New Iraqi Christian Defense Force Controversial

January 12, 2011 at 9:32 am | Posted in Turkmens | Leave a comment
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New Iraqi Christian Defense Force Controversial

11/01/2011 13:31:00 By HEMIN BABAN
published on rudaw net
image A Church Guard in Baghdad. ——- Photo by Translators and Christians Blog


ERBIL, Iraqi Kurdistan: The Iraqi Ministry of Defense’s decision to train a Christian armed defense force has caused heated reaction from many sectors of society in northern Iraq.

Iraqi security officials announced last week that they were working on a plan “to defend churches and the Christian population in Baghdad and other regions in Iraq,” and that there were currently 600 Christians undergoing military training at the Ministry of Interior for the defense of their communities.

Louis Sako, archbishop of Kirkuk for the Chaldean Catholic Church, said he believed the creation of a military defense force for the Christian community would have “negative consequences” and would lead to the “forming of militias in contradiction of the constitution.” 
However, Johnson Syawash, deputy head of the Council of Chaldean and Assyrians in Kirkuk, said the government was “correct” to introduce the policy.
The policy has caused the Turcomans, one of the largest ethnic groups in Kirkuk, to re-evaluate their own defense needs in the restive province.
Turham Mwzafar Hassan, a Turcoman member of Kirkuk’s provincial council, told Rudaw that division on ethnic or religious grounds was increasing in governmental institutions and services, including the Iraqi army, and that the Turcomans were the first minority in Kirkuk to request their own official defense force.
Neither the federal nor Kurdish government had yet officially replied to several such requests from the Turcomans, he said.
“We wanted a Turcoman security force to defend ourselves, especially in those areas where the majority of the population are Turcoman, but our demands were rejected,” said Hassan. “Now, with the formation of this Christian self-defense force, we are demanding the same.”
Although these types of self-defense forces are viewed by many as militias, Hassan refused to accept this description for the proposed Turcoman self-defense force, as he said it deserved official recognition. 
“We want this force to be part of the Ministry of Defense, just as with the Kurdish [security] forces,” said Hassan. “Most of the armed forces of the Kurdish political organisations have become part of the Ministry of Defense.”
The Chaldean’s Sako said it was not in the people’s interest to assign governmental roles according to class, religion or ethnicity.
”Iraqis must be protected by the state,” he said. “[However] if these forces are only used for the protection of holy places, then it is fine.”
Several government officials in Mosul denied having heard of the Ministry of Defense decision to form a Christian armed force.
“It is the duty of the Iraqi army and Ministry of Defense to protect everyone,” said Jabr Abid, head of the Nineveh Provincial Council. “We are against the idea of the formation of defense forces on ethnic or religious grounds.”

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