An elderly Christian woman made homeless by ISIS attacks on the minority in Iraq in 2014 sits with her belongings in the Kurdistan Region. Photo: Rudaw
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Nineveh’s religious minorities have written to the head of the provincial council and the Iraqi interior ministry to protest the planned settlement of 450 Arab families from other parts of Iraq. They warn the move violates the constitution and will create instability.
The joint letter, penned by three Nineveh provincial council representatives from the Shabak, Yezidi, and Assyrian communities, warns the move “will lead to instability in the areas of these minorities and will open the door to demographic change, which violates Article 23 of the Iraqi constitution that bans any demographic change in areas where minorities live.”
Article 23 of the 2005 constitution states: “Ownership of property for the purposes of demographic change is prohibited.”
“Please approve a decree from the interior ministry on stopping the transfer of family registers of those of Arabic descent from Simel, Shekhan, Makhmour, Gwer and Batil to other areas in Nineveh such as Hamdaniyah, Telkef and Bashiqa and send their registers strictly to the province capital only,” the letter adds.
It is signed by Shabak representative Ghazwan Hamid Hameed Al-Dawdi, Yezidi representative Gulistan Hassan Ali, and Christian representative Dawd Baba Yaqoub.
Opponents of the move have likened the interior ministry’s decision to the forced Arabization programme of the Baathist regime.
“These practices are repeating what was done by the former dictatorial regime when it was displacing Kurds from their areas and housing the Arabs instead,” a spokesman for the Arab tribes of Nineveh province told Bas News.
Nineveh is one of the most diverse places in the Middle East, where Persian, Turkish, Arabic, Kurdish and Levantine cultures meet. At different times pre-Abrahamic, Abrahamic, and other ethno-religious minorities like Yezidis have coexisted, albeit not always without conflict.
Iraq’s religious and ethnic minorities suffered mass displacement and genocide at the hands of ISIS militants when the group swept through Nineveh in the summer of 2014, capturing its provincial capital Mosul.
Thousands of Yezidis were massacred or sold into sexual slavery. Meanwhile, Iraq’s Christians have almost completely vanished, many of them fleeing abroad.
Last week, US Vice President Mike Pence announced the allocation of $70 million to protect religious minorities and vulnerable communities on the Nineveh plains.