Baghdad, Asharq Al-Awsat – At a time when Iraqi Christian MP Yonadim Kanna denied that there were any calls from the Iraqi Christian community for the establishment of an autonomous region or “administrative unit” in the Nineveh Province, Iraqi Christian activist and head of the Hammurabi Human Rights Organization, William Warda confirmed to Asharq Al-Awsat that “there are parties that have taken up this position and they have their own objectives, however we reject the formation of any [autonomous] region or administrative unit specifically for us [Iraqi Christians].”
In a statement to Asharq Al-Awsat, Warda said that this demand “is unconstitutional; the only constitutional article that includes such a demand is Article 125 that allows Iraqi minorities to form local administrative units but on the condition that they are not established according to ethnic or religious grounds, according to Article 7 of the constitution that prevents any such unit being established based upon a religious or ethnic basis.” Warda added that “there is a second important issue which is that Article 125 does not apply just to Christians but to all [Iraqi] components if they desire this, the establishment of a local administration.”
As for whether the formation of an autonomous region for Iraq’s Christian community would protect them from threats, Warda said that “[protection] takes place according to the law, as they are part of the fabric of Iraq’s society and all of Iraq is under threat with the absence of the rule of law, security, and stability. Law starts from here, i.e. the formation of a strong government through parliament, as for security being divided according to minorities and ethnic groups, this is impossible because security is for all of Iraq….and dealing with the security file in a united manner is important regardless of ethnic, religious, or sectarian differences.”
As for the establishment of what has already been dubbed in certain circles as “the Nineveh Plains Administrative Unit” Warda confirmed to Asharq Al-Awsat that “the Christians are divided on this issue, so we could call for this but we fear isolating the Christians in one region, and a foreign third-party could be behind this plan.” He added that such an administrative unit has already been formed under the previous regime, namely the Kurdistan Region which is protected under the auspices of the United Nations, and that “it would be impossible for 800,000 [Iraqi] Christians to flee the country.”
The Iraqi Christians population of Baghdad has decreased from 450,000 in 2003 to 150,000, as the Iraqi community has emigrated abroad to neighboring countries and the rest of the world in light of the increased violence targeting this community.
As for the legal rights of Iraq’s minority communities, Warda told Asharq Al-Awsat that “there is no minority law but rather a constitutional article, which is Article 125, that give minorities the right to establish an autonomous administrative unit, however despite this, this is an article that must be regulated by law and until now this has not been acknowledged by the law. If this law is passed there can be the formation of an autonomous administrative unit for Iraq’s Christian community, with this guaranteeing their presence on the Nineveh Plains.”
A series of attacks were carried out on Wednesday targeting Christian homes and businesses in Iraq, resulting in six deaths and more than 30 injuries. These attacks took place following a raid carried out by Al Qaeda gunmen against the Chaldean “Our Lady of Salvation” Church in central Baghdad. This attack resulted in the death of 44 worshippers and 2 priests.
Pope Benedict said “I pray for the victims of this absurd violence, all the more ferocious in that it struck defenseless people united in the house of God, which is a place of love and reconciliation.” Whilst US spokesman Mike Hammer said that the United States remains committed to standing with the Iraqi people to reject violence and resist efforts by Al Qaeda to spark sectarian tensions.