March 24, 2010
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Minorities reserve equal rights in Kurdistan (part 1) - By Baqi Barzani

Turkmen, Assyrians, Chaldeans, Arabs, Armenians

Sadly in scores of nations, failure to appreciate and revere diversity has led to the erosion of the rights of persons belonging to minorities, often involving their seclusion from effectual contribution in social, cultural, political aspects. The expression minority often insinuates less than half of the whole. When related to people, however, the term does not necessarily refer to statistical proportion. Some minority groups have more members than the dominant group. For instance, African Americans in the United States have formed a majority of the population in some cities and counties in Southern parts. Such is also the case of the largest Christian city of "Enkawa" in Iraq.

Today, minority rights have gained greater visibility and relevance all over the world. Kurdistan is no exception to it being a multi-ethnic, multi-religious, multi-linguistic and multi-cultural society. Diversity of all types is the very spirit of Kurdistan. Kurds are exceedingly hypersensitive to states that flout minority rights due to their own preceding history of victimization.

South Kurdistan is home to more than six million inhabitants, mostly Kurds but also there are other minority groups such as: Turkmen, Assyrians, Chaldeans, Arabs, and Armenians. Kurdistan is a Sunni-majority society, but the government is secular. Non-Muslim and non-Kurds have coexisted in sync with Muslim Kurds for centuries and millenniums in harmony.

Assyrians and Jews are said to be the oldest religious groups to live in the region known today as Kurdistan. According to historians, [2] three millennia ago, Assyrian used to control an empire that extended from modern-day Syria to Turkey, included northern Iraq and parts of Iran. Their native language is Aramaic, which is thought to be the language Jesus spoke. Assyrians are Christians and belong to the Assyrian Church, a Catholic rite, the Syriac Orthodox Church. As for the Jews, [3] there is an ancient tradition that relates the Kurdistani Jews as the descendants of the ten tribes from the time of the exile of the Assyrians in the 6th century BCE. The Kurdistani Jews speak the eastern dialect of the Neo-Aramaic language, akin to the language of the Babylonian Talmud. According to the Bible, after the year 722 BC Jews settled in Mesopotamia and Media, today's Kurdistan area, the settlement of the spread of Judaism and Jews. Kurdistan is the birthplace of the most ancient
human civilization.

Every religious and ethnic minority in Iraq immensely suffered during Saddam tyrannical regime. When the sectarian violence ripped Iraq apart between the years 2005-2008, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi belonging to every tribe, faith and ethnicity sought shelter in Kurdistan.  Kurdistan has transformed in to one of the most noninterventionist, tolerant and protected heaven for the members of minority groups, the destitute and unwaged, orphans and internally displaced individuals. Just on the occasion of the Kurdish New Year (Nawrooz), some 35,000 Arab families have come to spend vacations along with their families in discrete parts of Kurdistan.  Kurdish hospitality, generosity and sense of nursing in proportion to aliens settlers has never gone unnoticed.

History has corroborated that despite the existence of fundamentalist Islamism in Kurdistan, they have scant backing among the Kurds.  The vast majority of Kurds are "cultural Muslims" rather than strict pietists. Submission to radical Islam is therefore generally distrusted in Kurdistan. In most Islamic nations where "Zionism" is the worst affront in the local fanatics" lexicon, the Kurds have cultivated a peerless relationship with the state of Israel, and they seem more or less immune to anti-Semitism. Saddam Hussein had at various times characterized the Kurds as "Zionist agents" due to their lack of prejudice and affinity to the Jewish state. With its secular authority and moderate conformist version of Islam, Kurdistan is even despised by radical Islamic fundamentalists.

Since 1991 Assyrians and Chaldeans have been able to publish newspapers, run television and radio broadcasts in their own language, and establish their own political parties. [4]

The cultural, linguistic, national, political rights of minority groups have been well enshrined and guaranteed in the Kurdistani draft constitution.  There are many clauses of the constitution that explicitly refer to this topic:

For example, Article 6 of Kurdistani constitution states The people of Kurdistan-Iraq consist of Kurds and other nationalities, Turkmen, Chaldeans, Assyrians, Armenians, and Arabs, who are citizens of Kurdistan Region in accordance with the law".

Article 14 further elaborates: "First: Kurdish and Arabic shall be two official languages in Kurdistan Region, and this Constitution guarantees the rights of citizens of Kurdistan Region to the education of their children in their mother-tongue languages such as Turkmen, Assyrian, and Armenian in Kurdistan governmental educational institutions according to educational regulations. Second: Turkmen and Assyrian languages are two other official languages besides Kurdish and Arabic in the Administrative Units densely populated by people speaking these languages, and this shall be regulated by law".

Article 18 touches on equal rights: " Citizens shall be equal before law in their rights and duties without discrimination on account of sex, race, color, language, social origin, religion, creed, social or economic status, or political and ideological affiliation".

Minorities reserve equal rights in Kurdistan  (Part 2)
Minorities reserve equal rights in Kurdistan (Part 3)
Minorities reserve equal rights in Kurdistan Part (4)


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