Do minorities have role in Iraqi national reconciliation?
BAGHDAD — The national settlement document, which put forward a project for national reconciliation, is facing some difficulties that seriously threaten the possibility of establishing this project. The main issue is that this national settlement is limited to the large groups in Iraq — Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds — while it excludes civil society as well as ethnic and religious minorities.
Iraqi parliament Speaker Salim al-Jabouri announced Dec. 13 that the Sunni blocs in the parliament have prepared their own version of the national settlement. The predominantly Shiite National Alliance announced recently the “historical settlement” document, in order for it to be a final agreement for the post-Islamic State (IS) phase. But in late November, the parliament passed the Popular Mobilization Units law, leading the Sunni blocs that opposed the legislation to withdraw from the reconciliation process and prepare a new version of it. Kurds also are expected to prepare their own version. What is missing here are the voices of smaller Iraqi minorities and nonsectarian entities such as civil society.
Yonadam Kanna, the secretary-general of the Assyrian Democratic Movement and a member of the Iraqi parliament, told Al-Monitor that he objects to the settlement document. “Do Christians and other minorities have a say in drafting or even making suggestions for any national settlement?” he asked. “All political settlements are always made between major ethnic groups, according to their own interests, while ignoring those of minorities.”
For instance, Kanna noted how the national settlement does not include one clause or item determining the fate of the disputed minority areas between the Kurds and Arabs, such as Sinjar for the Yazidis, Tal Afar for the Turkmens and the Ninevah Plains for the Christians and Shabaks. He added, “Minorities do not have a say in this and they are not even allowed to determine their own fate. The settlement does not take into account the views of Christians or Yazidis or any other less influential minority groups.”
Kanna had previously criticized the national reconciliation projects put forward by the larger groups due to their failure to provide clear guarantees to bring the criminals who committed massacres against minorities such as Yazidis, Christians and others to justice.
Iraqi civil society — much like the representatives of minorities — is concerned about the settlement project, which involves the redistribution of power and privileges between the political leaders of the three main groups, as if recreating the sectarian regime of 2003.
Hanaa Edwar, the head of the Iraqi Al-Amal Association, believes that it is difficult to produce a national settlement put forth by political elites who are part of the problem and among whom corruption prevails.
She told Al-Monitor that ideas for reconciliation should come from a cross-sectarian grouping such as civil society, which does not have a direct interest in power or is not locked in conflict over it; she said this grouping could also be formed by minorities that lack protection and that are not active political participants.
Other objections focused on how some Iraqi society groups are marginalized and have not been included in the process of reaching a vision for a comprehensive settlement