A "protected area" should be set aside for minorities, including
Christians, in Iraq's north-east Nineveh plains after the 'Islamic
State' has been defeated, a US advocacy group has argued. The group, In
Defense of Christians (IDC), made the suggestion at the National
Convention (7-9 September) in Washington DC. IDC hopes to enlist the
support of the US Congress to the venture, which would also need the
consent of local authorities both in Baghdad and in the autonomous
region of Iraqi Kurdistan.
The idea of a "Christian safe zone"
was urged in the autumn of 2014 after the jihadists' offensive which,
according to Amnesty International, saw more than 900,000 religious- and
ethnic-minority Iraqis, about a quarter of them Christians, fleeing to
the Kurdish region and beyond.
In March, US State Secretary John
Kerry described minorities, including Christians, Yazidis and Shia
Muslims, as targets of "genocide" by IS.
Some US Congress members
attending the Convention expressed their support for the renewed
initiative. On 9 Sep., Congressman Jeff Fortenberry, a Republican from
Nebraska, introduced legislation calling for the U.S. and the
international community to support the Iraqi authorities in recognising a
province in the Nineveh Plain, "consistent with lawful expressions of
self-determination by its indigenous peoples". Fortenberry's "sense of
Congress resolution", with 11 co-sponsors, both Republicans and
Democrats, was referred to the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Dohuk-based American University of Kurdistan, meanwhile, has quoted a
survey saying 90% of Christian residents in Ankawa -- a suburb in Erbil
-- are in favour of the independence of the autonomous region of Iraqi
Kurdistan, of which a "minority safe zone" presumably would form part.
'10 possible wars even if Islamic State beaten militarily'
On 7 September, the Washington Post mapped out 10 possible conflict scenarios after IS is eliminated in both Iraq and Syria.
of an autonomous Nineveh argue that, apart from preserving minorities,
the resulting stability will be in the US and the West's interest. They
call upon the US to help resettle victims of genocide to their homes.
is hoping for a US Congressional resolution to support the policy
within a prism of a post-IS, de-centralised Iraq. IDC co-founder Andrew
Doran said his group and others will work together to seek US
Congressional action on ending the conflict in neighbouring Syria --
where another war is engaged by similar players and where minorities
likewise top the list of victims.
Doran pointed out that these
wars are breeding terror far beyond the Middle East. "It's not coming,
it's here. It's in our churches, it's in our nightclubs and it's in our
public spaces and it will get much worse before it gets better," he
said. "If we move swiftly to end the conflict in Syria, we can save
lives there now and save American lives and other lives elsewhere in the
decades to come."
Support for Nineveh's beleaguered Christians
was echoed by a voice closer to home. Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis
Raphael I said there are "signals" of a "pre-arranged plan to secure the
political structure of Iraq", but that in this plan, he fears the
rights of Christians and other minorities are not guaranteed.
called for a referendum to give Christians a choice on whether they
want to be governed from Baghdad, to be part of the autonomous region of
Iraqi Kurdistan, or even place themselves under a "Sunni state".
news agency Fides reported that, according to local sources it
consulted, these conflicts over future plans are contributing to
delaying military operations -- which have previously been announced --
for the liberation of Mosul from the control of Islamic State.