Violence directed at Iraqi minorities marred poll
Iraq's ethnic and religious communities are awaiting the results of the country's most important election since the US-led invasion and one that was also marred by violence and targeted attacks against minorities.
As polling closed on Sunday, Qussay Abbas, a Shabak member of the Provincial Council was gunned down by insurgents in Mosul, Iraqi Minorities Organisation (IMO) said in a statement.
In the run-up to the election, there were several attacks on Christians, which community leaders stated were intended to discourage minorities from voting in the nationwide poll.
On 23 February 2010, a 59-year old Christian Aishwa Maroki and his two sons Bassam and Mokhlas were murdered in front of his wife and their daughter in northern Iraq, the Society for Threatened Peoples, a German-based NGO, said in a statement. In further incidents on 16 and 17 February 2010, two Christian students Wissam George and Zia Toma were also killed in Mosul.
According to the Society for Threatened Peoples, in the days leading up to the poll, at least 120 Christian families fled their homes to the Nineveh plain and to the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan.
Christians are the minority community that stands to gain the most out of this election. Of the 8 seats reserved for minorities, 5 have been set aside for the Christian community. The remaining three have been divided between Shabaks, Sabean Mandaeans and Yezidis. However, the Yezidis, numbering 300 – 400,000 people, are unhappy that only one seat has been reserved for them, MRG's partner organizations in Iraq say.
‘These elections are crucial for minorities. Despite some communities being unhappy with the number of seats reserved for them in the next parliament, all minorities recognize the significance of bringing to parliament capable and qualified candidates who will represent their interests,' Chris Chapman, MRG's Head of Conflict Prevention, says.
According to Iraq's independent High Electoral Commission voter turnout on Sunday was 62 percent. The final results of the election will only be clear at the end of March, but preliminary results are expected as early as Friday.