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KRG statement on Human Rights Watch report – “On Vulnerable Ground”

TUE, 10 NOV 2009 21:42 | KRG Cabinet

Kurdistan Regional Government official statement regarding Human Rights Watch report – “On Vulnerable Ground”

10 November 2009

The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has a long standing and productive relationship with Human Rights Watch (HRW). We appreciate what HRW has done in the past. As an oppressed community ourselves, we fully understand the value of ensuring justice for all members and factions of society. In addition, the KRG appreciates the interest in the condition of the minority communities in Ninevah Province’s disputed territories. We regard the well-being of all communities in these areas to be of paramount concern.

The KRG is ready and willing to look into each and every allegation, and we are ready to work on these issues under the legal framework of both the Kurdistan Region and the Republic of Iraq, with the help of HRW and other reputable human rights organisations. The KRG will investigate each specific claim outlined in the report carefully and thoroughly. There may be instances of maltreatment and neglect; the KRG does not claim to be flawless.

But the report reveals a systematic misperception of the circumstances in Ninevah and a worrying ignorance of Iraqi history. HRW therefore produces an inaccurate portrayal of the situation. Furthermore, due to the methodology employed to produce this report, it cannot be the basis for legitimate judgements or assertions.

The main thrust of this report could be grossly misleading and the KRG affirms its strong disagreement in this regard. The KRG has done more for the protection of minorities than any other entity in Iraq, and continues to insist on tolerance and peaceful coexistence in the Region and throughout Iraq.

However, it is imperative to consider the broader social and political context regarding these claims. Neither the KRG nor the Peshmerga forces have created instability in the disputed territories. On the contrary, the Peshmerga have sacrificed their lives to protect the residents in these areas from terrorists. They have been part of the solution, not the problem. Terrorists and extremists have utilised violence and intimidation, repeatedly violating the human rights of minorities. The blame falls squarely on their shoulders, and they should be held accountable.

The HRW investigation appears to have ignored the majority of people from the ethnic and religious minorities in Ninevah, who welcome the presence of the Kurdish security forces and are grateful for the assistance provided by the KRG, especially during periods of intense sectarian violence and repeated intimidation. In fact minorities, regardless of their ethnic and religious background, have come to the Kurdistan Region, fleeing violence and persecution. This stems from the KRG policy of religious and ethnic tolerance. The KRG has invested heavily in the welfare of citizens in the disputed territories, at a time when no other entity was willing to do so.

The report fails to mention the fact that following every major incident in which Iraq’s minorities have been targeted by terrorists, the KRG has provided humanitarian aid and received hundreds, sometimes thousands of families into the KRG area, where many continue to live today in peace. If the minorities in Nineveh were being systematically intimidated by the Kurds, why would so many seek shelter in KRG-administered land?

From reading the report it would appear that all minorities in Nineveh province are against KRG policy, which is far from the truth, as elections results in the disputed areas have consistently shown.

The real problem in Ninevah governorate are the terrorists and the extremists, intent upon marginalising minorities and who also wish to marginalise the Kurds. Iraq needs an inclusive system of governance for all communities.

One of the misperceptions in the report is the assertion that Shabak and Yazidi individuals are not Kurds. The report states that these groups are ethnic minorities, and criticizes the KRG for not making such a specification. But the right to make such an ethnic categorization does not belong to HRW, just as it does not belong to the KRG. It is for the individuals themselves to decide. This is one reason why the KRG has advocated a census, to help ensure that democratic rights are secured for all citizens.

The KRG considers minority issues of genuine importance in Iraq, and we are ready to play our part to ensure that all citizens are respected and valued as equals - as we have in the drafting of both the Iraqi and the Kurdistan Region Constitutions. The KRG stands committed to the provision of fair treatment to all residents of the Kurdistan Region and the disputed territories. It is the KRG policy to ensure political stability, personal security, and the rule of law, regardless of ethnic or religious affiliation.

The way forward in Ninevah is to address these issues through a coordinated and collaborated effort between the KRG and federal government of Iraq, and to establish security in this troubled area, with the support of the coalition forces. Our common enemies are terrorists and extremists. We must establish delineated procedures through which we can, together, eliminate the scourge of terrorism and sectarian violence.

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THU, 19 NOV 2009 10:55

“Minorities in Iraq’s North Seen as Threatened” (news article, Nov. 11) did not mention efforts by the Kurdistan Regional Government to protect minorities and portrays a Human Rights Watch report as vilifying the authorities of the Kurdistan Region.