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Ambassador Crocker Discusses Assyrian Police Force, Refugees on Capitol Hill
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Washington -- On April 10, 2008, the House Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs held a public hearing in which US Ambassador Ryan Crocker answered questions regarding various issues about Iraq. Along with questions about the recent US surge in troops and how US money is being spent in the country, Mr. Crocker answered several questions pertaining specifically to the Assyrian Christians.

Congressman Frank Wolf (R-VA), opened with a grim description of what he sees happening to the Assyrians. In addition to church bombings and general threats to the vulnerable community, he reminded the committee of the kidnapping and murder of the late Assyrian Chaldean Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho early last month. The Assyrian Christians of Iraq, stated Mr. Wolf, are unarmed and especially vulnerable to violence, which translates into them being a disproportionate number of Iraq's refugees (upwards of 40% by some estimates). He asked the Ambassador to report back late next week with a commitment from the Iraqi government to appropriate funding for the refugees, and specifically the Christian refugees. He also wanted a commitment from the Iraqi government that they would do more to protect the minority. Ambassador Crocker responded with a firm "yes", and committed to securing both requests.

The second question on Assyrians came from Congressman Mark Kirk (R-IL), regarding the twice blocked Assyrian police force in the Nineveh Plains.1 Mr. Kirk began his questions by reminding Ambassador Crocker that "the Iraqi Interior Ministry ordered the creation of a local police force for the Assyrians...of about 700 policemen to patrol the Christian villages there...two years after the order the police force doesn't exist." He confirmed that Central Command supports the standing order of the Iraqi Government, and the Kurdish Regional Government representative in Washington D.C. committed their support of the order as well. "The community has issued detailed planning of the police force to protect [themselves]", Mr. Kirk remarked. "I don't think we have detailed plans for any other set of villages in Iraq - but we certainly have it for these villages." Mr. Kirk then expressed his desire to see the police force created and funded quickly.

Ambassador Crocker confidently assured Mr. Kirk that the Provincial Reconstruction Team in Nineveh had informed him the previous evening that the Assyrian police force is now moving forward. It will be made up of 700 Assyrian Christians from the Nineveh Plains.

"We are happy that the police force issue has moved forward, and we will be working with the relevant actors to certify that the next steps are carried out in a timely manner," says Michael Youash of the D.C. based Iraq Sustainable Democracy Project. "We will work to ensure that the police force reflects the decisions of the legitimate representatives who are doing the work on the ground in the Nineveh Plains."

The Assyrians of Iraq are the indigenous nation and world's first Christians. The core of their indigenous homeland is in the Nineveh Plains. They are currently without a legitimate security force in the area, and this police force will secure the inhabitants along with the thousands of internally displaced Assyrians fleeing from other areas of Iraq back to their native villages.

By Waleeta Canon

1 Kurds Block Assyrians, Shabaks from Police Force in North Iraq

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