MPs URGE BRITISH GOVERNMENT TO SUPPORT IRAQ’S CHRISTIANS

Press Release Issued on behalf of the Jubilee Campaign and the Assyrian Democratic Movement
For Immediate Release
Tuesday 17th December 2008

MPs URGE BRITISH GOVERNMENT TO SUPPORT IRAQ’S CHRISTIANS

portrait-edwardleigh8During a Parliamentary debate on Tuesday, December 16, Tory Catholic MP, Edward Leigh, called on the British Government to urgently support the establishment of a self-governing province in northern Iraq for the AssyrianChaldean Christians and other communities living in the Nineveh Plain to jointly administer. He stressed that this province is a key part of enhancing the security of Iraq’s decimated Christian community. Such calls for a self-governing province have been spearheaded by Iraq’s leading Christian political party, the Assyrian Democratic Movement (ADM), who have consistently polled over 80 percent of the votes from Iraq’s Christian voters, making the ADM the democratically elected Christian political leaders of Iraq’s Christians.

The ADM have repeatedly called for a self-governing province linked to the Central Government in Baghdad, situated in the Nineveh Plain and consisting of the Tel Kaif, Al-Hamdaniya and Al-Shikhan Districts. The ADM want this province to be jointly governed by the AssyrianChaldeans, Shabak, Yezidis and other ethnic groups living there. Over 95% of Iraq’s Christians are AssyrianChaldeans. Today, there are only about 600,000 Christians left in Iraq, compared to 1.2 million 5 years ago, as a result of Iraq’s unrelenting and escalating anti-Christian violence, which began shortly after the U.S-British military intervention of 2003. Since 2003 more than 700 Iraqi Christians have been murdered.

In a 90 minute House of Commons debate which Leigh secured regarding the persecution of Iraq’s Christians, Leigh said with reference to Britain’s duty to Iraqi Christians, ” We have a duty of care to them, but our greatest duty of care is not to pick up the pieces when they flee, as is happening………Our duty is surely to help them to stay in their own country, which is what they want to do.” 

With regard to the call for the self-governing province, Leigh urged the British Government to listen to the voices of Iraq’s Christians, especially their elected representatives, the Assyrian Democratic Movement. Leigh also expressed concern that at least 58 Christian villages have been partially or wholly expropriated by Kurds and at allegations that Kurdish militias were involved in a series of killings of Christians in Mosul, which started in September 2008.

According to a Washington Times report dated 26 October, 2008, on October 17, Iraqi security forces arrested six men in connection with the recent targeted killings of Christians in Mosul, and found that four of them had ties back to the Kurdish Regional Government militia, not Al Qaeda. The Kurdish Regional Government is dominated by the Kurdistan Democratic Party.

On October 29, 2008, Gulf News reported, “Investigations have been completed and proved the involvement of Kurdish militias in the displacement and killing of Christians,” Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki reportedly said during a discussion with Iraqi lawmakers, according to Osama Al Nojaifi, a deputy in the Iraqi parliament.”

Liberal Democrat Christian MP, Tim Farron, strongly supported Leigh’s call for a self-governing province. He stressed that this is, “key to supporting the survival of Iraq’s Christian community. This is about survival, rather than separatism.”

Farron urged that the Foreign Office should recognise the ADM as a voice of the Christian people of Iraq and the strong electoral support from Iraqi Christian voters which they have consistently had. He urged the Foreign Office to enter into regular dialogue with the ADM.

Regarding Kurdish misappropriation of Christian owned land and houses, Farron said, “The British Government should also strongly urge the Kurdistan Democratic Party to ensure the swift and complete return of all the Christian-owned land and houses that have been partially or completely taken from at least 58 Christian villages……..The Foreign Office urgently needs to be more robust and proactive on the self-governing province and the return of misappropriated Christian-owned land and houses.

Simply maintaining the status quo will be of no help to Iraq’s beleaguered Christians, for it is the status quo that has already cost Iraq’s Christian community more than half its members…..” 

Farron also strongly urged the Foreign Office to call on the Government of Iraq to conduct a thorough and transparent investigation into the alleged involvement of members of the establishment in the recent assassinations of Christians in Mosul and to fully publicise the investigation’s findings. He also expressed concern at repeated interference with the electoral process in northern Iraq, which has obstructed the basic democratic rights of many Christians to vote.   

The Foreign Office Minister, Bill Rammell, refused to commit the British Government to supporting the ADM’s call for a self-governing province, claiming that it is a matter for the Iraqi Government and that support for the province within Iraq’s Christian community is divided.  

In September 2008 Edward Leigh MP visited Iraq on a fact-finding mission to examine the situation of Iraq’s Christians, on a trip jointly organised by the Assyrian Democratic Movement and the Jubilee Campaign.

Jubilee Campaign’s Researcher and Parliamentary Officer, Wilfred Wong, says, ” The Foreign Office has a clear responsibility to help Iraq’s Christians remain in their country and supporting the self-governing province as requested by the ADM is a crucial part of doing this. Such a province would provide an urgently needed area of safety for Iraq’s Christians. The fact that the ADM has led the calls for this administrative region and has consistently polled over 80 percent of votes from Iraqi Christian voters indicates overwhelming support from Iraq’s Christians for the self-governing province. This is a fact which the Foreign Office repeatedly chooses to ignore and they should not simply wash their hands of

the matter by leaving the issue only to the Iraqi Government.”     

                            ********************************

For further information you can contact: Edward Leigh MP (Through his assistant, Alex Haydon, on 020 7219 3845 (Monday to Thursday), Wilfred Wong

– Telephone: 020 7219 5129 or Emmanuel Yacoub, a representative of the ADM in the UK – Telephone: 0795 8915 957.)

Jubilee Campaign is an interdenominational Christian human rights organisation which specialises in campaigning for persecuted Christians worldwide.

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