Kirkuk (AsiaNews) - "On behalf of the Christian community in Kirkuk and its council, we appeal to the Iraqi government, the Iraqi parliament and the United Nation representative in Iraq", for the respect and protection of "the role of the religious minorities", excluded from the new law that will regulate the upcoming provincial elections. The request is contained in an official document signed by Louis Sako, the archbishop of Kirkuk, who recalls "the importance of the Christians in building Iraq" and their pioneering role in the emergence and spread of a national "culture" and identity.
Yesterday, hundreds of Christian faithful marched through the cities of northern Iraq, protesting against the new law on the provincial elections; this no longer reserves a portion of the seats for them, in open violation of the "charter of rights for the ethnic and religious minorities".
"We ask the leaders of the new Iraq", continues the document drafted by the archbishop of Kirkuk, "to include minority ethnic and religious groups, giving them equal dignity and respect. The impression should not be created that there is discrimination or marginalization against them", otherwise the Christians will be forced to "more mass emigration". This would be a serious loss for the entire country, because it would eliminate from Iraq "a loyal people, full of initiative, who can contribute greatly to its reconstruction", Archbishop Sako concludes in his document.
This appeal was welcomed by the faithful who organized numerous demonstrations following the Sunday Masses; the demonstrations took place in Mosul and in all of Iraqi Kurdistan, where most of the Christians are concentrated.
At the center of the controversy is the approval, on Wednesday, September 24, of the law that will regulate the provincial elections awaited for four years: parliamentarians have not set aside any seats for Christians and other minorities, because, in their view, "they have not provided reliable population figures", so it would not be possible to "set aside a percentage of the seats for them". The law is the result of a difficult compromise among Kurds, Sunnis, and Shiites, and concerns 18 provinces in the country; for Kirkuk and the other cities of Iraqi Kurdistan, there will be separate regulations, called for by the Kurdish members of parliament who are demanding that the voting be limited only to those who can demonstrate that they have "historical roots in the region".
In the past, Kirkuk - at the center of an area with significant oil reserves - was the object of an attempt by Saddam Hussein to modify its ethnic makeup, by moving in Arabs to tip the balance against the Kurds. The city is currently ruled by a council made up of two representatives for each of the Arabic components, Kurdish and Turkmen, and one representative for the Christians. The exclusion of the Christian community from political life, after the violence and persecution it has suffered from Islamic fundamentalists, would be the coup de grace for determining its disappearance from all of Iraq.