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Iraq’s multi-ethnic future now at grave risk, says MRG

7 August 2014

In the wake of recent armed attacks by the Islamic State (IS) group in Nineveh, which have had a devastating effect on vulnerable religious minorities, Iraq’s multi-ethnic future is now at grave risk, warns Minority Rights Group International (MRG).

‘The latest events in Nineveh have now proved beyond doubt that the Iraqi government is incapable of protecting its minority communities, including Christians, Yezidi and Shabak,’ says Mark Lattimer, MRG’s Executive Director. ‘The process of expelling Iraq’s minorities from their homelands that began some ten years ago is now being completed,’ he added.

According to reports, thousands of Christians are fleeing after the IS group captured Qaraqosh and surrounding towns from Kurdish Peshmerga fighters last night. Qaraqosh is home to around 50, 000 Christians. This ancient community, which includes Chaldo-Assyrian and Syriac Christians, see Iraq as their mother country and centre of their culture. Christians in Iraq numbered 1-1.4 million in 2003, and today less than half that number remains.

In a separate development, IS and associated armed groups seized control of nearly all of Sinjar and Tal Afar districts in Nineveh Province at the weekend. According to reports, as many as 200,000 civilians, most of them from the Yezidi community, have fled to Jabal Sinjar. The United Nations reports that the humanitarian situation of these civilians is dire, and they are in urgent need of basic items including food, water and medicine.

Around 550, 000 Yezidi live in Iraq, mainly in the mountains near the Syrian border. Their language, Kurmanji, is considered a Kurdish dialect. The Yezidi religion is monotheistic and thought to be an offshoot of Zoroastrianism. It includes elements of Manicheism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam and Gnostic beliefs and dates back some 4000 years. In post-Saddam Iraq, Islamist groups have declared Yezidi ‘impure’ and called for the death of all members of the community. These recent attacks have serious implications for their future in the country, claims MRG.

The Iraqi government must immediately act to ensure the protection of all religious minorities at risk in Iraq today, whilst the international community must also play its part in ensuring the country is not emptied of some of the world’s most ancient and vulnerable minorities, says the international rights organisation.

Notes to editors

For more information contact MRG’s Press Office:

Emma Eastwood (London)
T: +44 207 4224205
M: +44 7989699984
E: [email protected]
Twitter: @MinorityRights