Opinion Editorial
Danish Scholar Needs Better Scholarship
By Salim Abraham
Bookmark and Share

(AINA) -- In two long articles published recently in kurdishmedia.com (1, 2), the Danish political scientist Lise Storm Grundon rejects accusations that the Kurds in Northern Iraq are undemocratic. Her strong backing of the Kurds makes one wonder whether she's speaking as an objective researcher or a defence lawyer. She writes that Assyrians use false accusations against Kurds and her conclusion is that; "The Assyrians are not being persecuted or denied any of their rights".

Lise Storm Grundon must have missed several reports by different human rights organizations on the Kurdish oppression of Assyrians in northern Iraq. The annual report of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (2007) states the following:

Government complicity in religiously-motivated discrimination is also reported in the pro-Western Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). According to the State Department, Christians and other minorities "living in areas north of Mosul asserted that the KRG confiscated their property … without compensation and … Assyrian Christians also alleged that the Kurdish Democratic Party-dominated judiciary routinely discriminates against non-Muslims." ChaldoAssyrian Christians have also alleged that KRG officials affiliated with the Kurdistan Democratic Party deny Christians key social benefits, including employment and housing.

Additional reports also alleged that foreign reconstruction assistance for ChaldoAssyrian communities was being controlled by the KRG without input from that community's legitimate leaders. KRG officials were also reported to have used public works projects to divert water and other vital resources from ChaldoAssyrian to Kurdish communities. These deprivations reportedly threatened the safety of ChaldoAssyrians leading to mass exodus, which was later followed by the seizure and conversion of abandoned ChaldoAssyrian property by the local Kurdish population. Turkmen groups in the region surrounding Tel Afer also report similar abuses by Kurdish officials, suggesting a pattern of pervasive discrimination, harassment, and marginalization. Combined with non-state sources of instability, including violence from foreign jihadis and Sunni insurgents, the KRG's practices add to the continuing flight of Iraq Christians and other ethnic and religious minorities to sanctuaries outside the country.

Attacks on Christian religious sites continue unabated. Between 2004 and 2006, some 27 ChaldoAssyrian churches were attacked or bombed in Baghdad and the Kurdish areas, often in simultaneous operations. In some areas, conditions are so grave that priests from the Catholic Assyrian Church of the East no longer wear clerical robes, lest they be targets and attacked by Islamic militants. Official discrimination, harassment, and marginalization by KRG officials and other local and regional governments, as described above, exacerbate these conditions. Between the Sunni-dominated insurgency and the KRG's reported diversion of critical services and reconstruction assistance, the current confluence of events has forced tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians to flee during the last three years. According to some reports, nearly 50 percent of Iraq's indigenous Christian population is now living outside the country.

The report makes these recommendations:

  • declare and establish a proportional allocation of foreign assistance funding for ChaldoAssyrian, Yazidi, Sabaen Mandean, and other religious minority communities, ensure that the use of these funds is determined by independent ChaldoAssyrian or other minority national and town representatives, and establish direct lines of communication by such independent structures into the allocation process of the Iraqi national government in Baghdad, separate from the KRG, in order to ensure that U.S. assistance benefits all religious and ethnic minority groups and is not being withheld by Kurdish officials or other local and regional governments;
  • address with regional Kurdish authorities the reports of attacks on religious and other minorities and the expropriation of ChaldoAssyrian property, and seek the return of property or restitution, as well as assurances that there will be no official discrimination practiced against minority communities; and
  • collaborate with Iraqi and KRG officials to establish an independent commission to examine and resolve outstanding land claims involving ChaldoAssyrian and other religious minorities in the Kurdish regions.

And this is what a former Swedish MP, Margareta Viklund, who now heads the Swedish committee for Assyrian, wrote after a recent trip to northern Iraq:

We stopped and talked to a Kurdish farmer who was walking with his donkey along the road. He told us that the village we were crossing had been taken over by Kurds. The Kurds fought over the best pieces of land, the soil there is fertile and belonged actually to Assyrians, but the Kurds forced the Assyrians to sell their land for small amounts of money. "And now we are here harassing them. By forcing them to sell to us Kurds we have destroyed their village and the work they were doing," was his honest and unusual statement. "The Assyrians got some few cents as payment for their land and property. Now we Kurds refuse to leave the village. The Kurdish government keeps telling the Assyrians that there is no doubt the Kurds shall return the village, but to us Kurds the Kurdish government says to remain in the village.

The undemocratic policies of the Kurdish political structures in northern Iraq are well-documented. The discrimination and oppression of Assyrians is also well-documented. Lise Storm Grundon should open her eyes to this fact and start asking her Kurdish friends some tough questions.

Salim Abraham is an Assyrian from Syria. He is currently studying journalism at the Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism. In Syria he worked for the Associated Press. His Arabic translation of Zbigniew Brzezinski’s book The Grand Chessboard was published in 2000 in Syria. His reporting on the Assyrian exodus from Iraq after the August 1st, 2004 church bombings brought the story to the attention of the world.

Views and opinions expressed in guest editorials do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of AINA.
Guest Editorial Policy

Type your comment and click
or register to post a comment.
* required field
User ID*
enter user ID or e-mail to recover login credentials