IILHR, NPWJ, UNPO: Delegation Hearing Sparks New Stage of Engagement between Brussels and Baghdad for Iraq’s Minority Deputies

6 Ott, 2011 | Comunicati Stampa

Members of the European Parliament and deputies representing the Christian, Mandaean‐Sabean, Shabak, and Yezidi communities in Iraq’s Council of Representatives exchanged views over two hours on topics ranging from development to security in the first meeting of its kind since 2003. The meeting comes as minorities in Iraq continue to be the targets of ethnically and economically motivated violence and intimidation while many also face discrimination and efforts to culturally assimilate their communities.

Opened by Struan Stevenson MEP, Chair of the Delegation for Relations with Iraq, the meeting follows his recent visit to Baghdad and Erbil in April 2011. Mr Stevenson catalogued the dwindling minority communities in Iraq but noted that “hearing these views from your delegation…is of primary importance to us” and believed the hearing’s discussions were an opportunity to “form a coalition as a show of strength and cooperation…and to learn and avoid the mistakes that we have made.”

Esther de Lange MEP, Vice‐Chair of the Delegation for Relations with Iraq and a longstanding advocate for the rights of Iraqi minorities noted that “it is an important signal of the European Parliament that the first group of people that we do invite is yourselves…that was a deliberate choice…supported by the entire Delegation to give a signal to the Iraqi…government.” Crucially, Ms De Lange believed permanent links
needed to be established between Brussels and Baghdad that could begin to identify “the most pressing and concrete issues…[so that] we can include that in our work and demands.”

Over 80% of Iraqis had voted for a federal, democratic, and pluralist state and discussants expressed their desire to make this a reality. Some improvements had been noted, but crucial questions remain over personal status, ongoing discrimination, outdated education policies, and insecurity ‐ all of which was contributing to a debilitating brain‐drain from Iraq. Whilst deeply grateful to the efforts by many in the European institutions to support minority rights in Iraq, discussants hoped targeted assistance could yield better results for all.

Coordinated by the Iraqi Council of Representatives and the European Parliament Delegation for Relations with Iraq, the Institute for International Law and Human Rights (IILHR) and the U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP), with the support of No Peace Without Justice (NPWJ) and the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO), contributed to the organization of this visit. Before returning to Iraq on 8 October 2011, the delegation of minority deputies will meet with representatives of Belgian and European institutions. Both sides having already pledged to increase contact and collaboration between Brussels and Baghdad in a landmark step to be built upon in the coming months.

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