Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Written Evidence

Written evidence submitted by the Jubilee Campaign


  1.  The Jubilee Campaign is an interdenominational Christian human rights organisation. It serves as Secretariat to the All Party Parliamentary Group on Street Children and also has consultative status at the United Nations.

  2.  The FCO's 2005 annual human rights report's section on Iraq fails to mention in any detail the desperate situation of Iraq's second largest ethnic minority, the ChaldoAssyrians, who are also the largest religious minority in Iraq, as they make up over 95% of the Iraqi Christian community.

  3.  Since the fall of Saddam Hussein, ChaldoAssyrian organisations have recorded the killing of over 100 Iraqi Christians. Christians have been subjected to escalating violence in Iraq. The indigenous ChaldoAssyrians are being targeted for violence regularly due to their distinct ethnicity and faith. Although the indigenous people of Iraq, they are a double minority in their own ancestral homeland since they are both an ethnic and religious minority.

  4.  While the average Iraqi faces many risks in the unstable situation in Iraq, Iraqi Christians are exposed to even more dangers as they have to deal with the additional threat of attacks from Islamic extremists, who want to drive them out of Iraq, kill them or force them to convert to Islam simply because they are Christians.

  5.  Iraqi Christians are also perceived by Muslim extremists as allies of the "Christian" West which gives the extremists even more motivation to attack the Christians. They face additional problems from their neighbouring Kurds in northern Iraq, some of whom have used violence against ChaldoAssyrians or illegally expropriated Christian villages and land depriving many ChaldoAssyrians of their livelihood and shelter. At least 58 ChaldoAssyrian villages have been misappropriated by Kurds and repeated representations to Kurdish leaders for the return of this land have so far been ignored. This is one example of the inability of ChaldoAssyrians living under Kurdish domination to obtain proper redress for their grievances. Some ChaldoAssyrian land was also confiscated under the regime of Saddam Hussein and either given to Iraqi military and intelligence personnel or rented to Kurds or Arabs. Until now the land has yet to be returned to its ChaldoAssyrian owners.

  6.  The ChaldoAssyrian Christians are a highly vulnerable community under siege. While there is no danger of the Kurds or Arabs vanishing from Iraq or having their communities in Iraq reduced to a tiny remnant, there is a real danger that this may happen to the ChaldoAssyrians unless their security situation vastly improves.

  7.  There are currently only about 800,000 to one million ChaldoAssyrians left in Iraq. Tens of thousands of them fled to neighbouring countries such as Jordan and Syria after lethal and coordinated church bombings by Islamic extremists killed at least 12 people and injured many more in August 2004.

  8.  Below are just a few examples of Iraqi Christians being attacked for their faith:

  8.1  Many Christian Churches in Iraq have received threatening letters from Islamic fundamentalists. Bishop al-Qas of Amadiyah, in the Kurdish region, said that posters had been put up urging Christians to convert to Islam or leave the country.

  8.2  ChaldoAssyrian Christians have received threatening letters telling them to support Muslim rebellion against the Coalition authorities and practise Islam or suffer the consequences. The recipients of these letters are told to follow the Muslims' basic rules of wearing the Islamic veil and following Islamic teaching. If the recipients do not submit and comply, then it is threatened that they will be raped, tortured, killed, kidnapped, or have their house, along with their family, burned or exploded. Muslim extremists are calling Iraqi Christians "crusaders" or a fifth column for the Christian West and the Americans.

  8.3  Three Christian bishops in Mosul have received letters ordering them to permit the marriage of Christian women to Muslim men, a process which often involves the woman's conversion to Islam, and threatening to kill one member of each Christian household as punishment for women not wearing the Islamic veil.

  8.4  Islamic extremists conducted lethal terrorist bombings on Sunday 1 August 2004 against five churches in Baghdad and the northern city of Mosul, which killed 12 people and injured many more. Bombs exploded at two churches in Baghdad on 8 November 2004. Both churches were bombed within a space of five to 10 minutes. At least three people were killed and 40 injured. On 16 October 2004, five ChaldoAssyrian churches in Baghdad were targeted and bombed by Islamic extremists. Nobody was injured. Islamic extremists bombed two churches on Tuesday 7 December in Mosul wounding three people.

  8.5  On 26 June 2004 a grenade was thrown at the Holy Spirit Church in the Akhaa quarters in Mosul. The explosion caused serious injuries to one person.

  8.6  The ChaldoAssyrian Christian community in Iraq, despite being one of that country's indigenous people groups, is in a far more vulnerable and weak position than the Kurdish, Arab, Shiite or Sunni Muslim communities in Iraq.


