Iraq ‘s Minorities Caught Between Arabs, Kurds
Christian and other religious minorities are caught between Arabs and Kurds in Iraq .
By Quil Lawrence
10/07/2009 Iraq (NPR)-This week, Army Gen. Raymond Odierno, the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq , briefed the U.S. Congress, underlining progress in the country but also pointing out areas of concern. Continuing territorial disputes between Kurds and Arabs in the north are among the latter.
While the U.S. military is pushing a plan to get the two sides cooperating, many of Iraq ‘s minority populations, including Christians, are caught in between, living in no man’s land. Adding to their woes, al-Qaida is also targeting the territory.
Minorities Weigh Uneasy Alliances
The tiny village of Lalish is the holiest spot in the world for Yazidis, who come to worship at the fountain underneath the shrine there. Outsiders have often accused Yazidis, who number fewer than 1 million, of heresy and devil worship, according to Hazem Tahsin, son of the Yazidi prince and leader.
“After the liberation of Iraq and [the] coming of democracy to Iraq , we have great hope [for] that process and we want to be an integral part of that process,” Tahsin says.
But the Yazidis are not yet sure how Iraqi democracy is going to work out for them. The Kurdistan region claims their territories, and a majority of Yazidis have aligned with the Kurdish political parties, relying on Kurdish defense forces to protect them.
Only a few towns away, in the Christian village of Tal-Qaf , the mayor is harshly critical of the same defense forces
Enlarge APA worker sifts through the debris inside a Christian church after a bombing in Mosul , about 200 miles northwest of Baghdad , July 13.
APA worker sifts through the debris inside a Christian church after a bombing in Mosul , about 200 miles northwest of Baghdad , July 13.
“The plight of the minorities lies in the fact that the major groups — the Arabs and the Kurds — are vying for their loyalty, and they do that through ways nice and not so nice, if you call buying people off with money ‘nice,’ ” Hiltermann says.