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September 12, 2006

Assyrians accuse Kurdish authorities of discrimination

By Khidir Domle
The Globe 

The Christian Assyrian man was killed by neighbor Kurds as a result of quarrels because of land properties.

Kurdistan's Assyrian community is complaining it is experiencing increasing prejudice and discrimination from regional authorities. Many describe feeling fearful for their future in Kurdistan.

"I do not believe in a good future here. Tribal loyalties overshadow everything and people who put their own personal interests before that of the people are those who are in power," Violet Xoshaba, an Assyrian, complains.

"There are instructions to neglect Assyrians in all aspects. We know this from the way the regional government chooses to deal only with a few loyal Assyrian puppets and ignores the rest of us," Xoshaba says, believing her only option is to "flee to Europe."

"We often hear about instances where Assyrians have been isolated or neglected," Vian George says and refers to the killing of an Assyrian in Kund Kosa village near Duhok last month.

The Christian Assyrian man was killed by neighbor Kurds as a result of quarrels because of land properties.

"If the murderer had been Assyrian the situation would have been completely different. We are deeply concerned about our future. The authorities must be neutral in enforcing the law."

Duhok's Mayor, Majid Salih, rejects allegations that the Kurdish government aimed to discriminate against Assyrians.

"That there are instructions to neglect Assyrians is not true," the Mayor insists, stating that the normal legal procedures were being used in bringing those guilty of the Kund Kosa murder to justice. "We are of one family and just because a few problems have occurred does not mean that they were deliberate."

Yusuf Murqus believes that the behavior of the Kurdistan Regional Government is responsible for creating tension between Kurds and Assyrians.

"I personally do not feel oppressed, but I do feel that there is some sort of discrimination made," Yusuf says, explaining that Assyrians are categorized as Christians, instead of as an ethnic minority.

Head of Duhok's Assyrian Cultural Centre Nissan Bighazy agrees that the problem lies in the Kurdistan Regional Government's labeling of Assyrians as Christians.

"In the early nineties relations between Kurds and Assyrians were very good," Bighazy explains. ?Now the Kurdish government deals with Assyrians as simply belonging to a different religion, instead of a distinct nation of people. Kurdish political parties choose to ignore our national rights and treat us as a religious group."

Assyrian parties have been completely disregarded in the political process, Bighazy says. "This is because the Assyrian parties have their own agenda and the government fears they will oppose Kurdish interests, even though Assyrians have always shared these interests."

"The problem is not that we are Christians," Bighazy insists. "In terms of religion, we feel secure and free. We have never faced discrimination because of our religion. On the contrary, Kurds respect our beliefs."

"But what official posts do Assyrians hold in their own areas"? Bighazy demands.

Duhok's mayor disagees that the Kurdish government has neglected the region?s Assyrian community.

"Many of these claims do not fit the truth on the ground. The government has been working hard, and it is not surprising that people should criticize a hard-working government."

The Kurdish government has rebuilt Christian villages, in some instances to better standards than Muslim ones, Mayor Salih says. "Christian villages have better services and roads. There are Muslim villages that have been rebuilt from clay and have no services at all. The Churches, destroyed fifty years ago, have also been rebuilt."

"All the communities of the region, including Assyrians, Yazidis, Chaldeans, Turkomen and Arabs, are honored.

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