BAGHDAD — After months of negotiation, Iraq's parliament passed a crucial election law Wednesday, but only by setting aside for future debate the most divisive issues and stripping away most all minority rights. Iraqi Christians protested on Thursday against the absence of a clause determining their quota of provincial coucil seats in a new provincial elections law adopted the day before in the Iraqi parliament
The Students Federation of Chaldean Christians in Iraq objected to the secret removal of a clause in the old law that reserved provincial council’s seats for Christians and other religious minorities. The new law could clear the way for provincial elections to take place in much of Iraq early next year with no voice for the indigenous people of Iraq. The deletion of the law now leaves Iraqi Christians 'disenfranchised,' the Voices of Iraq (VOI) news agency quoted the group as saying.
Iraqi and U.S. officials moved aggressively to get the law passed. Both U.S. and the U.N. ignored to challenge why minority clauses were stripped by Iraqi parliament, leaving minorities vulnerable to ongoing oppression. Secretary of the Chaldean National Council, Daiaa Boutros, said that removing the clause was dangerous in an Iraq that was moving towards democracy, as the country had to preserve the rights of minorities.
Unlike the entire removal of article 50, protective rights of the minority, the question of how to settle a dispute over control of the oil-rich northern city of Kirkuk was just postponed. Before the law is enacted, it still must be approved by the three-member presidential panel.
The struggle over Kirkuk, where Arabs, Kurds, Turkomen, and indigenous Christians have all staked claims, has been among the central obstacles to unifying Iraq. Under the new bill, a committee made up of representatives from the major groups in the Kirkuk dispute would take up the question and present recommendations by March 31. The election in Kirkuk would be postponed and the current provincial council would remain in place until a separate election law for the province can be passed.
The overwhelming opinion by minority leaders is that Iraq's provincial elections law is the newest assault on Christian rights in Iraq. The previous drafts, with parliamentary approval, included Article 50, guaranteeing reserved seats in a quota system for vulnerable minorities, including the indigenous Christians. The Elections Law has now passed but Article 50 was secretly removed. The outraged protestors claim this is another reflection of the prejudicial treatment of vulnerable Iraqi minorities.
Come Iraqi leaders who recognized the unfair and unjust removal are hoping the United Nations, which is primarily responsible for supporting and monitoring Iraq's elections process, and the United States Government, will join in the outcry against this removal of minority rights and protections. The quota system will allow ethnic and religious minorities to vote for their members filling the reserved seats, ensuring a free and representative voice for the people. Denying the minorities of Iraq to vote for their own representatives is part of a strategic plan by the Iraqi government and the Kurdistan Regional Government to silence the indigenous people of the land. These minorities are the building block of any new Iraq and with out them there will be no true democracy in that region say community leaders.
By taking away the previously approved quota system, the Iraqi Government and the Kurdistan Regional Government are adding to the record of prejudicial actions reflecting a deliberate denial of Christian rights. In 2005 elections fraud took place against minorities without justice. Development in areas such as the Nineveh Plain has been far below the needs of the people. The systematic discrimination is denying the chance to develop formal, legitimate local police force. Instead foreign militias are being exported into delicate areas, such as the Nineveh Plain.
When progress was made and a police force was created earlier this year, they were promptly demoted from local police to property guards, in order to prevent formal policing in the Nineveh Plain.
Minority leaders claim the problems facing ethnic and religious minorities was clear when the Iraqi parliament refused to require minority representation on Iraq’s independent Supreme electoral commission. The frustration expressed by minority leaders in Iraq is that in a free and democratic Iraq, Christians cannot vote for their own representatives. Even worse, they continue, is being forced to vote for people that have oppressed the minorities, seized their lands, and demolished their existence annihilating any future for minorities in Iraq.
Many are calling the make-shift democracy a farce and the exclusion of minority rights proves such. Rumors are circulating in Iraq that efforts to get United States out of Iraq so feuding parties can begin a civil war and determine by violence who will govern the oil rich country. The exclusion of article 50 ensures that no one party can win a majority by lobbying for minority votes.
Article 50 specifically granted defined ethnic and religious minorities (that are named in the Constitution) seats in specified provincial councils as follows: Baghdad (3) seats. Kirkuk (2) seats. Duhok (2) seats. Erbil (2) seats. Basra (1) seat. Nineveh (3) seats and (1) seat for Shabaks (1) seat for Yazidies.
Chaldeans in Europe and U.S. are being asked to call on their political representatives to pressure the U.N. and the U.S. to address the injustice and investigate the conspiracy to remove minority rights.