IRAQ AND MIDDLE EAST MINORITIES AT THE UN SECURITY COUNCIL:
“No exodus from Iraq: self-defense and international protection”
New York, Mideast Newswire
2nd of September 2014
In a historic visit to the United Nations Security Council and Secretariat General, the widest coalition of Iraqi Christian and Yazidi and Middle East Christian NGOs and organizations ever assembled to date appealed to the international community not to allow further ethnic cleansing of minorities inside Iraq and their uprooting from ancestral lands for resettlement throughout the world. The joint delegation organized by the Middle East Christian Committee (MECHRIC) and the Yazidi International Human Rights Organization was received on August 22, 2014, at the Secretariat General of the United Nations and at the U.S., Russian, French and UK missions at the Security Council as well as at the Italian mission at the UN, which holds the Presidency of the European Union.
The joint delegation has requested the meetings in implementation of the resolutions of the MECHRIC Conference held at the European Parliament in November 2013 and the Middle East Christian special sessions at the Coptic Solidarity Conference in Washington, D.C., in June 2014. Both conferences tasked MECHRIC leaders to reach out to the United Nations and request an internationally protected area for the Christians of Iraq in the Nineveh plain in northern Iraq. After the barbaric attacks, massacres and ethnic cleansing by the “Islamic State” (Daesh-ISIS) towards the end of June and early July, MECHRIC reached out to the Yazidi community leaders and included them in a joint delegation to the UN.
During the month of July, MECHRIC organized a central demonstration in Washington DC and another rally in August, in coordination with the Yazidis, both in front of the White House, generating a series of demonstration throughout the world against the massacres perpetrated by the “Islamic State” and coordinated with NGOs to organize demonstrations around the world. MECHRIC and Yazidi leaders met with officials at the White House, the State Department, the US Congress and foundations to address the threat of genocide and ethnic cleansing in northern Iraq against Christian and Yazidi minorities. During the same time, MECHRIC officials reached out to the United Nations Secretariat General and the various missions and obtained meetings on August 22nd 2014
The MECHRIC-Yazidi UN Memo
The joint delegation included Tom Harb, Secretary General of MECHRIC, Sheikh Mirza Ismael, President of Yazidi International Human Rights Organization, William Yomaran President of the Assyrian American National Federation, David Lazar President of American Mesopotamian Organization (AMO), Abraham Buyuksal, Bethnahrin National Council (Syriac),
Medlum Merogi, Chaldean Syriac Assyrian Popular Council, Magdi Khalil, Coptic Solidarity International, John Hajjar, Melkite Committee, Eblan Farris, Director of Relations for the World Maronite Union, and Dr. Walid Phares, Special Advisor.
Below is the text of the Memorandum addressed by the delegation to the United Nations
The Honorable Ban Ki Moon
Secretary General of the United Nations
August 22nd 2014
We, the representatives of the below co-signing organizations, representing the aspirations of the Yazidi and Christian (Assyrian, Chaldean and Syriac) communities in Iraq, and following the systematic acts of ethnic cleansing, massacres, assassinations, abduction, rape, and kidnapping perpetrated by the “Islamic State” against these communities since June 2014, urge you to request an immediate meeting of the UN Security Council to address the following urgent issues:
- In view of the fact that an international terror organization known as “Islamic State” (Daesh) has seized large portions of Iraq and of Syria, including cities such as Mosul and Reqqa, has accumulated quantities of weapons and cash to use in pursuing their genocidal action against Iraq’s ethnic minorities, particularly in the north and possibly in Northern Syria as well;
- In view of the fact that the Iraqi state has failed to defeat this organization and thus the threat by IS (Daesh) against the aforementioned communities continues to be imminent;
- In view of the fact that large scale killing and ethnic cleansing of Yazidis in the Sinjar area and Iraqi Christians, particularly Assyrians in the Nineveh Plain area, have been taken place and threaten these communities with eradication;
- And in view of the fact that the direct threat against the Iraqi ethnic minorities at the hands of Jihadists is part of a global threat and pattern in the region against minorities in general, particularly in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Egypt;
In view of the fact that ethnic cleansing and genocidal acts have been committed against a civilian population, breaching human and humanitarian rights as well as international law, threatening Peace and Security;
We urge you to draw the immediate attention of the Security Council to this threat to Peace and Security and request the following actions to be taken via a UNSCR Resolution:
- Sending Peacekeepers to the Nineveh Plains and Sinjar districts in Northern Iraq under Chapter 7 of the Charter and establish a protected area for its civilian population;
- Returning the refugee population, now displaced in Iraqi Kurdistan, to the two internationally protected districts;
- Enabling the population of Nineveh and Sinjar to establish a local defense force to man their police stations and counter activities by Terrorists;
- Coordinating the defense of Northern Iraq from Terror forces between the two above mentioned districts and the Regional Government of Kurdistan so that they become partners in the defense of that part of the country against future attempts at ethnic cleansing;
- Initiating a special UN Task Force to find the thousands of Yazidi women kidnapped and abused by IS and return them to their families;
- Establishing a special tribunal to indict and bring to international justice those responsible for the atrocities against the population of Sinjar, Nineveh and Mosul’s minorities.
