Iraqis First, Christians Second

The leader of the Iraqi parliament’s Christian Rafidain bloc, Yonadim Kana, refused the formation of special sectarian security force units to protect Iraq’s minorities. Al-Monitor reported that Kana announced his dissent and revealed the creation of a special

Yonadim Kana, leader of Iraq’s Christian Rafidain Bloc. (www.iraqichristians.info)

committee formed to draft a law that would guarantee administrative and cultural rights for minorities.  According to Kana, the committee was formed under Article 125 of the Iraqi Constitution to “draft a law that would guarantee the rights of minorities, based on the experience of other pluralistic societies in achieving partnership and guaranteeing administrative and cultural rights.”

However, Kana drew a line in the sand between protecting the rights and practices of Iraq’s minorities and creating sectarian security forces which he claimed would “produce strife and divide society.” The Christian political leader believes that security is a national problem and should be treated as such. He is joined by Diyaa Boutros, spokesman for a group of Iraqi Christians, who believes that security forces should come from the ministries of interior or defense, not ethnic or sectarian groups.

Nineveh Province is located in Iraq’s northwestern region. The province is a borderland between Kurdish and Arab Iraq and is home to many Iraqi minorities. (www.juancole.com)

The formation of the law called for in Article 125 comes at a critical time for Iraq’s religious and ethnic minorities. The northwestern province of Nineveh, home to the city of Mosul, filed a lawsuit against the Ministry of Interior in Baghdad to block the formation of a security regiment staffed entirely by Shabak Iraqis. The Shabak minority is a group comprised of Arab and Kurdish Shiites, Christians, and Yazidis. Adding to the crisis is the large emigration of Christians from Iraq. It is estimated that over half of 1.2 million Christians in Iraq before 2003 have left the country.

It is clear that Iraq’s Christians and other religious and ethnic minorities have a long way to go before their equality is protected by law. It has been seven years and one day since Iraq’s constitution was adopted by the Iraqi people on October 15, 2005. That is a long time to wait for your constitutionally protected rights if you are an Iraqi minority. Furthermore, many of Iraq’s minorities live in the north, in the Kurdish region or in areas under the control of the Kurdistan Regional Government, which may lead to the groups becoming caught in regional spats between Irbil and Baghdad.

With these challenges in mind, a sense of hope rings from the statements of Kana and

Iraqi Christians light candles during an Easter mass at Armenian Church in Baghdad April 8, 2012. (REUTERS/Saad Shalash via http://www.almonitor.com)

Boutros. Their remarks show a trust in the central rule of Baghdad and a faith in the Iraqi constitution and government institutions. Their spur of ethnic and sectarian security forces, in favor of units recruited from around the country, lend to a belief in Iraqi nationality first and minority second. We do not yet know if this faith in Baghdad will bear fruit. Nouri al-Maliki, Iraq’s Prime Minister, is struggling to hold power and tamp down sectarian divisions heightened by the outside influences of Iran, Turkey, and Syria. For now, a group of Iraqi minorities has placed their faith in Baghdad. Will the rest of Iraq follow?

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