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=> Bleak Future for Nineweh Minorities

Bleak Future for Nineweh Minorities
Posted by Tiglath (Guest) - Wednesday, July 18 2007, 3:17:27 (CEST)
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A number of communities say they face constant threats and political

By Sahar al-Haideri in Mosul

The blood of Nasir Abdullah Khalil, 55, seeped into a pool of milk as it
drained from his body. The walls of his dairy shop in Mosul's
al-Darkazliyyah neighbourhood were spattered with blood, and yoghurt and
milk had leaked all over the floor.

According to the police report filed on his case, Khalil was shot to death
on January 13, 2007, because he was from one of Iraq's smallest minority
groups: the Shabaks.

"It is not only the Christians that are targeted; the Shabaks are as well,"
said Hamid Abdullah, who works in another al-Darkazliyyah dairy. "Hardly a
week passes without a Shabak or two or even three being killed."

Most of the country's ethnic and religious groups - including Sunni Arabs,
Kurds, Yezidis, Turkomans, Assyrians, Shabaks, and Shia Arabs - are
represented in the volatile Nineweh province of north-west Iraq, one of the
most violent in the country.

Once a Baathist stronghold and now a centre for extremist organisations such
as al-Qaeda, Nineweh has experienced widespread sectarian bloodletting since
2003, with ethnic and religious minorities frequently targeted.

IWPR has investigated the security and political problems facing three of
Nineweh's minority groups - the Shabaks, Yezidis and Kurds.

The origin of the Shabaks is unclear, but they are one of Iraq's smallest
minority groups. Hunain al-Qaddo, who served as a Shabak representative in
the Iraqi Transitional National Assembly in 2005, claims there are around
400,000 of them in Nineweh.

Shabaks do not consider themselves Arab or Kurd, and their language -
Shabaki - is a mixture of Kurdish, Arabic, Farsi and Turkish. Seventy per
cent are Shia and the rest Sunni, according to al-Qaddo, although many
researchers say that Shabaks have a unique religion that's largely based on

Despite strained relations between Shabaks and the Kurdistan Democratic
Party, KDP, in eastern Nineweh, near the border with Iraqi Kurdistan, the
deteriorating security situation in Mosul has prompted some local Shabaks to
call for the Kurdish Regional Government to administer areas where they

"We asked the Kurdistan region to annex our areas and villages to protect
us," said Mahmood Kadhim, a Shabak civil servant. "Officials in Mosul don't
value human lives and Shabaks are deliberately killed."

Annexation is not supported by all Shabaks, however. The KDP has been
accused of trying to co-opt the community and other groups since 2003 in
order to gain political power in Nineweh.

Tensions between the KDP and the minority in the east of the region reached
a pitch in 2005, when the party's security forces opened fire on
demonstrators calling for separate political representation for Shabaks,
injuring several of them.

Moreover, Assyrian media reported that the KDP disenfranchised Shabaks,
Assyrians, Turkoman and Yezidis during the 2005 elections by not providing
enough ballot boxes in their areas.


Kamal Khidir, 23, quit his studies at Mosul University and moved back to his
home in Sinjar, after Islamic groups began circulating death threats against
his religious sect, the Yezidis.

"I don't want to lose my life at Mosul University, which is considered a den
for the most dangerous Islamic groups," he said.

Muslim extremists have acquired considerable power at Mosul University.
Islamic courses are held so frequently that the university seems more like a
mosque than an institute of learning.

The authorities have quietly sat by as minorities, including Yezidis, have
been threatened at the campus.

Wathiq Muhammed Abdul-Qadir al-Hemdani, the Neinewa police chief, said he
was aware of the situation but would not interfere.

"I have solid information on the terrorist organisations inside the
university," he said. "However, I respect the university campus and
therefore, I cannot arrest them."

"I quit," said Atto Sa'ed, 45, a former lecturer at Mosul University and a
Yezidi. "I'm going to get out of Iraq and go to any country where Yezidis
are not killed. Here in Mosul, Yezidi blood is cheap and no one defends
their rights."

The Neinewa police authorities have records of a number of killings of
Yezidis by extremist groups.

The Yezidis are ethnic Kurds who practice a unique religion that
incorporates elements of ancient faiths such as Zoroastrianism, as well as
drawing on Islam and Christianity. Dismissed by some as "devil-worshippers",
the community has coped with such misperceptions by keeping themselves to
themselves, while seeking not to antagonise other communities. Nonetheless,
they were persecuted under Saddam and are now targeted by Islamic groups.

Yezidi-Sunni tensions rose earlier this year when a 17-year-old Yezidi girl
was stoned to death by members of her own community after she reportedly
converted to Islam and planned to marry a Muslim.
Twenty-three Yezidi workers were later killed in Mosul, with the extremist
group the Islamic State of Iraq claiming responsibility for the killings.

Kurdish-Yezidi relations have also been strained. Many Kurdish leaders
consider Yezidis Kurds and want to corral them into Kurdish political
parties. Although they fought alongside Kurdish forces, many Yezidis insist
that they have a unique identity and want separate representation.

"Despite substantial Yezidi sacrifices in the Kurdistan liberation movement,
which were no less significant than those of their Kurdish brothers, the
[Kurdish] parties play with the Yezidis and their fate,"
said Karam Zedo, a 40-year-old Yezidi teacher.

"Unfortunately, when many of the [Kurdish] parties and even political
[leaders] do something for the Yezidis, they consider it a favour - not a
patriotic duty for their fellow citizens who suffered much injustice and

Tensions between Kurds and Yezidis erupted in April when hundreds of Yezidi
rioters attacked the KDP offices in the towns of Khana Sor and Jazira, west
of Mosul, pulling down and burning the Kurdish flag.


Khairiyyah Sa'ed, 51, wasn't intended to be the target. Extremists had
planned to kill her husband, according to senior Mosul police officer
Mahmood al-Jubouri.

"The insurgents knocked at her door, thinking that her husband would come
out as he usually did," said Jubouri. "But he unexpectedly went out earlier
that day, so his wife was shot instead."

Jubouri insists that her husband was targeted because he was a Kurd.

As KDP power has grown in Nineweh since 2003, Kurdish citizens and officials
have been threatened and systematically targeted for assassination. Leaflets
demanding that Kurds leave have also been distributed in Kurdish
neighbourhoods, such as Adan, Bakir, al-Zahra'
and al-Jaza'ir.

The New York Times recently reported that about 70,000 Kurds have been
driven out of the province, although a US military official said it was
difficult to determine if they were Kurds or other ethnicities.
Many Kurds from Nineweh have fled to Iraqi Kurdistan.

Much hostility has been directed at local Kurds because Nineweh provincial
council is Kurdish-dominated, in part because Sunni Arab politicians and
voters have largely boycotted elections. The International Crisis Group
warned in 2005 that "the formation of a Kurdish-dominated provincial council
in Nineweh would entail minority rule and likely give rise to sectarian

Arabs resent the KDP flexing its political muscle in the region and claim
Kurdish officials are buying land with the aim of turning Mosul into a
Kurdish city.

"They consider Mosul their city, and we are guests in it," said Amir, a
local Arab resident. "It's time that the leaflets [threatening Kurds] were

Nineweh deputy governor Khasraw Goran, a Kurd, said the leaflets were a
larger part of a campaign to drive Kurds out of Mosul. "These tactics do not
scare us," he said.

IWPR reporter Sahar al-Haideri was murdered in Mosul in June 2007.


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