UNITED NATIONS. ENDANGERED IRAQ MINORITIES. A CALL FOR A MONITORING GROUP.

 

15 JANUARY 2009

ENDANGERED IRAQ MINORITIES. A CALL FOR A MONITORING GROUP.

What was once the cultural signature of the world's earliest civilization is now almost an endangered species. The varied religious and ethnic groupings that enriched Mesopotamia are now threatened, harassed, impoverished -- generally compelled to leave their ancestral homeland.

A recent perceptive study by Mokhtar Lamani draws attention to those acutely vulnerable in Iraq today, particularly with the rise of religious parties as main political actors. It calls for the establishment of an independent international monitoring mechanism. The study was sponsored by the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI), an independent "think tank" based in Wellington, Ontario, Canada. CIGI was founded in 2002 by Jim Balsillie, co-CEO of Research in Motion (RIM) of Blackberry fame in partnership of the Government of Canada. Its chairman is former U.N. Deputy Secretary General Louise Freschette.

Mokhtar Lamani served as Special Representative of the Arab League in Iraq in 2006 and has recently undertaken in-depth field research in Iraqi-Kurdistan, Jordan and Egypt to examine the crisis minorities in Iraq, and those who have fled, are currently facing.

The report outlines some of the threats that specific groups are facing as well as the political and governance issues associated with all minorities in Iraq. It notes that the threats to minorities cannot be addressed in isolation from the broader issue of national reconciliation.

"The fragile Iraqi social tissue has been severely damaged since 2003 and the new political class in Iraq is not yet in a conciliatory mood," explains Mr. Lamani. "This atmosphere of total mistrust is further complicated by the continuing political fragmentation and the focus of the major parties on their own political interests rather than national reconciliation."

The negative atmosphere and the conflicting agendas of both internal and external actors make the resolution of these issues virtually impossible for the internal Iraqi actors alone. A highly professional and respected international monitoring committee should be established to evaluate the ongoing evolution of the Iraqi national crisis and make recommendations. The committee would have access to key decision-makers at the local, regional and international level and would provide support to the reconciliation process. The full report can be viewed on the CIGI website at www.cigionline.org/publications.