  9.  The fact that the Iraq section of the FCO's annual report gave no specific attention to the desperate situation of Iraq's Christian community suggests that the Foreign Office has seriously underestimated the vulnerability of this community and the intensity of the pressures and attacks they are facing.

  10.  The British Government should take practical steps to assist Iraq's Christians including the following measures:

  10.1  One significant way of enhancing the security of the ChaldoAssyrians is to grant them an administrative region as has been guaranteed under Article 53(D) of Iraq's Transitional Administrative Law. Such an administrative region can act as a safe haven for Iraq's Christians and would also encourage the tens of thousands of Christians who have fled Iraq, especially in recent months, to return to their ancestral homeland. This administrative region should be situated in and around the Nineveh Plains and in Dohuk province, which are at the heart of the ChaldoAssyrians' ancestral homeland and which is still heavily populated by ChaldoAssyrians. This region would be jointly administered by ChaldoAssyrians and other ethnic groups historically linked to the area such as the Yezidis.

  10.2  The long and tragic history of massacres and genocide against the ChaldoAssyrians has demonstrated that they cannot rely on other ethnic groups to manage their affairs and provide them security. For example, in Dohuk province the ChaldoAssyrians live under the control of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) who have refused to heed ChaldoAssyrian appeals for the return of their 58 villages which have been partially or fully illegally occupied by Kurds. To make matters worse, the KDP has even encouraged Kurds from countries outside Iraq, such as Syria, to go and settle on the ChaldoAssyrian land. Furthermore, the KDP has done very little to protect the ChaldoAssyrians and very few Kurds who commit crimes including kidnapping and murder against ChaldoAssyrians are ever brought to justice. There have in fact been a number of incidents where the KDP authorities have handed over ChaldoAssyrians to Kurdish mobs who killed them. During the Iraqi elections in early 2005, up to a hundred thousand ChaldoAssyrians and thousands of others were prevented from voting in northern Iraq because of KDP interference with the election process. This significantly reduced the chances of ChaldoAssyrian candidates being elected to the Iraqi Parliament and is yet another stark example of the many difficulties which ChaldoAssyrians living under KDP control have when it comes to obtaining their rights.

  10.2.1  Failure to grant the ChaldoAssyrians their own administrative region will keep many of these Christians in northern Iraq under Kurdish control which will inevitably perpetuate the discrimination and injustices they are suffering under the Kurds. Such ongoing friction between the two ethnic groups could eventually lead to civil war, thus it is crucial that the ChaldoAssyrians be granted an administrative region where they can control their own affairs.

  10.3  Most ordinary ChaldoAssyrians see their hope for better security and self-determination within Iraq in the setting up of an administrative region for the ChaldoAssyrians. It will also be an effective way of preventing discrimination against the ChaldoAssyrians in law enforcement because in that region the ChaldoAssyrians will be responsible for overseeing their own security needs. For example, in one incident when a ChaldoAssyrian family's home was broken into by some Muslims, the family urgently begged the Iraqi police to come and assist them but were simply told to take care of themselves. This kind of police indifference is highly unlikely to occur in a ChaldoAssyrian administrative region where they are operating their own police force. The need for such a region is especially urgent at a time when violence targeted specifically at the ChaldoAssyrians is escalating and the British Government and its US ally should play an active role in helping to bring this about.

  10.4  The KDP should also be pressured by Britain and the US to ensure that all the land and villages illegally expropriated by Kurds are returned to the ChaldoAssyrians and the violence, kidnapping and other crimes against ChaldoAssyrians in KDP controlled areas are punished.

  10.5  The British Government and its US ally should also financially support the redevelopment and reconstruction of ChaldoAssyrian villages and infrastructure and the return and resettlement of ChaldoAssyrian refugees and give whatever support they can to the Christians of Iraq to enhance their security and protection.

  10.6  By assisting the reconstruction of ChaldoAssyrian villages and infrastructure and the return and resettlement of ChaldoAssyrian refugees as well as helping the ChaldoAssyrians with their security and protection, the British government would be enabling the return of tens of thousands of ChaldoAssyrian refugees who have recently fled Iraq and thereby empowering a force for moderation within Iraq. Furthermore, if they had their own administrative region and much of the rest of Iraq became increasingly Islamised, their region would probably be a very positive example to the rest of the country of good governance, religious tolerance and moderation. One indication of Iraq's possible Islamisation is the reference in the draft Iraqi constitution to the prohibition of any law conflicting with the principles of Islam. This might be used in future to try and pave the way for the introduction of Islamic sharia law in Iraq. Any such move would be highly unlikely to gain any support in a ChaldoAssyrian administrative region.

