Thursday, 09 October 2008, 02:44 GMT
Christians, Yazidis continue to protest removal of Article 50

Members of the Yazidis Spiritual Council are shown during a regular meeting. GLOBE PHOTO/Khidhr Domle

The Kurdish Globe

Call for minorities to be given representation grows stronger.

Religious minorities steadfastly oppose the provincial council elections law, which they say ignores their rights.

For the second week, religious minorities, especially Yazidis and Christians, continue to oppose the article in the provincial council elections law that they say ignores their rights, and are calling for it to be reviewed.

Protesting Christians are demanding autonomy in their areas of residence.

"We will demonstrate and protest until we achieve autonomous rights for Christians in our districts as well as fair representation for religious minorities, including Christians, in the provincial elections," said Jamil Zeito, head of the Seriaques-Chaldeans Public Council. He spoke about the demonstrations arranged by the council on October 1: "The protests and demonstrations will not stop till we accomplish our fair rights; ignoring the rights of minorities indicates incomplete democracy in Iraq."

Thousands of Christians took part in the demonstrations arranged in the districts of Ninewa Flaf that includes the towns of Al-Qush, Tel-Saqif, Qarqush, and Duhok city. The demonstrators waved flags and banners demanding "democracy for Iraq, autonomy for Christians, and the return of the article giving minorities representation within the provincial councils elections.

The Iraqi Council of Representatives (Parliament) passed the law of the provincial council elections on September 24; but Article 50 guaranteeing seats for religious minorities was removed.

Meanwhile, Yazidis, a Kurdish religious minority, also declared their protest to Iraqi Parliament's passing of the provincial council elections law and consider it against their rights. Statements have been released by cultural and religious organizations.

"On behalf of all Yazidis, we ask and insist on reinsert Article 50 of the provincial council elections law and reviewing it to ensure the equitable representation of Yazidis within the population of Ninewa (Mosul) province," read a statement by the Yazidis' Spiritual Council. The statement indicated that the population of Yazidis in this province is 450,000 and they reside in Sinjar town, Shekhan, Telkif, and Ba'shiqa district.

The statement also requested that the UN and the Iraqi Republic Presidential Council stand with them to achieve their rights and consider Yazidis one of the components of the Iraqi people who deserve a role in reconstructing Iraq.

Meanwhile, the protests forced the UN Mission in Iraq to send a delegation to meet with the Yazidis and Christians in Telkif town and to the Lalish Temple of Yazidis.

"The UN delegation met with the heads of administrative units. They discussed the mechanisms of achieving the rights of religious minorities fairly after canceling Article 50," said Dirman Sleman, head of the Telkif Provincial Council. "Their meeting focused on calling for the representation of all the Iraqi people according to the population ratio in the provincial council elections law; the UN delegation confirmed this point as well." The UN's special envoy to Iraq, Staffan De Mistura, visited the Lalish Temple on October 6 and met with the Yazidis' Spiritual Council about this issue.

"We showed the importance of Yazidis' rights to the UN delegation according to the population ratio, because violating this issue means ignoring Yazidis and we will never accept that," said Tahsin Sa'ed Ali, the Ameer (leader) of Yazidis in Iraq and the world. "The UN delegation showed their understanding and readiness to our position."

The deputy UN special envoy to Iraq, Andrea Kilmer, stated to journalists and reporters in Lalish that "the UN will do its best in order to accomplish these rights, and the issue has been discussed with a number of political parties in Baghdad; there is no objection."

Kilmer added that the UN is serious in guaranteeing the rights of religious minorities, especially Yazidis and Christians.