We the undersigned organizations commit to assist you in all of these efforts.
Meeting at the French Mission at the UN Security Council
The first meeting took place at the French Mission at the UN Security Council with Mr. Alexis Lamek, Deputy Permanent Representative, and Ms. Camille Petit, second Counselor. Opening the discussion, Dr. Walid Phares summarized the joint memo and the resolutions of the two MECHRIC Conferences in Brussels and Washington as follows:
- All willing refugee populations now known as internally displaced population IDP in Iraqi Kurdistan should be helped to go back to the Nineveh Plain and Sinjar districts in Northern Iraq. There should be no uprooting of these populations nor should they be transferred from Iraq to other countries. Immigration or political asylum should be considered as personal decisions by individuals and families. The international community should prioritize helping the populations go back to their lands and homes. The United Nations Security Council should issue a special resolution, under Chapter 7, pertaining to establishing an internationally protected zone in Nineveh and Sinjar with an interim force until a permanent political solution is found to the entire Iraqi crisis.
- Yazidis and Iraqi Christian (Assyrian-Chaldean-Syriac) communities should be enabled to man their local government institutions, including police stations, which should be backed by and under the interim authority of the UN until the national authorities in Iraq are reestablished and a consensus is rebuilt. The new UN resolution can act as a follow up to UNSCR 2170 regarding the protection of Iraq’s population from acts of terror by ISIS or other radical forces.
- The UN would help the local populations of Nineveh and Sinjar be represented in the negotiations about the future of their areas within the wider talks about the future of Iraq. Among the rights already recognized for the minority populations of Iraq, the right for a province and the right for a referendum—acknowledged in the constitutional framework.
- There needs to be an international tribunal to adjudicate the atrocities committed by the terrorists across Iraq and specifically in Mosul, the Nineveh Plain, and Sinjar against minorities.
- A special effort and action must be directed at finding and liberating the thousands of women and children abducted by the ISIS terrorists during their attacks.
The French diplomats plan to share the memorandum and explanations with the French government in Paris. They informed the delegation that an international conference on Iraq will take place in Paris in September. The delegation’s Yazidi and Iraqi Christian NGOs requested access in order to represent their communities at that conference.
The meeting at the Italian Mission at the United Nations
The delegation was received at the Italian mission by Ambassador Ingio Lambertini, Deputy Permanent Representative, and Francesco Santillo, counselor and top expert on the Middle East. Ambassador Lambertini said the Italian Prime Minister was recently on an official trip to Irbil and underlined that Italy, currently the President of the European Union, wants an international solution to the ISIS dilemma and will be pushing for such measures at the UN. He added that the situation in Iraq and Syria is on the top of Rome’s agenda at the UN. Dr. Phares suggested that Italy convene an international meeting for Iraqi indigenous ethno-religious groups. Since France will be calling for another conference on Iraq, perhaps the two countries can coordinate the two events. Sheik Ismael provided factual details of the massacres against the Yazidis, and William Yomaran briefed the ambassador on the ethnic cleansing of the Iraqi Christians
Meeting at the UK Mission at the UN Security Council: Presidence of the Council
The delegation was received at the United Kingdom mission at the UN Security Council, currently the President of the Council, by Lisa Maguire, First Secretary, and Senay Bulbul, Second Secretary of the Middle East division. The UK has thus far called two emergency meetings on Iraq and is currently focused on humanitarian aid. Yazidi and Iraqi Christian delegates briefed the mission on the desperate state of the refugees now dispersed across Iraqi Kurdistan and insisted on a resolution to bring back the population to Nineveh and Sinjar.
Meeting at the US Mission at the UN Security Council
The delegation was received at the U.S. Mission at the UN Security Council by David Richelsoph—Adviser, Political Affairs, Gail Horak—Adviser, Political Affairs,
Kelly Razzouk, Esq.—U.S. mission to the UN Adviser, Economic and Social Council, and
Peggy Kerry—NGO liaison. The U.S. mission welcomed the international NGO delegation, particularly the U.S. components and expressed its satisfaction to see “the widest united coalition of ethno religious minorities in Iraq and the region coming together to the United Nations.” Magdi Khalil reassured the U.S. mission of the unity among Middle East Christian NGOs and the Yazidis. “As NGOs we are now operating as a united front across the Middle East and in the diaspora. As independent civil society groups from regimes and governments in the region, we are openly seeking an internationalization of the issue of minorities within the context of human rights. The U.S. mission expressed its agreement with the principle of action to be taken by the UN Security Council to protect Iraqi minorities but noted that any stipulation of a Chapter 7 resolution must have defined objectives. The mission expressed its agreement with the principle of action to be taken by the UN Security Council to protect Iraqi minorities but noted that any stipulation of the Chapter 7 resolution must have defined objectives. The United States mission to the UN will be engaging other missions to examine the best ways to help the return of refugees to their homes. The Yazidi and Iraqi Christian NGOs invited the U.S. representatives in Northern Iraq to visit Assyrian IDP and local NGOs.
