Posted by andreas from dtm2-t8-1.mcbone.net (220.127.116.11) on Saturday, December 14, 2002 at 12:01PM :
End of a short euphoria # 1
... after being included in the illustrous camp of the Iraqi "democratic" opposition.
Assyrians Wary as Planned Iraqi Opposition Talks C
Posted By: AINA <email@example.com> (internet.walgreens.com)
Date: Friday, 13 December 2002, at 2:35 p.m.
Assyrians Wary as Planned Iraqi Opposition Talks Convene
The often delayed Iraqi opposition forum initially planned for earlier this autumn in Europe has been plagued by internal rancor for weeks now. Strongly supported by the US State Department, the proposed meeting had been called by only six of the eight opposition groups recognized by the US government as integral parts of the Iraqi opposition- including the Assyrian Democratic Movement, the Iraqi Turkman Front, the Constitutional Monarchy Movement, the Iraqi National Accord, the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, the Kurdistan Democratic Party, the Iraqi National Congress and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. The conspicuous exclusion of Assyrians (also known as Chaldeans and Syriacs) and Turkman in the planning stages as well as the lack of agreement on basic issues of fair and proportionate representation had earlier threatened to undermine the meeting and potentially splinter the opposition into squabbling factions.
The meeting, now scheduled for December 13 in London, was initially intended to demonstrate widespread internal Iraqi disaffection with the central government before the international community, but instead has showcased the incompatibility of the vying elements of the opposition. According to one Assyrian analyst, "From our perspective, many of the groups have not demonstrated any proclivity for democracy let alone fairness." The widespread belief within the Assyrian community is that two groups in particular have vetoed Assyrian participation in the planning committees- namely the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Iraqi National Congress (INC). The continued attempts to marginalize Assyrian participation is still more troubling in light of President Bush's designation of the Assyrian Democratic Movement (ADM) among the select organizations eligible to receive aid under the Iraqi Liberation Act (see here).
Assyrian protests against the very fabric of the meeting are not limited to participation at the planning level. Assyrians were outraged to learn that they were allocated a mere token three percent representation. Sounding the alarm recently was Mr. Sargon Lewie, former President of the Assyrian American National Federation (AANF). Mr. Lewie asserted that "We, as Assyrian Americans, will never accept a token allocation of three percent representation in the homeland of our ancestors." He added that "even if a true and honest census was feasible in the current hostile environment of the opposition, as the indigenous and Christian people of Iraq, we could not accept any figure that does not reflect the totality of our people inside and outside Iraq -even if Assyrians in Iraq were found to constitute 10-15% of the population. To ignore those Assyrians who left due to discriminatory hardship and threats would be to legitimize the effects of ethnic cleansing."
The AANF is the largest Assyrian American organization with 32 affiliates. The AANF was first established in 1933 in response to the Iraqi military's massacre of thousands of Assyrian civilians in Simele, northern Iraq. The AANF has remained deeply concerned about issues relating to the welfare of Assyrian communities in the Middle East as evidenced by the current Vice President Aladin Khamis' press release on Assyrians "terrorized by two unknown Kurds who viciously threw two destructive hand grenades" and subsequently destroyed the electricity generator of an Assyrian village in the Nahla district. The string of Assyrian villages in Nahla have been repeatedly attacked by KDP paramilitary forces in the past few years (AINA 11-30-1999, 10-16-1999).
Even more troubling for Assyrians carefully watching the unfolding of the opposition meeting in London has been the drive by these same two groups within the opposition to assign some of the Assyrian delegates and veto others. Just days before the December 13 meeting, it has been reported that the KDP strongman, Mr. Masoud Barzani, has tried to block the appointment of Mr. Shimon Khamo - one of the delegates proposed by the Assyrian delegation. Mr. Khamo is the Secretary General of the Bet Nahrain Democratic Party (BNDP), a founding member of the Assyrian Coalition. It is widely believed that the KDP has refused to allow Mr. Khamo's participation on account of an earlier November 20 BNDP press release rejecting the Kurdish plan for federalism in Iraq. Alluding to the inequities suffered by Assyrians under Kurdish paramilitary occupation, Mr. Khamo stated "we demand and aspire for a federal system that will insure participation and sharing of all other nationalities, while guarantying their recognition and equal national and nationalistic rights. (sic)"
Another factor believed to have affected Mr. Khamo's participation is that the BNDP has close ties with the Assyrian Democratic Movement (ADM)- the most prominent Assyrian political organization in Iraq- through their affiliation with the Assyrian Coalition. Mr. Barzani's drive to block Mr. Khamo is also seen as a way of minimizing the influence of the ADM in the meeting and any future Iraqi government. The ADM issued a statement against the Kurdish position on federalism on November 8, in which they noted that the Kurdish proposal ran "parallel with the previous ongoing efforts to undermine our cause- a practice that has been going on in the past years." The position paper also noted that "We are for an administrative and political federal system that guarantees the rights of all the people of Iraq which enables all of the groups to exercise their unique aspects..."
According to an Assyrian political analyst, "The KDP is hell bent on bringing to the meeting those Assyrians who will collaborate with the KDP vision of a Kurdistan built on razed Assyrian villages. Assyrian political organizations such as the BNDP- and especially the ADM- are seen as obstacles to the KDP drive to ethnically cleanse the region of Assyrians. By designating their allies and collaborators as Assyrian representatives, the KDP hopes to whitewash the assassinations, torture, and land expropriations inflicted upon Assyrians and to dilute any genuine Assyrian political objectives. The ADM has been the most effective in promoting a proactive Assyrian presence while at the same time establishing an infrastructure with schools and development projects aimed at reclaiming Assyrian villages. As a result, they will be a primary target."
Echoing similar concerns, Mr. Abgar Maloul of the Assyrian Democratic Organization (ADO), also a founding member of the Assyrian Coalition, added that " the very process of outsiders selecting certain Assyrian delegates while excluding others underscores the lack of any semblance of democracy within these groups. That we even have to discuss the issue that only Assyrians can select Assyrian representatives is a travesty" Mr. Maloul added, "if in fact Assyrians are appointed by outsiders intent on manipulating our legitimate political positions, we will consider the very process as well as the meeting itself null and void."
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