners of a demonstration in the Assyrian town of Al-Gush in the Plain of Nineveh decry the tyranny of the undemocratic majority unmasked by the recent Iraqi legislators denial of right of representation for the non-Muslims in that country.
If these are the best, the brightest the just and fair minded Iraq can offer what can one expect from the fanatics? The Kurds and the Sheites railed against Saddam's dictatorship and the denial of their rights, but have no problem acting as he did but pretend to be democratic.
Iraqi Assyrians have been subjected to all kinds of persecutions by the Islamic fanatics. Thirty some of their churches have been bombed, their people have been kidnapped for exuberant ransom, killed, threatened and have been ordered to pay non-Muslim tax, convert to Islam or abandon all they posses and leave the country. Now that more than half a million of their people has been forced to escape to Syria, Jordan and Lebanon the remaining impoverished population is told they do not have sufficient population to merit representation in the governments of the provinces they live. Most Assyrians suspect that Kurds and Sheites have dispossessed them of their representation right so that they can easily confiscate the towns and villages where their fore fathers have lived and survived for thousands of years.
In 1912 when Soane passed through Mosul and the Plain of Nineveh In describing his journey to Mesopotamia in early 20th century wrote: after crossing the historic brook , Kauther, we passed by the Neby Yunis Mound and were upon the ground of the ancient Assyria. "No Muslims live here", he wrote, "it is inhabited by no other than the Caldean [Assyrians] and the Yezidies." This clearly shows that Muslims, including the Kurds did not live in the Plain of Nineveh until after World War One. This was the only region in Iraq where Assyrians had managed to survive despite all attempts to destroy them. Since World war One Kurds and Arabs in great numbers have arrived in the region forcing out the Assyrians and the yezidies to the point that they have become the majority of its inhabitants. Now they are penalizing the Assyrians for having been persecuted and driven out which has caused the decline of their population.