Meeting at the Russian Federation Mission at the UN Security Council
The delegation was received at the Russian Federation Mission at the UN Security Council by Ambassador Peter Iliichev—Deputy Permanent Representative—and staffers. He underlined that the Russian Federation supports the national integrity of Iraq and Syria. He noted that terrorism must be fought and defeated in both countries, adding this has been always the position of the Russian government. He added: “Russia as a Christian nation with a Christian president is not against the protection of the ethno-religious minorities of Iraq as long as it is done through the institutions of the Iraqi state. Moscow will be looking for consensus on this issue from Baghdad’s new government and the international community. Russia will not oppose the establishment of an internationally protected zone if other UNSC members would support it and Baghdad has no issues with it. Magdi Khalil and Tom Harb argued that the minorities’ return to their home cannot wait for the political solutions in Baghdad. This is a humanitarian situation which has to be addressed as such. The Russian officials agreed that the return of the population should be a priority and be backed by the UN, even though the future of the area has to be part of the future of Iraq as a country. The Russian mission said that, despite all other international complications, they will be reaching out to the United States and other permanent missions at the UNSC on this matter.
Meeting at the Secretariat General of the United Nations- Department of Political Affairs
At the office of the Secretariat General, the delegation was received by Darko Mocibob—Deputy Director, Middle East and West Africa Division, Yasmin Fadlu-Deen—Senior Political Affairs Offices, Iraq team, Ana Izar—Political Affairs Officer, Iraq team, and Sara Bergamaschi—OCHA (Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs). The two parties reviewed the humanitarian and security situation in northern Iraq and discussed alternative plans and measures to protect the refugee population and escort it back to their towns and villages. The Yazidi representative stressed the urgent nature of actions to be taken. “There are still thousands of people on Mount Sinjar, and ISIS is attempting to invade the mountain with heavy weapons.” The President of the Assyrian Federation, William Romaran, and of the Mesopotamian American Organization, David Lazar, underlined the dramatic situation of the Iraqi Christian refugees inside Iraqi Kurdistan and the necessity of rapid UN action to get aid to them and start the process of escorting them back home as soon as their towns and villages are liberated. Both representatives as well Mr. Abraham Buyuksal, representing the Bethnahrin National Council (Syriac), asked for an internationally protected area as a priority. The Secretariat General officials said the UN is highly concerned over the situation in Iraq and hence has issued Resolution 2170 (http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2014/sc11520.doc.htm).
They noted that Mr. Kevin Kennedy—UN acting head, Department of Safety and Security—will be based in Irbil, Iraq (http://www.un.org/sg/management/senstaff_details.asp?smgID=175).
The delegation stressed the importance of direct Humanitarian aid to local NGOs working directly with the refugee communities and submitted a list of these NGOs to establish a direct partnership between these entities and the UN. The officials said at this point the possibility of an international force to protect the Nineveh Plain and the Sinjar regions is not yet considered but indicated that local police forces can be reorganized to protect the regions with international support in providing training. The delegation said it will be working with several governments to insure such a police force is reestablished and that a special UNSCR is issued to establish a protected zone under Chapter 7. The two parties agreed to continue the consultation.
MECHRIC-Yazidis strategic planning and follow up
At the end of the meetings at the United Nations, the joint delegation met to evaluate the situation and drew the following conclusions:
First, the absolute first priority for MECHRIC and the Yazidis is the return of the IDP population, now in Iraqi Kurdistan, to their regions in Nineveh and Sinjar. Not returning them quickly will open the path for several threats. One is the danger of mass migration out of Iraq, opening the path for further ethnic cleansing in the country and the region. All efforts have to concentrate on the immediate and safe return of the exiled population to their homes.
Second, the international community must insure collective security to the communities removed from their towns and villages independently from the political solution in Baghdad or the campaign against the “Islamic State
Third, the Iraqi Christian (Assyrian-Chaldean-Syriac) and Yazidi communities should be enabled to manage their own local government and affairs. They should be enabled to be in charge of their own police stations under UN auspices.
Fourth, endangered Iraqi and Middle East minorities should be under UN protection and should not be used by regional regimes to further their political interests. As they face the threat of Jihadists, these communities wish to be under international protection when needed, not under the protection of authoritarian regimes.
The joint delegation will be following up on this initiative with the United Nations, the European Parliament, the U.S. Congress, as well all involved governments.