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Senator Concetta Raises Concerns for the Assyrians in Iraq

ICC Note:

Senator Concetta evokes concern over the continued persecution of Assyrians in Iraq.

2/5/2010 Iraq, Australia (Assyria Times) – The Honorable Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, Shadow Minister for Ageing Liberal Senator for New South Wales has raised concern for the Assyrians in Iraq and has urged the Australian Federal Government and the International community to give consideration to the petition of the Assyrian Universal Alliance.

Senator Concetta made the following statement:

Senator FIERRAVANTI-WELLS(New South Wales) (Wednesday, 3 February 2010 1:38 PM) – I rise to speak on an important issue relating to the continued persecution of the Assyrian community in the Middle East and in particular Iraq. The systematic dismantling of human rights provisions against this oppressed race is a source of great concern for members of the Assyrian diaspora, including the many Australians of Assyrian heritage residing in Western Sydney.

The Assyrians have had a continuous association in the Middle East since ancient times and are indigenous to the area known as modern-day Iraq. Over centuries the Assyrians have proven to be resilient in the face of destruction of their towns and persecution of their people. However, such challenges have ultimately decimated their present-day numbers, leading to what now constitutes minority status in the region.

The situation in Iraq has been precarious for innocent civilians as that country embarks on the transition to democracy following years of brutal rule by the former regime. It is clear that there are elements that seek to undermine stability to achieve stated aims. Demands on the state of Iraq are great, and frustrations with daily life can lead to internal upheaval. Many recognise the difficulty for the authorities in managing the transition and economic recovery of Iraq. It is, however, important to recognise that genocide can creep in a surreptitious manner and engulf communities if it is not resisted resolutely. This tragedy faced by the Assyrian people is amongst the many domestic challenges occupying the authorities in Iraq.

If we recognise the Assyrian association with that region, then we ought to note the large and alarming exodus of such people from their ancestral homeland. It is somewhat perplexing that so many would voluntarily wish to depart this area without a rudimentary explanation. Strong reports indicate that harassment, terror and persecution provide the triggers for the displacement of the Assyrian people with great effect. Whilst Iraq must manage its diversity from within and concurrently resist external threats, it is vitally important that fundamental rights are extended towards the Assyrian community as a genuine measure in upholding consistent democratic and secular ideals across this nation and amongst all citizens.

The Assyrians remain robust in their aims to preserve their cultural identity. The reconstruction of Iraq will take time but it is imperative that the state manages its differences with care. The rule of law provides the foundation to ensure balance across the multitude of differences that are evident amongst the diversity that exists within modern-day Iraq. Yet one can observe the tremendous obstacles that will require commitment to overcome. What further proof of intimidation and terror can be required than the fate of the Catholic Archbishop of Mosul, Paulos Faraj Rahho, who was kidnapped in February 2008 and whose body was discovered a month later? If the spiritual head can be subjected to such a fate, what hope do ordinary citizens have to survive?

The alliance has advocated a number of recommendations aimed primarily towards ameliorating the current situation and curtailing instances of violations and oppression. These recommendations include an acknowledgement and declaration that the Assyrians are the Indigenous and original people of Iraq and therefore entitled to an Assyrian autonomous region; that equitable and/or proportionate distribution of aid, including any reconstruction aid, be given to Assyrians through their local government representation; that assistance be provided for displaced Assyrian refugees and further demands that such programs are adequately implemented; that there be a return of all Assyrian lands and villages to date occupied by non-Assyrians; that the Iraqi constitution contain a minimum guaranteed quota for Assyrian representation at all levels of government, which, given the current official population counts, amount to 2,500,000 or approximately 10 per cent of the total population; and, that the Republic of Iraq support, establish, train and arm Assyrian security forces as part of its national security to adequately and sufficiently maintain the security of Assyrian towns and villages from further attacks and harassment.

The Australian government supports Iraq’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and strongly believes that all political aspirations including those of Assyrian Christians should be pursued within Iraq’s existing political framework. This is particularly important in the context of national elections scheduled for 7 March 2010.

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