Wednesday, 05 November 2008, 11:52 GMT
Minority rights under threat

A Yazidi man stands near the Lalsh Shrine, the Yazidis' holiest place, in Duhok province. GLOBE PHOTO \ Qassim Khidhir

By Qassim Khidhir
The Kurdish Globe

Minorities say Iraqi Parliament's new election laws are disadvantageous to them, and they call for a quota system.

Christians, Shabaks, and Yazidis are extremely unhappy with the decision Iraqi Parliament made on Monday to allocate one seat each of Christians, Yazidis, and Shabaks in Ninewa province, and one seat each for Christians and Sa'ba in Basra province.

Iraqi Parliament sent the bill to the Iraqi presidency council for approval. Christians, Shabaks, and Yazidis have warned the presidency council not to approve it. Nevertheless, the Iraqi presidency spokesman stated that the Iraqi presidency will still approve the bill despite the warning.

Mahma Khalil, a member of Iraqi Parliament from the Kurdistan Alliance list who is a Yazidi, threatened that Yazidis will merge their territories with Kurdistan Region if the bill is approved.

"We as a Yazidi minority fully reject Parliament's decision to give us one seat in Ninewa province council. One seat doesn't represent our size," said Khalil. "If the Iraqi presidency approves the bill, we will declare ourselves part of Kurdistan Region," he warned.

Khalil said the decision to give one seat for Yazidis in the Ninewa province council is evidence that political blocs in Parliament do not respect minority rights.

Meanwhile, an independent MP, Amin Jajo, who is Yazidi, threatened that Yazidis will boycott the coming provincial elections if the bill is approved.

Although, according to Parliament if the Yazidis vote or not they will get one seat in Ninewa province council. But they will vote in order to elect the person who they want to be their representative.

Jajo said: "Let the Yazidis be free and participate in the election and get seats according to the number of votes."

Every political bloc and minorities need 27, 000 votes to get one seat in the Ninewa province council. Yazidis believe that they can get at least four seats.

All Iraqi political blocs in Parliament voted to give one seat for Christians, Yazidis, and Shabak in Ninewa province, except Kurdistan Alliance, who voted against it. Kurdistan Alliance demands more seats for the minorities.

The Christian condition is similar to Yazidis. The Christians believe that giving them one seat in Ninewa province council, Basra province council, and Baghdad doesn't represent their size. Also, they believe the minorities' quota system is based on religion and not race.

The secretary general of the Assyrian Patriotic Party, Amanoael Khoshaba, said that his party is not interested in the minorities' quota system enacted by Iraqi Parliament through amending the provincial elections law, attributing his position to the point that the system relies on religion rather than race.

Khoshba said let the Christians participate in the election because might people from other religious will vote for Christians lists.

As for Shabaks, who are Shiite Kurds, the situation is different. Shabaks do not want to be separated from Kurds and they want to vote for the Kurdish list in the provincial elections.

Last Sunday hundreds of Shabaks in Ba'shiqa town in Ninewa province protested Parliament's decision and demanded their areas be merged with Kurdistan Region.

Shabaks threatened that they vote for Kurdish list even if Parliament give them a seat.

In the Iraqi personal identification (ID), whether someone is Yazidi or Christian is written, but it isn't written if the person is Shabak, since they are Shiite Kurds. Therefore, they can participate in the election and vote for whomever they want, despite the fact that Parliament has allocated a seat for them.