Commentary: Ethnic Cleansing in New Interim Government in Iraq!

By Ken Joseph Jr.

Baghdad, Iraq - With shock and disbelief Christians in Iraq reacted to the news that the Interim Government contained no Christians in the seven man Executive Council and only one in the Cabinet of 32 members.

What particularly got the anger of the community that according to the previous regieme numbers nearly 2.5 million out of a population of 23 million and up to 6 million worldwide was the one ministry they were given.

The position given to Ms. Pascale Isho Warda, an Assyrian Christian was the position of Minister of Displacement and Migration, known in Iraq as the `Minister of Emigration`.

For those not acquainted with the plight of all non-muslims in the Middle East where the non-muslim population has gone from nearly 18% to under 2% due to a sustained, and region wide policy of `ethnic cleansing` and the plight of the Assyrian Christians in Iraq in particular it might not mean anything. For the Assyrian Christians, though it was an act that perpetuated the twofold persecution that they continue to face - racist and religious.

As they are not Arabs, and the indigenous people of Iraq - remember Jonah and the Whale? Nineveh is Mosul and the people of Nineveh are the Assyrians!

Added to the fact that they face constant racial discrimination in spite of the fact that they are the indigenous or original people of Iraq,  they face further abuse because they are Christians in a sea of moslems.

What particularly galled the Assyrian Christians was the fact that during Sadaams regieme he did all he could to force the Assyrians to leave the country - wanting to `ethnically cleanse` the country of all non-arabs and non-moslems.

The meaning to the Assyrian Christians of being given the `Ministry of Emigration` was a clear message - intended or not that they are not wanted, that they should leave - that the policy of `Ethnic Cleansing` continues.

`I am very, very angry` commented 43 year old Tarik, an Assyrian Christian from Baghdad. `We are the original people of Iraq. It is not us who should leave Iraq, it is the Arabs that have abused us for centuries that should. We are angry that they insulted us like this. We are sick and tired of being abused, taken advantage of and intimidated. We will not take it anymore! We demand our homeland in Assyria just like the Kurds and we will no longer be nice. We demand our land back.`

21 year old Anmar agreed. `Most of all I am very, very sad. It is our country. We do all we can to live in peace with the Arabs who took our land, our homes and killed 2/3 of our people. We love them because God teaches us to do so, but they constantly abuse us and this was the final abuse. To give us the ministry of Emigration is completel unacceptable. I feel like giving up, but we must demand our land and our freedom as the Americans promised. We can no longer live with the Arabs if they continue to abuse us. Like the Kurds we demand our indigenous lands in Autonomy.

26 year old Duraid, though expressed the view that is worrying many. `I have had enough. I am going to leave Iraq and move to the United States. I know I should stay, but I am getting married and want to start a family and there is no future for us in Iraq. We believe the Americans were going to make Iraq a Democracy but when the Constitution says `Islam is the official Religion of the State` and we are given only one ministry and that the Ministry of Emigration there is no longer any future for me - I am leaving.`

If that was the intent of the appointment, it worked for one young Assyrian Christians.

Efforts are being made by the Assyrian Community to set up a nationwide `Assyrian 911` to provide 24 hour emergency assistance to the suffering Assyrian Christian Community. 

Unfortunately,  no funds exist in current programs to support such a venture - probably the only thing that can give the community some measure of assurance that they will be protected.

43 year old Father Y (Names protected as they face direct risk), said `I just got back from handling a case where an Assyrian Christian was falsely accused by a neighbor and threatened with arrest. I got there just in time to mediate the situation with the Police.

It is this kind of daily harassment and abuse that ranges from such petty cases to actual intimidation, killing of family members and burning of homes and businesses that we see on a daily basis. We feel the only solution is twofold - a central place where we can go for help for our community and an Assyrian Autonomous Area where we, like the Kurds can be protected.

We will no longer tolerate this constant harassment and intimidation. We need our land where we can be safe - otherwise we will have no choice but to join the exodus of non-moslems from the Middle East.`

The view shifts to Congress over the next few days as the 25 Billion Dollar appropriations bill for Iraq is being considered.

One major Assyrian Christian Political Leader put it more succinctly `We can do nothing here in Iraq for ourselves. We truly fear for our lives if we speak out. The only hope for our people is if the United States demands for us a homeland like the Kurds and protection in a zone in our original homeland. If not the ethnic cleansing begun under Sadamm will continue and we will all be decimated either through death or emigration.`

One week ago Christians throughout the world declared a `Day of Prayer For the Christians of Iraq` and various efforts are ongoing on Capitol Hill and with the US Administration in Washington to attach a rider to the 25 Billion Dollar bill for Iraq demanding protection for the Christians of Iraq.

`All we can do is hope and pray tha the Americans will do the right thing` said Philip, an Assyrian Christian. `If they can help us with autonomy for our area there will at least be one area in Iraq that will not descend into chaos and civil war as we all expect will happen on July 1 - The Assyrian Administrative Region, our homeland can be the one `success story` in Iraq that will be the example to the rest of the Middle East.`

Will his prayer and the prayers of the other 2.5 million Assyrian Christina's living in Iraq and the 3.5 living overseas be answered? The answer apparently lies not in Iraq but in Washington.

Rev. Ken Joseph Jr. is an Assyrian and directs in Baghdad, Iraq and is currently writing a book on his experience in Iraq entitled `I Was Wrong.`  Please reply to