01/16/2007, 00.00
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Iraq moving towards division, says bishop of Kirkuk

Mgr Louis Sako voices his concerns over the growing split between Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds. A divided Iraq will not have peace but may confine Christians in their own ghetto.

Kirkuk (AsiaNews) – As the effects of Sunni-Shia clashes and Saddam Hussein’s execution gather momentum, Iraq is moving towards a terrible division with the US doing nothing to stop it, says Mgr Louis Sako, Chaldean Archbishop of Kirkuk.

“Internet sites and papers are already publishing the new political maps with the Kurdish north, the Shia south and the Sunni centre,” he said.  The real problem lies in multiethnic areas like Kirkuk and the Church.

For Mgr Sako, natural gas-rich Kirkuk is a time-bomb, “a source of dangerous tensions”.

For Christians there is the danger of ending up in a regional ghetto, when the best solution would be to guarantee freedom of religion to everyone in every part of the country.

Mgr Sako, what kind of Iraq do you see emerging this year?

Iraq is sliding towards division. Ongoing clashes show that and the Americans are doing nothing to stop that. The north is Kurdish (Kurdistan), the south is Shia (Shiastan), and the centre is occupied by Sunnis (Sunnistan). Internet sites and papers are already publishing the new political maps! This will have serious consequences for neighbouring countries like Turkey, Syria and Iran, where the local Kurdish population is demanding autonomy or independence but where local governments are opposed. The division of Iraq is not a solution and will not bring peace and stability.


What are the consequences for the country of Saddam’s and his right-hand men’s execution?

The tragic and disgraceful execution of former President Saddam Hussein has widened the Sunni-Shia divide. For Sunnis Shia Iran is the main cause of their marginalisation and for what is happening in Iraq. Shiites have taken power but the current government has failed to achieve the desired reconciliation or to ensure peace.


In 2007 a referendum in expected to be held that might result in Kirkuk joining either Kurdistan or a Sunni province. Some observers are of the opinion that this might a time-bomb…

Huge interests and dangerous tensions gravitate around Kirkul. The city is not homogeneous, nor ethnically uniform.  Residents are Muslim, Christian, Kakai, Kurdish, Arab, Turkmen, Chaldeans, Assyrians and Armenians. Will it be an independent political and administrative entity? Annexed by Kurdistan? Or by the neighbouring Sunni province? Everyone is waiting for the referendum which won’t be easy to pull off.

On January 13 rebels shot dead two businessmen and blew up a Shia mosque under construction in the Nida neighbourhood, on the city’s east side. There are thieves or people who just demand money without carrying out kidnappings. Five Christian families have paid a ransom; others are planning to move to the north or to Syria. Things are going from bad to worse and the population is living in fear and uncertainty, not knowing where they will live!   


What place will there be for Christians in Iraq?

Christians are confronted with increasing difficulties. For some time, some people have been thinking of gathering them in a specific area, the Nineveh plain. They would have their own territory, but to be viable the idea of a protected zone, a safe haven, which is viewed sympathetically by the Kurds and even the Americans, needs an end to the violence and remains in any event a dangerous plan. The Nineveh plain is largely surrounded by Arabs and Christians would serve as a useful and undefended buffer zone between Arabs and Kurds. In my opinion it would be preferable to work at the constitutional level and each area to guarantee religious freedom and equal rights for believers of all faiths throughout the land, including Christians who can be found everywhere.


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See also
Sharia will not be basic law, says Bishop Sako
Kirkuk: Muslims and Christians united for dialogue, only way to save Iraq
Appeal from Archbishop Sako: politics is also trying to wipe out Iraqi Christians
In Kirkuk Christian and Muslim leaders pray for peace in the country
Two Christians abducted in Mosul a week ago are freed


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