  10.7  The ChaldoAssyrians together with moderate Muslims in Iraq are the main bulwarks against the growth and spread of Islamic fundamentalism in that country. If the Iraqi Christian community is reduced to a tiny remnant, it will have no power to oppose the imposition of Islamic law in Iraq. The presence of a vibrant Christian community in Iraq also adds much strength to the ability of moderate Iraqi Muslims to oppose the spread of Islamic fundamentalism. The British Government would be making a grave mistake if it viewed the plight of the Christian community in Iraq as simply a side issue peripheral to the major events affecting that country. It is the non-Muslims who are the natural allies of moderate Muslims opposed to the spread of militant extremist Islam in Iraq. Even if the British Government has yet to fully realise this, there can be little doubt that many of the Islamic extremists are already aware of this, which is one reason why they are now focusing their attacks so strongly on the Iraqi Christian community.


  1.  In the Burma section of the FCO's report (page 37, paragraph 6), they claim that, "The [Burmese] Government has continued ceasefire negotiations with the Karen National Union (KNU). The provisional truce established in 2003 remains shaky and some low-level fighting continues." This statement can give a misleading picture of the situation for the Karen people as being a lot more peaceful than before but unfortunately this is not the case. The Burmese military have repeatedly committed truce violations and human rights violations and numerous military attacks by the Burmese army against Karen people and their villages have occurred, as if the provisional truce was non-existent.

  2.  At page 38, paragraph 7, the report states that "Ethnic groups have suffered disproportionately in Burma . . ." While this is very true and we welcome this statement, the Jubilee Campaign is concerned that some of the ethnic groups which are suffering the most severe atrocities, such as the Karen, Karenni and Shan people also be specifically named in the Foreign Office report. The Burmese military have been inflicting systematic atrocities on the Karen, Karenni and Shan people, killing numerous civilians, including women, children and the elderly. These atrocities include widespread and systematic rape, summary executions, torture, disappearances, destruction of villages, crops and livestock, causing massive displacement (over 650,000 Karen, Karenni and Shan internally displaced) and severe food shortages.

  3.  Given the humanitarian catastrophe which the Burmese military have created in the Karen, Karenni and Shan areas of Burma, the urgent needs of hundreds of thousands of internally displaced Karen, Karenni and Shan, many of whom are hiding in the Burmese jungle with little or no food and medicine, and are usually killed on sight if discovered by Burmese troops; a lot more specific attention should have been given to this catastrophic situation facing the Karen, Karenni and Shan, in the FCO report.

  3.1  The report states that the FCO are "deeply disturbed that Aung San Suu Kyi remains under house arrest" and while this is a very important issue, the report fails to mention any specific FCO concern or action regarding the desperate plight of the Karen, Karenni and Shan people of Burma. Even specific mention of these ethnic groups is generally avoided in the FCO report. Despite the fact that the Karen and Karenni make up the vast majority of refugees in refugee camps on the Burma-Thai border, the FCO report refers to them as "Burmese refugees".

  3.2  At page 38, paragraph 7, the FCO rightly acknowledges that ethnic groups have faced "appalling abuses" yet fail to try and name the ethnic groups, such as the Karen, Karenni and Shan, who face such abuses. There are over 20 ethnic groups in Burma, which is all the more reason why the FCO needs to be more specific in naming the ethnic peoples who face such appalling abuses.

  Reference is made to UN General Assembly and UNHCR resolutions on this issue co-sponsored by the Foreign Office. While such action is to be welcomed, far more needs to be urgently done to end the appalling atrocities against the Karen, Karenni and Shan. The last paragraph of the Burma section fails to mention any plans by the UK to put pressure on the Burmese regime to end their atrocities against the Karen, Karenni and Shan people.


  4.  Adopt a far more balanced human rights policy on Burma, which gives as much importance to dealing with the systematic atrocities by the Burmese military against the Karen, Karenni and Shan as is given to the situation of Aung San Suu Kyi and other Burmese pro-democracy activists.

  5.  Refer the human rights situation in Burma, including the systematic atrocities against the Karen, Karenni and Shan, to the UN Security Council. The FCO has resisted taking such action in the past, claiming that there will be no consensus for the Security Council to put Burma on its agenda. But this becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy for by failing to even try to have Burma discussed at the Security Council, the FCO guarantees that this important subject continues to be ignored by the UN Security Council.

  6.  The UN Security Council should also be lobbied to pass resolutions imposing global trade and investment sanctions as well as an arms embargo against Burma until the Burmese regime stops their systematic atrocities against the Karen, Karenni and Shan people and withdraws their troops from Karen, Karenni and Shan areas, as well as making significant improvements on other human rights issues.

  7.  Ban all new investment by UK companies in Burma just as the US Government banned such investment by US companies, in the late nineties.

Wilfred Wong

Researcher and Parliamentary Officer

Jubilee Campaign

7 November 2005

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