Representatives of Iraq’s minority communities at the European Parliament

November 1, 2011 at 2:54 pm | Posted in Turkmens | Leave a comment
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October 31, 2011

Minority Visit Brings Baghdad Closer To Brussels


Following a visit from the 4 to the 7 October 2011, by representatives of Iraq’s minority communities to the European Parliament, the Delegation for Relations with Iraq acknowledged the importance of minority communities participation in improving the situation in Iraq. 

Below is an article authored by UNPO and published by New Europe.


Brussels is finally opening up to Baghdad.  That was the signal that has been sent this month when fourteen deputies from Iraq’s minority communities were welcomed to the European Parliament by chair of the Delegation for Relations with Iraq, Struan Stevenson MEP and colleagues.   The testimony brought home to MEPs the current realities in Iraq and both the progress made and the challenges that lie ahead.


This progress includes an improving situation for Iraqis, with increased opportunity for investment, and a parliamentary system growing more certain in its capacities.  But minorities are caught between sectarian divides and continue to be targeted and intimidated by extremist elements.  One deputy remarked that minorities, as  “hostages of history…are trying to bring balance to our country.”  This is a common sentiment as the work of interpreting Iraq’s constitutional ambiguities and realising the protections for minorities enters a new phase.

Iraq’s minorities have stepped up to the challenge with a unity of purpose, and supported by organisations from Washington DC to Brussels, a caucus is taking shape.  A political landmark, the caucus will be an international first, comparable only to the Congressional Black Caucus in the United States and it was in Brussels on 5 October 2011 that caucus members chose to project their ambitions to be one of the keys to ensuring that democracy in Iraq proves deep, inclusive, and resilient. 


This is work that cannot be done in isolation and the European institutions, and European Parliament in particular, are uniquely placed to provide support to what is a political experiment in the Council of Representatives.  Deputies in Brussels and Baghdad are therefore challenging conventions and both are facing new challenges.  But as exchanges with members of the Delegation for Relations with Iraq and the Intergroup for Traditional Minorities, National Communities and Languages showed, there is today a unique opportunity to share experience and inform, debate, and implement measures that can serve as a model for the region.


Nevertheless it has taken almost a decade for this first visit to take place and within Iraq there can be no complacency.  Iraq’s minority representatives are not mere guardians of a heterogeneous and magnificent past, they are the key to its future stability and success.  In the main, Iraq’s minorities are highly educated and enjoy close ties to an influential and widespread diaspora that has the skills and resources to reconstruct Iraq.  These diasporas are testament to past persecutions of Iraq’s minorities and today the risk remains that ongoing discrimination, fresh bomb attacks, and cultural neglect aim to finish the task others started decades ago.


But Iraqis acknowledge the important role minorities can and must play in the rehabilitation of their country.  Minorities occupy key positions in the administration, not least the chairmanship of the Service and Construction Committee tasked with responsibility for Iraq’s public works.  In what seems a recurring theme, Iraq’s minorities have taken the initiative and now it is the European Union must act on specific calls made for investment in economic, cultural, and social programmes to support Iraqi minorities.  The meeting this week between NGOs and the EU’s new head of delegation in Baghdad, Jana Hybáškova, is an important step but must be followed by action.


What the European Union says and does in Brussels is closely followed by those in Baghdad and now years of expectations should be fulfilled.  The European Parliament is playing an important role to raise awareness and understanding of the situation facing Iraq’s communities.  In an important step, the Subcommittee on Human Rights is expected to learn of the situation facing Iraqi Turkmen in a hearing scheduled for 5 December 2011.  This must not be an isolated initiative but part of the relationship that began so constructively this month.

 To view information on the visit by the Iraqi Minority Delegation, please click here.

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